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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 7: March 2021
Poem: 160 words
+ Visual Art: Photograph
+ Poet’s Commentary: 51 words
By Christine Stewart-Nuñez

Elemental Lesson

He who seeks truth shall find beauty.
—Moshe Safdie *

When my husband said brutalist, 
I thought oppressive and impenetrable 
because I lacked imagination. 
In Montréal, we biked by Habitat 67 
and the one-hundred forty-six 
block-stacked apartments emerged 
from the shadowless landscape—sky 
and cubes gray upon gray, all 
concrete and corner with rectangle 
windows wrapping the tops. He pointed 
out stairs, access points, garden spots. 

When he said brutalist and concrete, 
I thought severe and unevolved because 
mixing limestone, gravel, sand, and cement 
meant rough and simple, like sidewalks. 
In Collegeville, Minnesota we drove 
toward St. John’s Abbey, concrete 
curved across blue sky, an undulation 
stilled. Cast into wooden frames on site, 
the church looks like folds of fabric. 
Inside: a symphony of stained glass 
and honeycomb windows, sunlight 
the texture of tulle. In that space, 
where Marcel Breuer designed every 
element to seek truth, my understanding 
transfigured. Light stands for God 
in that place concrete created. 


St. John’s Abbey: Photograph by Brian T. Rex
St. John’s Abbey (photograph)

Copyrighted © by Brian T. Rex. All rights reserved.
Reproduced here with photographer’s permission.


* Publisher’s Notes:

1. Epigraph is from a TED-2002 talk by architect Moshe Safdie, Building uniqueness, at the end of which (16:39) he recites a poem he wrote years ago. Its first line: “He who seeks truth shall find beauty.”

2. For details about Marcel Breuer and St. John’s Abbey, see:

Poet’s Commentary [re her three poems in this issue]

These ekphrastic pieces are truly collaborative in nature, representing conversations and studies of each other’s work that are reciprocal and multidimensional. The pairings are a “slice through” of a more holistic artistic dynamic as opposed to the typical one-way response (writer responds to art) that ekphrastic endeavors usually produce.

Christine Stewart-Nuñez
Issue 7, March 2021

is South Dakota’s poet laureate, and the author of several books of poetry, including Untrussed (University of New Mexico Press, 2016) and Bluewords Greening (Terrapin Books, 2016), winner of the 2018 Whirling Prize. This professor of English at South Dakota State University edited the poetry anthology South Dakota in Poems (South Dakota State Poetry Society, October 2020), and looks forward to the forthcoming release of her book The Poet & The Architect by Terrapin Books in 2021.

Find her work at: www.christinestewartnunez.com

Brian T. Rex
Issue 7, March 2021

is an Associate Professor and the Head of the Architecture Department at South Dakota State University.

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