Forum, February 2024

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The poetry publishing world has been in an uproar in recent weeks over the revelation that a serial plagiarist named John Kucera (aka John Siepke) has had stolen poems published in a number of print and online magazines. We regret to report that our August 2023 issue included a poem named “Glaciers” mistakenly credited to him.

The poem we published was written by John Minczeski and published in ONE ART magazine in April 2022 under the title “In the Fifth Month of Lockdown I Plant Clematis.” We contacted ONE ART’s founder/editor, who, upon investigation, discovered that they, too, had published plagiarized poetry attributed to Kurcera.

You can read the poem in its original form on the ONE ART website, where it appears with two other poems by Minczeski:

We are sorry to have published this under Kucera’s name and will take extra care to verify poetry originality in the future.


How to arrive at forgiveness

As I read the Forgiveness issue of January 2024, I am reminded of what works for me when I need to forgive my parents. I have found it effective to pause and reflect on what they went through in their lives. They were toddlers during World War I, so would have been exposed to the fear and anxiety of the adults around them. Next was the lead up to the Great Depression when they were in their mid to late teens. After this they lived through the Great Depression while they were trying to pay for college. Then WWII started right after college graduation, and they served in Civilian Public Service (CPS) camps. During their CPS days, before the existence of health insurance, their first child was born disabled and one of their parents told them they must have committed some great sin to have birthed such a child. This child needed 12 major surgeries by the age of 14.

By the time I remind myself of all this, I feel compassion for them instead of blame. This is how I arrive at forgiveness anytime the tendency to blame arises.

Ellen Swanson
Minneapolis, Minn.

The call and response of prayer

Thank you for Welling Hall’s essay, “A Prayer of Blessing and Forgiveness” (FJ Jan.), a vivid story of God and synchronicity. Your essay resonates with my own prayer work in healing my relationship with my late mother, who suffered mental illness. I love that your forgiveness of your mother, and then the letter from your young self, formed a sort of call and response!

Abigail Burford
Madison, N.J.

Thank you for this beautiful healing story!

Marcelle Martin
Chester, Pa.

Time to clean out the spice cabinet?

I have now for many years felt what is described in Marty Grundy’s review of Paul Buckley’s pamphlet Quaker Testimony: What We Witness to the World (FJ Jan. Books). As far as I am concerned, we need to move away from the simplistic creedal declaration of “the SPICES” [a modern acronym for Quaker values] and find other words to express how the Spirit moves in our lives and how we get in touch with this spiritual guidance. This powerful connection grounded in our silent worship is the power that we Quakers have to offer to the world! Thank you for starting this discussion!

Maybe we have left out the source of the power of the Holy Spirit that resides within each and every one of us! We seem not to be able to talk about this Source—so SPICES is an easy way out.

Wanda Guokas
Asheville, N.C.

This should be a mandatory read for Worship and Ministry committees in every Quaker meeting. Clean out the SPICES cabinet!

Signe Wilkinson
Philadelphia, Pa.

The radical integrity of Quaker witness

To “bring the full weight of Quaker process to bear where the issue is not foundational to our faith and it’s doubtful that the Spirit has much of an opinion” is an expression of the radical integrity that has marked Quaker witness from its inception (“​​Stewarding Our Time” by Kat Griffith, FJ Dec. 2023). Even judges faced with early Quakers in the docket for not tipping hats decried how trivial the issue was. Dedication to discernment of the Light and its expression of gospel order in all details of life is the practice that begets clarity in the larger issues that require faithful response. When practiced faithfully, the first statement to follow “We took action for the following reasons” should always be that to do so was led by the Light, and was ours to do, regardless of how consistent the issue is with broad Quaker principles.

What is presented are very admirable organizational principles and effective, streamlined pathways to action. However, it is not a modification of Quaker process but an alternative to it.

G Hoagland
Asheville, N.C.

American Sign Language’s twiddling thumbs for Quakers has amused me for years. When I think back on the best examples of Friends I have known, a fitting sign for them might be right hand touches heart while left hand touches forehead, then both hands come forward, palms up, in an open gesture to the other. Those Friends lived their faith by acting with love and thoughtfulness and addressing that of God in each person.

Alyce Dodge
Honolulu, Hawaii

The author responds: I wish to apologize for causing offense and misunderstanding in my article. It was never my intention to suggest that we could or should somehow change the American Sign Language sign for Quakers (twiddling thumbs). How the Deaf/Hard of Hearing community chooses to portray Friends is entirely up to them, not hearing Friends. My invitation was only for a thought experiment: what is a gesture that you, as a reader, think would convey the essence of Quakerism as you experience it? I thought it would be interesting to embody our essence in this way—rather like coming up with a logo, but as a gesture rather than a two-dimensional image. I received a few suggestions—thanks for those! I truly regret causing offense or misunderstanding through my lack of clarity.

Kat Griffith
Ripon, Wis.

Bayard Rustin continues to inspire

I thoroughly enjoyed Rashid Darden’s insightful review of the movie Rustin (“Unsung No More,” FJ Nov. online, Dec. 2023 print) and totally agree that it is a first-rate biopic about a gifted Quaker civil rights leader who didn’t receive the recognition he deserved because of his homosexuality.

