Carrie Newcomer: Ignatian Folksinger?

Poet James Merrill once described his fellow writer Elizabeth Bishop as “a genius masquerading as an ordinary woman.” I thought of that line after spending two days this past summer working on a profile for PBS-TV’s Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly on the Quaker folk singer Carrie Newcomer.

Newcomer has been described as a “prairie mystic” (she lives in Bloomington IN) and as “a minister of the wide-eyed gospel of hope.”


She sounds a bit like Joni Mitchell, one of her early idols, and her lyrics, like Mitchell’s are deeply personal, but in a way that plumbs the sacred in the everyday. I think calling her an “Ignatian folksinger” wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

Newcomer’s recorded 14 CDs in recent years, and my profile on her for PBS corresponded with the publication of her first book of poems, “An Impermeable Life,” which is also the title of her latest CD.

In addition to the TV segment for Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, I also interviewed Newcomer for WGLT Radio about her writing process. I love one of the things she said in that interview about our modern-day propensity for multi-tasking: instead of trying to see how many activities we can juggle at once, what if we just focused on one activity at a time?

Here is the TV profile as well as the radio interview that aired on WGLT Radio, the National Public Radio affiliate in central Illinois.

Judith Valente is America's Chicago correspondent.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.


Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

This week’s top U.S.-Latino Catholic news
J.D. Long-GarcíaMarch 16, 2018
U.S. President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Freedom to Stephen Hawking during a ceremony at the White House in Washington Aug. 12, 2009 (CNS photo/Paul Haring).
There have been great physicists and mathematicians who were also great philosophers. Hawking, unfortunately, was not one of them.
Stephen M. BarrMarch 16, 2018
Pope Francis enters the main gate of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Oswiecim, Poland, July 29, 2016 (CNS photo/Alessia Giuliani, pool).
Poland’s Catholic primate called anti-Semitism “a moral evil and a sin.”
Catholic News ServiceMarch 16, 2018
It’s taken over a year for us to get our boss, Matt Malone, S.J. on Jesuitical—and we promise it was worth the wait.
Eloise BlondiauMarch 16, 2018