Typus Orbis Universalis

Typus Orbis Universalis

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I’m a writer, editor, and teacher, and I enjoy connecting with readers and other writers. On November 1, 2017, I was commissioned Alabama's Poet Laureate, for a four-year term. I grew up in Arkansas and have lived for many years in Alabama, although I’ve also lived abroad, in England and Romania, and have traveled extensively in Ireland and Greece. I’ve written two collections of poems, "Little Wanderer" (2016) a collection of road and travel poems, and "Bottle Tree" (2010), which focuses on my experiences as a southern woman. I’ve also written "Tell the World You’re a Wildflower," a collection of loosely interwoven short stories in the voices of southern women and girls. I love to put together collections as well, and I edited "Working the Dirt: An Anthology of Southern Poets," and co-edited, with Wendy Reed, "All Out of Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality," and "Circling Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality," as well as "Belles’ Letters II: Contemporary Fiction by Alabama Women," co-edited with Don Noble. I’m currently working on a memoir-influenced book about Scott and Zelda biographer Sara Mayfield as well as a new collection of short stories.

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Monday, March 1, 2010

Unitarian Universalists

I never expected to find myself in the pulpit, but yesterday I did, sort of, speaking to the Unitarian Universalist congregation of Tuscaloosa about the book I co-edited with Wendy Reed, All Out of Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality, and our second collection of essays which we've nearly finished but don't quite have a title for yet--our working title is All Out of Faith, Again. One of our contributors has suggested Altared States, an appropriate pun for this region of the U.S.

I had a warm welcome from the congregation, which I'd been meaning to visit for a long time, and met some kindred spirits.

Here's what I said about the new book, which we hope to have out in about a year:

"In looking at these new essays to see how to organize them and what to write about them in our introduction, we found, peculiarly, that fully half of our new contributors had written either primarily or marginally about clothing, mixing the sartorial with the spiritual.

I’ve been pondering this. I remember wondering, as a child, why I had to dress up to go to church and being told that it had to do with showing respect to God. I remember that it was really important to wear a slip with your dress. Was God some kind of fashion police? Did he only listen to those who were properly attired? To the degree that I conceptualized God independently of what I’d been taught in church, I think I would have said that this being we referred to as God was more present to me in the exaltation I felt in the high limbs of a tree I climbed or in the feeling of running barefoot across a soft lawn, than in the itchy tights and hard patent-leather shoes I wore to church.

Of course, we do say something with what we wear: I want to be comfortable, I love the color red, I’d rather blend in than stand out. It’s all very well to consider the lilies in the field, but a lily never experienced closet trauma or wondered whether the field made her butt look big.

So maybe clothing is an apt metaphor for the “fit” of religious or spiritual practice. The wrong one can make you feel as though you are spiritually holding your stomach in, as with a pair of too-tight pants. When you are wearing something that fits well and suits you, you feel good, unselfconscious, at ease."

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