I’d like to add a historical note about what happened to Rustin in Pasadena, Calif., the city where I currently reside, which was mentioned several times in the movie, and not in a good way. As the movie reveals, Rustin was arrested in Pasadena in 1953 for having sex with two men in a parked car. He had come to Pasadena to lecture on anti-colonial struggles in West Africa and ended up serving 50 days in jail, forced to register as a sex offender. In 2020, Rustin was posthumously pardoned by Governor Gavin Newsom.

A few years ago Pasadena’s Orange Grove Meeting was approached by a transgender librarian from UCLA who wanted us to ask the Pasadena City Council to support a commemorative stamp honoring Bayard Rustin. The meeting agreed to do so, and I went to the council meeting to speak out on Rustin’s behalf. I was thrilled that a 12-year-old student from our Quaker school also spoke out for Rustin. The city council ignored us at this time, but our efforts weren’t in vain. In 2022 a gay lawyer named Jason Lyons was elected to the city council and was able to persuade his colleagues to pass a resolution in 2023 honoring Rustin and supporting a commemorative stamp. I am glad that my city took this step to make amends for the damage it inflicted on one of the great peace and justice advocates of our time. As Darden says in his review, “May [Rustin’s] story continue to inspire and change us for the better.”

Anthony Manousos
Pasadena, Calif.

Part of the whole

When Quaker worship becomes settled or centered, I have the sense of being part of an indefinable whole that exists whether I am part of it or not (“I Pour, I Drink” by Mary Gilbert, FJ Dec. 2023 online). In a sense this whole is always there waiting for us to connect with it. We do this more effectively as a collective than as a lone individual, hence the power of Quaker meeting for worship compared to prayer on one’s own. I like to think that is how Jesus worked together with his followers, and his disciples in particular, although we are not told any of this in the texts handed on to us.

Rory Short
Polokwane, South Africa

I understand the sentiments expressed by Gilbert. However, I am more sympathetic with the sentiments in the canticle (song) of St. Francis of Assisi in which he refers to the Sun, the Moon, and other aspects of nature as brothers and sisters, not as being in an “I–I” relationship with himself.

On a more mundane note, I am loath to associate myself too closely with nature, for, as Alfred Tennyson once noted, nature is red in tooth and claw. Stream water is notorious for carrying giardia, so why would I want to serve that to myself?

William Marut
Glastonbury, Conn.

Supporting work through donations

I love Judith Appleby’s call for intentionality, integrity, and accountability (“God Loves a Cheerful Giver,” FJ Dec. 2023). I would, though, like to put in a plug for automatic monthly donations (with proper due diligence). As a career nonprofit fundraiser and executive, I know the deep value of a steady income stream to sustain programs, pay staff, and keep the lights on. Constantly having to invent and reimagine programs so that they are shiny and attractive to new donors is exhausting and can compromise the core programs that truly accomplish the mission. By all means, research the organization for mission fit, find out how we pay and treat our employees (how much we pay frontline workers, not just the executives), what true impact our work has, etc. Then if it’s the right fit, and if we’ve earned your trust, the best support you can provide is that steady monthly contribution (with the occasional bonus chunk thrown in, of course!). And please do continue to read our newsletters and annual reports, engage with the organization, hold us to account, enter into relationships with our people and our work. Automatic donations do not have to mean lack of engagement.

Rick Juliusson

Slavery and weapons

While we are feeling justifiably distressed about our forebears’ participation in slavery and Indian boarding schools, we could also take a hard look at the current situation. Our tax money is being allocated to the Pentagon, in obscenely high amounts, to build weapons that are designed to kill, maim, and destroy. This is in addition to maintaining a very large number of military bases, which often have a detrimental effect on nearby communities, and a nuclear capacity that could end the world as we know it in a matter of minutes. Is this the nation and world we want? We could do something about it now, in the form of vigils, rallies, communication to Congress, letters to the editor, social media campaigns, or tax refusal, so that our grandchildren won’t be distressed about us.

Judith Inkseep
Gwynedd, Pa.

A militant hymn reimagined

I have long been bothered by the militancy of words in hymns, etc. So I composed alternate lyrics for a particularly militant hymn and sang it at our Swarthmore (Pa.) Meeting as my testimonial. You will quickly recognize the tune. One member suggested that Friends Journal might be interested in publishing it for similar readers. So I include the lyrics below:

Onward, Quaker soldiers,
marching toward the Light;
We fight hate and violence,
Love our only might.

Other souls may join us,
walking arm in arm;
If we follow Spirit’s highway,
we will do no harm.

Onward, Quaker faithful,
you’re stronger than you think;
We can reach the world’s poor children,
give them food and drink.

Onward, Quaker soldiers,
though the ground be rough;
We can save the lost and wounded,
if we just stand tough.

(The last two words are sung strongly on the same note to signal the end of the hymn.)

Patricia Brooks Eldridge
Swarthmore, Pa.

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