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Terra Firma: Trinity University Press blog

Words Without Walls: Writing from Alternative Spaces

by Eliza Perez on

Writing done in alternative spaces — be it a prison, a rehab center, or a shelter— can help people recover or work through whatever is happening in their lives. Writing gives people the opportunity to be vulnerable and open themselves up to new ways of thinking. Words Without Walls is a creative writing partnership between graduate students in Chatham University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program and Allegheny County Jail, the State Correctional Institution of Pittsburgh, and Sojourner House (a drug and alcohol treatment facility for mothers and their children). From two of the programs founders comes the book, Words without Walls: Writers on Addiction, Violence, and Incarceration, a collection of more than seventy-five poems, essays, stories, and scripts by contemporary writers – serving as inspiration for other writers and mentors in these alternative spaces.

By sharing these stories, co-editors Sheryl St. Germain and Sarah Shotland are contributing to some greater truth that makes writers a part of something bigger than themselves. 

The following is an excerpt of the poem, “Kindness" by Naomi Shihab Nye, a Trinity University graduate who has been a Guggenheim Fellow and a Lannan Fellow, as well as the reciepient of numerous awards for her writing which include the Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, four Pushcart Prizes, and many more. 


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Valentine's Day: A Gastronomic Interpretation of Love

by Eliza Perez on

Last month, as people were returning to San Antonio after winter vacation, I went to the event Domesticity: A Gastronomic Evening of Love with Bob Shacochis at the Pearl Stable, where Shacochis and his wife—better known as Miss F to readers of Shacochis’s book, Domesticity—discussed their whirlwind romance and food.

Shacochis and Miss F were lively, their conversation full of tongue-in-cheek banter moderated by Texas Monthly’s food critic, Patricia Sharpe. They reflected on their marriage and the connection between heart and stomach as students from the Culinary Institute of America San Antonio provided tastings of the recipes from Shacochis’s book.

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, readers can enjoy their own gastronomic interpretation of love with delicious recipes from Domesticity, such as the recipe below for a raspberry charlotte with berry purée.

Nothing says love like a homemade dessert. The challenge this Saturday, dear reader, is “to seduce your eater,” as Shacochis says.



Makes 6 to 8 servings


1 cup milk

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

3 egg yolks, beaten smooth

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

1/3 cup water


15 ladyfingers

1 cup whipping cream

1 pint raspberries


In a medium-size saucepan, heat milk, sugar, vanilla, and salt to boiling point. Remove from burner and beat in egg yolks. Return to heat and stir constantly, until mixture starts to thicken; don’t allow to boil. Remove from heat. Thoroughly dissolve gelatin in water, then stir into hot milk-egg mixture. Cool until mixture begins to thicken (refrigerate if necessary). Lightly butter sides (but not bottom) of a 12-inch charlotte or soufflé mold. Arrange ladyfingers vertically along sides of mold, pressing gently to make them stay. Sprinkle sugar in bottom of mold to make unmolding easier. Beat cream in an ice-cold bowl until stiff peaks form. Beat milk-egg mixture vigorously if it has gelled. Carefully fold whipped cream into milk-egg mixture with a rubber spatula until well blended. Pour a third of mixture into mold, add a layer of raspberries (reserve a dozen or so berries for garnish); layer another third of mixture, then raspberries and, finally, mixture to fill. Cover and refrigerate overnight. To serve, dip bottom of mold in warm water for a couple of seconds, then invert over a serving plate. Garnish with reserved berries. Serve with berry purée (recipe follows).



2 pints raspberries

1/2 cup sugar

Juice of 1 lemon


Puree berries in a food processor with sugar and lemon juice. Serve with charlotte.

Gary Snyder and Julia Martin in San Antonio: A New Conversation in an Old Friendship

by Rachel Cooley on

Beloved poet Gary Snyder and South African writer and scholar Julia Martin will discuss their decades-long friendship on March 4 at Trinity University. The evening celebrates their new book, Nobody Home: Writing, Buddhism, and Living in Places, which collects their many letters and musings.

As Snyder likes to say, it’s not over yet. He and Martin will continue their ongoing conversation on campus, exploring themes from the book such as ecological and gender politics; issues of community, bioregion, and place; Snyder’s priorities for writing; and core musings like suffering, old age, sickness, and death.

Please join us for this conversation and poetry reading at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 4.  



