J. Stephen Rhodes writes about living on the edges between security and fear, guilt and grace, as well as between country and city, and prosperity and scarcity. In addition to his three poetry collections, his poems and essays have appeared in over fifty literary journals.
Regarding his poems and essays, he comments, “I want to write in a way that offers hope for people like myself who are more than a little overwhelmed by modern life. I want to be honest about the brokenness that besets us, but I am also looking for beauty in the midst of that brokenness.”
For example, in his essay “Dark Glasses in Church” (Gettysburg Review), he describes making the transition from being a married, plane-hopping administrator to being a divorced, small-town pastor: “I felt like I was spinning inside a washing machine while looking through a sudsy window at my wife, children, vocation, and the rest of the world.” Or in his poem, “What was Taken,” he reflects on leaving the world of security for the world of anxiety after being the victim of a break-in:
Tonight it’s hard to sleep
because the door still swings open in my mind
letting in strange fingers I might have seen
today putting coins in a parking meter
or shaking out cigarettes while I walked
by and waved as I often do
Steve Rhodes grew up in Atlanta in the 1950’s and 1960’s in a white-painted brick house on a quiet street in a moderately well-to-do neighborhood. “Before 1960, I thought of my family as a ‘Leave It To Beaver’ kind of family. The 1960’s yanked me all over the place: warehouse work, a gruesome private school, bad acne, ditch-digging, a mother who drank too much, being kicked out of Boy Scouts, “God is dead,” Campus Crusade for Christ, VISTA, working with developmentally challenged children, and service as a conscientious objector working in a hospital during the Viet Nam War.”
The subsequent three and a half decades have only served to widen this exposure to different worlds: pastoral work at a inner-city church and two small town churches, the deep south, Appalachia and Central America, stints as a seminary dean and as the director of a non-profit organization.
In addition to a Ph.D. in Theological Studies from Emory University, Rhodes received his M. Div. from Columbia Theological Seminary, his B.A. from Eckerd College, and his M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine -Stonecoast.