Police Seize on COVID-19 Tech to Expand Global Surveillance.” A team of AP reporters—Garance Burke, Josef Federman, Huizhong Wu, Krutika Pathi and Rod McGuirk—detail how COVID surveillance technologies are being used in countries around the world to track and control citizens: “For more than a year, AP journalists interviewed sources and pored over thousands of documents to trace how technologies marketed to “flatten the curve” were put to other uses. Just as the balance between privacy and national security shifted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, COVID-19 has given officials justification to embed tracking tools in society that have lasted long after lockdowns.”

The Case for Wearing Masks Forever.” Emma Green writes a fascinating account of a group that tries to use science to promote left-leaning policy goals for public health: “The People’s C.D.C. talks about ‘science’ as proof that the members’ position is correct, when in reality they’re making a case for how they wish the world to be, and selecting scientific evidence to build their narrative. It’s a kind of moralistic scientism—a belief that science infallibly validates lefty moral sensibilities.”

White Buffalo.” In this searing essay, Christian Wiman probes the nature of that most intimate and difficult hope. He confesses that he had, “in terms of my family and my relations to them, sunk into the form of despair that doesn’t simply refuse hope but actively snuffs it out. I should have realized that a person who can find Christ in hell, as my sister did in that prison, who can see Christ working in hell and love this work even as that balm is withheld from her, is not a person whose soul is dead. Why must I learn the same lessons over and over again? That both life and art atrophy if they are not communing with each other. That it means nothing to make a space for the miraculous in one’s work if one can’t recognize some true intrusion in one’s life.”

Poetry Died 100 Years Ago This Month.” Matthew Walther praises Eliot’s masterpiece but mourns its wake: “Modest as the festivities have been, I am certain that in 100 years there will be no poem whose centenary is the object of comparable celebration. This seems to me true for the simple reason that poetry is dead. Indeed, it is dead in part because Eliot helped to kill it.” What might it take to revive poetry? “For poetry to reappear, the muses would have to return from wherever they fled after we banished them. Among the conditions for their return would be, I suspect, the end of the internet and many other things that most of us value far more than we do poetry.”

Ars Poetica.” Seth Wright defends the value of writing long, narrative poems in an age where short lyrical poems get all the attention. Having read several of Seth’s poems in manuscript form—for who would publish them?—I can attest he’s a master craftsman: “Narrative poetry is unlikely to command more attention than flashing screens and pulsating speakers, but why should that deter a poet, especially a poet working heartily as to the Lord, and not unto men? … Setting aside the much bigger question of what makes poetry in general a worthy pursuit, my argument is, first, that narrative poetry allows a poet to do things that cannot be done as well, or at all, in other poetic modes; and, second, that narrative poetry offers the reader certain pleasures not present to the same degree, or at all, in other poetic modes.”

Trivial, Vulgar, and Exalted: Revisiting J. V. Cunningham’s The Exclusions of a Rhyme.” Paul J. Pastor reviews a new edition of Cunningham’s poems and probes the benefits of his blend of the classical and the American: “Cunningham was fascinated by the distillation of language, thought, and experience into wisdom. And so it stands to reason that, though he wrote and translated a variety of verse, his particular specialty was the epigram.”

To Draw the Mortal Hours: On James Matthew Wilson’s The Strangeness of the Good.” Patrick Kurp reviews James Matthew Wilson’s latest volume of poetry and praises its poetic vision: “In a sort of poetic apologia, Wilson says he ‘takes / The settled details of the ordinary / And sets them rhyming one against the other.’ By these means, Wilson uncovers the extraordinary in the ordinary: ‘Until we see the mystery that was there / Persisting, yet transformed, as something new.’ He suggests we see things freshly and give thanks, and he advises poets to do the same.”

Our Virtuous Heartland.” John Bicknell commends Jon Lauck’s project to reclaim Midwestern history: “The demise of regionalism, the decline of agriculture as an economic engine, and the rise of mass culture, along with the accompanying concentration of economic and media dominance on the coasts surely played as large a part in the continuing view of the Midwest as “flyover country,” a term of utter contempt that needs to be tossed on the ash heap of history. It is time, says Lauck, for a reconsideration.”

A Policy Renaissance Is Needed for Rural America to Thrive.” Tony Pipa calls for a profound reimagining of rural public policy: “One thing is clear: Tweaking around the edges will remain ineffective. A serious policy discussion should be dominating the airwaves. Rural America is listening for how public leadership and resources can better support the economic and social renewal of rural communities, but it hears mostly silence.”

The Year in Quiet Quitting.” Cal Newport traces a set of various dysfunctional attitudes that Americans have held toward work. When a Christian account of vocation gets warped and caught up in a late capitalist economy, it’s hard to imagine a healthy account of work: “Generation Z is waking up to the fact that the unnatural melding of self and work induced by an adolescence lived within online spaces isn’t sustainable. They’re finally—thankfully—ready to ask what should come next.”

Wendell Berry’s Peculiar Patriotism.” Benjamin J. Wilson wrestles with Berry’s sprawling new book and the difficult questions that it raises: “Berry’s singularity as a thinker and his unwavering focus on rural America have long rendered him unintelligible to our dominant left-right political paradigm; his resistance to movements and causes has frustrated those who would co-opt his ideas to their own ends.”

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  1. Patrick Gillespie asks “Did Poetry Die 100 Years Ago This Month?”

    “And as for all the forgettable verse that’s been written since the modernists, it bears mentioning that poetic genius is rare. Every generation elevates their own but genius isn’t a generational entitlement. Poetic genius skips whole generations. The horror! One can go decades if not hundreds of years and have only gradations of mediocrity to show for it. And the last hundred years of mixed, if not forgettable, talent is hardly an anomaly. Was poetry dead after Shakespeare? Milton? Keats? Maybe the next great poet won’t show up in your lifetime. Then again, maybe you just have to know where to look.”


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