Seamus Heaney’s poem “Wheels Within Wheels” traces a boy’s discovery of the mechanics of faith. The initial resistance and subsequent carrying forward of his hand against an upside-down bike’s pedals entered him “like an access of free power, as if belief/caught up and spun the objects of belief/in an orbit coterminous with longing.” Heaney’s poem about belief contains insight about discipleship and religious discipline too, which is one reason it comes to mind when I think about our summer issue.
The Buddhist man on this issue’s cover seeks what Heaney intuited playing with physics. He makes kora, a pilgrimage of circling a holy location, with the belief that this movement accelerates spiritual effect or blessing. He holds and spins a wooden wheel that is believed to sling out prayers, like Heaney’s tire in the mud, as he circumnavigates the Potala Palace in Tibet. Circles within circles. Wheels within wheels.
One way to think of the work in this issue is as a sample of discoveries like Heaney’s. Via more or less conventional means, via the foolish, strange, and desolate, via the letters of language itself—the poetry and prose in this issue broach pilgrimage, discipleship, and belief through the things of the world, which, Danielle Chapman says in our conversation, the artist must do. I hope you find yourself caught up and propelled by something here, and that you find something worth returning to.
—Josiah A.R. Cox, Managing Editor
Kayla Beth Moore
Spencer Clark French|winner of the 2021 Fredrick Buechner prize
Deborah Ann Wong
Heather M. Surls
Issue 11 cover art by Zachary Keimig. Read more about Keimig and his work here.
Special thanks to Yale’s Institute of Sacred Music for making this publication possible.
Read more about LETTERS here.