Monday, February 8, 2016

Joy Davidman

Joy Davidman (1915—1960) is an American-born poet who is best known as the wife of C.S. Lewis. The 1993 movie Shadowlands (starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger) dramatized the story of their relationship, right down to her death from cancer.

A Naked Tree: Love Sonnets to C.S. Lewis and Other Poems (Eerdmans, 2015) is a new comprehensive collection of her poetry, which includes the complete manuscript of her 1938 collection, Letter to a Comrade, which won both the Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition, and the Russell Loines Memorial Award. It also includes many poems addressed to Lewis, including a sequence of 45 love sonnets which she wrote in her pursuit of a love relationship with him.

My review of A Naked Tree will appear in the forthcoming issue of Sehnsucht: The C.S. Lewis Journal.

Love Sonnets to C.S. Lewis XXXIV

No, it was neither you, nor God, but I
Whose nature drove the dagger in my side
So deadly near my heart; if I should die
Of loving you, call it suicide.

Had I the choice of being otherwise
Than this meek amorous wretch? I cannot know;
I can be certain that I would not choose
Any lesser gate of death than you.

If I rebel, it is not that I crave for
More of this world's sweet poison in my food;
Only, when I see my children sleeping,
I think I have a task to keep alive for;
But they and I must take our chance on God.
Let it be as He wills, and no more weeping.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Samuel Taylor Coleridge*

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772—1834) is a significant poet of English Romanticism, best known for such long poems as "Kubla Khan" and "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." His primary interests were philosophy and religion. Between 1808 and 1819 he gave a series of lectures in London and Bristol, including many about William Shakespeare, which helped to renew interest in the bard.

In 1798 he became a Unitarian minister, but later came to believe that Unitarianism was incompatible with Christian belief. It is said that Coleridge's religious writings led to a revival of Christian philosophy in England.

The poet, Malcolm Guite, has written: "I could not begin to reckon the personal debt I owe to Coleridge; for his poetry, for his personal and Christian wisdom, above all for his brilliant exploration and defence of the poetic imagination as a truth-bearing faculty which participates in, and is redeemed by the Logos, the living Word, himself the Divine Imagination." Guite's book, Mariner! A Voyage with Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Hodder & Stoughton) is to appear in 2017.

My Baptismal Birthday

God's child in Christ adopted, — Christ my all, —
What that earth boasts were not lost cheaply, rather
Than forfeit that blest name, by which I call
The Holy One, the Almighty God, my Father? —
Father! in Christ we live, and Christ in Thee —
Eternal Thou, and everlasting we.
The heir of heaven, henceforth I fear not death:
In Christ I live! in Christ I draw the breath
Of the true life! — Let then earth, sea, and sky
Make war against me! On my heart I show
Their mighty master's seal. In vain they try
To end my life, that can but end its woe. —
Is that a death-bed where a Christian lies? —
Yes! but not his — 'tis Death itself there dies.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Samuel Taylor Coleridge: first post

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Roger Wagner

Roger Wagner is primarily known as a painter, however he also writes poems. His Fire Sonnets is a collection of poetry that is accompanied by his own wood cuts. He is also in the process of producing five illustrated books of his own translations of the Psalms; the first three volumes of The Book of Praises are available on his website.

His paintings appear in collections around the world, including the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. In 2014 he painted the first portrait of the new Archbishop of Canterbury, which is housed in Auckland Castle.

The following poem shares its name with one of his most famous paintings (1989, Oil on canvas 154.8x188cm), which is part of a private collection. Composer J.A.C. Redford has also set two of Roger Wagner's sonnets to music, including this one, in a piece entitled "I Saw The Cherubim".

The Harvest is the End of the World and the Reapers are Angels

- Matthew 13 v39

I saw the cherubim one summer’s night
Reaping it seemed a field of endless wheat.
I heard their voices through the fading light
Wild, strange and yet intolerably sweet.
The hour such beauty first was born on earth
The dawn of judgment had that hour begun
For some would not endure love’s second birth
Preferring their own darkness to that sun.
And still love’s sun must rise upon our night
For nothing can be hidden from its heat;
And in that summer evening’s fading light
I saw his angels gather in the wheat:
Like beaten gold their beauty smote the air
And tongues of flame were streaming in their hair.


Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Elizabeth Barrett Browning*

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806—1861) is one of the nineteenth century's most influential poets. She was so admired by Emily Dickinson that she had a framed picture of the English poet in her bedroom.

Elizabeth Barrett suffered a spinal injury while saddling a pony, when she was 15 years old; that, along with a lung ailment, eventually made her an invalid. "Books and dreams were what I lived in and domestic life only seemed to buzz gently around, like bees about the grass," she said years later. In her teens she taught herself Hebrew so she could read the Old Testament, and later began learning Greek.

Her father was overly protective of her, and disapproved of her romance with Robert Browning. In 1846 the couple eloped and moved to Italy, where her health improved significantly. They soon settled in Florence, where they lived until her death 15 years later. Elizabeth Barrett Browning's sarcophagus is in the Protestant Cemetery in Florence.

A Child's Thought of God

They say that God lives very high;
But if you look above the pines
You cannot see our God; and why?
And if you dig down in the mines,
You never see Him in the gold,
Though from Him all that’s glory shines.
God is so good, He wears a fold
Of heaven and earth across His face,
Like secrets kept, for love, untold.
But still I feel that His embrace
Slides down by thrills, through all things made,
Through sight and sound of every place;
As if my tender mother laid
On my shut lids her kisses’ pressure,
Half waking me at night, and said,
“Who kissed you through the dark, dear guesser?”

