The Arab American poet and professor of law, Lawrence Joseph (b. 1948 in Detroit), devotes a large part of his poetry to dwell on the pervading violence in Near and Middle East war situations, mainly in Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq. Large sections of his poetry in Shouting at No One, Curriculum Vitae, Before Our Eyes (collected in the publication Codes, Precepts, Biases, and Taboos) as well as Into It express the poet’s indignation at and his denunciation of the contemporary savagery. He laments that the “weight of violence/ is unparalleled in the history of species” (Into It 4) and that there is “a state of collectively accepted permanent war” (Game Changed 127). In his poetry, he declares the urgent need to condemn violence: “What needs to be said -/ why not say it?” (Into It 4).
Mennonite writing has become an integral part of the Canadian literary mosaic. Writers such as Rudy Wiebe and Miriam Toews, who hail from the Canadian Prairies, are known even beyond the Canadian borders, and there is a distinct number of younger writers from a Mennonite background who have made their voices heard from the 1990s onwards. This recent growth may seem surprising when we look at the history of Mennonite Canadian writing in English. The first English-language publication by a Mennonite writer to be received by a large non-Mennonite readership was Rudy Wiebe’s Peace Shall Destroy Many, which was published as late as 1962. However, the flow of Mennonite fictional writing in English, especially from the Canadian Prairies, has not ceased since then. In our article we will briefly explore the development of Mennonite writing in English from the beginnings until now. As Mennonites developed as a separate (and separatist) group, willing to journey around the world for their freedom of faith, we want to ask how the writing of Canadian Mennonites reflects this traditional culture. Furthermore, we will analyze the specific cultural, linguistic, and narrative elements in modern Mennonite writing, especially that from the Canadian Prairies. The first part of our paper will deal with traditional Mennonite writing and memory culture, while the second part will study more recent trends towards experimentation and the deconstruction of the tradition.