Crossing the equator

curving over the Atlantic ocean space, south-north, west-east—

Cape Town and Table Mountain, Namaqualand, Kalahari—to Cape Mendocino, Shasta, Black Rock desert—Julia and I have tossed our paper airplane letters toward each other now for over thirty years, mostly swooping ok down

To compare our wild/tame female/male scholar/artist parent/wanderer tricks

with each other. All on the path of walking, writing and sitting.

I’ve learned so much from her. And I love this neo-Gondwanaland we share. It’s not over yet.



An evening with Gary Snyder and Julia Martin

March 4, 7:30–9 pm

Chapman Center | Great Hall | Trinity University

East Rosewood Avenue

San Antonio, Texas

On the Eighth Day: A New Path for Our Imperiled Planet

by Eliza Perez on

People trying to save our planet from catastrophic climate change navigate the world according to the ethical values they hold in order to take responsibility for their world. 

Kathleen Dean Moore is Distinguished Professor of Environmental Philosophy Emerita at Oregon State University and coeditor of the award-winning book Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril. As a philosopher and nature writer, Moore makes a moral argument for doing the right thing for the Earth’s future—its environment, animals, and people.

On Thursday, February 5, Moore will give a talk, “On the Eighth Day: A New Path for Our Imperiled Planet,” about why changes to our lifestyle to slow climate change are critical.  

We hope you can join us!

On the Eighth Day: A New Path for Our Imperiled Planet

Evening Lecture: Thursday, Feb. 5, 7 p.m.

Holt Center at Trinity University

106 Oakmont Court, on the corner


Free and open to the public

Moving the Dream Forward

by Linda Pace on

In 1987, shortly after I decided to leave my husband of twenty years, I started dreaming about making art. My dreams became my nightly compass, my way of listening to my inner authority rather than allowing external events to continually shape my life. As part of the silent and stoic generation of women who came of age in the 1950s, I had conformed to the expectations of my era, believing that marriage and family were the twin poles that anchored a woman’s life. Now I wanted to chart my own course.

To leave someone else’s idea of a fairy tale and set out to find my own way was a radical, unconventional act, one that shook me to my bones. Though I was certain of what I needed to do, I often felt I was living on the dark side of the moon, alienated from my previous life, but facing an uncertain future. The only clues I had to where I was going were found in my nightly dreams—dreams that were so real, so luminous, and sometimes so frightening that they startled me into seeing glimpses of my true identity.

Night by night, I experienced the part of me that existed independent of what was expected of me. I defined that free, unfettered part as my soul. Once the dreams started, they were like nightly waterfalls flowing continuously from some mysterious inner well. They felt like snapshots of myself under water, hard to make out but persistent and unavoidable.

In one of the first in a series of art-making dreams, I could see a multicolored snake slither across the floor. I was fascinated by its vibrant, hypnotic colors, which moved in slow motion. They were numinous, charged with supernatural energy. The colors were a reminder to me of elements that are necessary to an artist’s life—emotion and intuition, the kind of sharp and dangerous instincts that tell you when to be silent, when to hiss, and when to strike. I felt challenged but afraid. Remembering what happened to Eve in the Garden of Eden, I suspected that the snake in my dream signaled the loss of my own innocence, the end of a certain way of life. Nevertheless, I was relieved to see that it was alive and on the move, and

I watched it for what seemed like a long time. Suddenly, it struck the right side of my head. Later I came to understand that the snake symbolized art-making, which had metaphorically bitten me. The fact that it had pierced the right side of my brain—my creative side—seemed enormously important. At some level, I understood that I would spend the rest of my life fostering my own creativity and that of others. I wanted to be an artist, a collector, and a benefactor—not just one role, but three. You could say that ArtPace was born at that moment.

This is a memoir about losing innocence and moving dreams forward, creating spaces where others can do the same, and the healing that comes from assuming full responsibility for your own creative life.

Excerpted from "Dreaming Red: Creating ArtPace" about the creation and development of Artpace, an artist residency program in San Antonio. The book seeks to capture the dual identity of Artpace, both the motivation for its existence and the product of its efforts. The publication features a personal narrative penned by Linda Pace, with the assistance of award-winning author Jan Jarboe Russell, as well as a series of texts by fourteen curators and critics on selected projects created at Artpace, and an essay by writer Eleanor Heartney about the history of artist residencies and that of Artpace itself.  

Below: Linda Pace, Red Project, 2001. Found objects on wood panels. 96 x 96 in.