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Elizabeth Barrett Browning: first post

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Laurie Klein

Laurie Klein is active in many aspects of the arts including as a poet, songwriter and visual artist. She has taught theatre arts at Whitworth University in Spokane, and is one of the founding editors of the journal Rock & Sling, which now makes its home at that university. She won the Predator Press Chapbook Prize for Bodies of Water, Bodies of Flesh (2004), and the 2007 Thomas Merton Prize for Poetry of the Sacred. Her first full-length poetry collection Where the Sky Opens has recently appeared as part of the Poiema Poetry Series from Cascade Books. As her editor I am thankful for the chance to work with Laurie in making this fine book available.

Her poem "Lauds in a Pocket" appeared at my blog The 55 Project in May of 2014, and is included in her new book. The following poem is also from Where the Sky Opens.

Jonah’s Whale Addresses the Almighty

Ruler of oceans, who can fathom
your summons? Pity my moans,
this small throat aching for everyday air.
Doubts are lice. They eat into brain and heart.
With a word, I’m consigned to an unknown shore.
Oh, maker of magnificent tails, reconsider
stranding me, far from the circle of my kind!
By your gift, salt is my song; your call
unleashes this sonar lament.

Never mind. You command my breath, as ever,
so let the columns of bubbles
rise, like prayers, our net
to enfold a wayward son. I’ll do as I’m told, only
ease the lung-numbing gulp, the intestinal hell.
Then, may whatever end you design
close its mouth over me.
Not to leap, not to swim—but this I ask—
let me sink into you, before beaching.

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Kelly Cherry

Kelly Cherry taught at the University of Wisconsin—Madison for more than 20 years. She is the author of several novels, story collections and nonfiction books. Her many poetry collections include: Natural Theology (1988), Death and Transfiguration (1997), and Hazard and Prospect: New and Selected Poems (2007). She served as the Poet Laureate of Virginia from 2010 to 2012. She lives on a small farm in Virginia with her husband, the fiction writer Burke Davis III.

She is one of the poets to be included in an upcoming anthology of contemporary Christian poetry, which I am editing for the Poiema Poetry Series (Cascade Books), and which is slated to come out early in 2016. She recently told me she is working on a sequence of poems about Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

The following poem is included in Hazard and Prospect.

Virgin and Child

I’ll say that there are bits of gold
---------stuck in her hair, star-bits, brilliant
------------------blue slivers at the edge of the painting
that seem to dance in the light
---------from the fire.
------------------I’ll say there’s a fire even though there can’t be
and I’ll say the painting is as large as a room
---------and it can be. She moves in it
------------------as if it is a room,
the gold bits gleaming like candles
---------that consume nothing, not even themselves.
------------------The child crawls out of her arms
and onto the floor
---------and his plump wrists
------------------and knees
are like loaves of bread,
---------his mouth smells of milk,
------------------his palms are so tiny
there’s no room for even one nail hole.
---------She steps out of the frame,
------------------her hair sparkling
and the background to everything lapis lazuli and glittering,
---------and when she calls to him, clapping
------------------and laughing,
he hurtles toward her,
---------on all fours of course,
------------------and she catches him up
and swings him over her head,
---------and her hair with the stars pinned in it
------------------and the dancing blue background
slip backward into space
---------and it is the child’s face
------------------risen now, looking down,
into her face,
---------mother and son
------------------meeting each other’s eyes
as we look on.

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, December 28, 2015

John Meade Falkner

John Meade Falkner (1858—1922) is a British novelist and poet. He was also quite successful in business, becoming the chair of the arms manufacturer Armstrong Whitworth. For many years he was the company's ambassador to foreign governments — spending much time in Europe and South America.

He published guidebooks for Oxfordshire, Bath and Berkshire, and three novels, the most famous of which is Moonfleet (1898).

After retirement he settled in Durham, becoming an Honorary Reader in paleography at the university, and an Honorary Librarian at the cathedral.

Christmas Day. The Family Sitting

In the days of Caesar Augustus
There went forth this decree:
Si quis rectus et justus
Liveth in Galilee,
Let him go up to Jerusalem
And pay his scot to me.

There are passed one after the other
Christmases fifty-three,
Since I sat here with my mother
And heard the great decree:
How they went up to Jerusalem
Out of Galilee.

They have passed one after the other;
Father and mother died,
Brother and sister and brother
Taken and sanctified.
I am left alone in the sitting,
With none to sit beside.

On the fly-leaves of these old prayer-books
The childish writings fade,
Which show that once they were their books
In the days when prayer was made
For other kings and princesses,
William and Adelaide.

The pillars are twisted with holly,
And the font is wreathed with yew,
Christ forgive me for folly,
Youth’s lapses — not a few,
For the hardness of my middle life,
For age’s fretful view.

Cotton-wool letters on scarlet,
All the ancient lore,
Tell how the chieftains starlit
To Bethlehem came to adore;
To hail Him King in the manger,
Wonderful, Counsellor.

The bells ring out in the steeple
The gladness of erstwhile,
And the children of other people
Are walking up the aisle;
They brush my elbow in passing,
Some turn to give me a smile.

Is the almond-blossom bitter?
Is the grasshopper heavy to bear?
Christ make me happier, fitter
To go to my own over there:
Jerusalem the Golden,
What bliss beyond compare!

My Lord, where I have offended
Do Thou forgive it me.
That so when, all being ended,
I hear Thy last decree,
I may go up to Jerusalem
Out of Galilee.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.