Monday, August 31, 2015

Thomas Kingo

Thomas Kingo (1634—1703) is a Danish poet, hymnist and bishop. Considered the greatest Danish poet of his day, Kingo wrote both romantic and political verse, but is best remembered for his poems of faith.

He wrote a songbook (1674) using common tunes for home devotional use, which included a different tune for each day of the week, featuring a morning song, an evening song, and a versification of one of David's penitential psalms. Also included were songs such as "Fare, World, Farewell" sung by a soul longing for heaven:
-------Loveliest roses are stiffest of thorn,
----------fairest of flowers with blight may corrode,
-------withering heart under rose-cheek is worn,
----------for yet is Fortune so strangely bestowed
-------------Here our land rides
-------------on peril-tides,
-------Blissfulness only in heaven abides.
(Stanza 5; translated by David Colbert)

In 1699 the hymnal he was commissioned to compile appeared. Of the 297 hymns in The Ordained New Church Hymnal, 86 were by Kingo himself. Some of his most moving poems include his elegies on death. His poems often personify such concepts as death, sorrow and joy.

The following morning hymn was translated by the Rev. P. C. Paulsen.

The Sun Arises Now in Light and Glory

The sun arises now
In light and glory
And gilds the rugged brow
Of mountains hoary.
Rejoice, my soul, and lift
Thy voice in singing
To God from earth below,
Thy song with joy aglow
And praises ringing.

As countless as the sand
And beyond measure,
As wide as sea and land
So is the treasure
Of grace which God each day
Anew bestoweth
And which, like pouring rain,
Into my soul again
Each morning floweth.

Preserve my soul today
From sin and blindness;
Surround me on my way
With loving kindness.
Embue my heart, O Lord,
With joy from heaven;
I then shall ask no more
Than what Thou hast of yore
In wisdom given.

Thou knowest best my needs,
My sighs Thou heedest,
Thy hand Thy children leads,
Thine own Thou feedest.
What should I more desire,
With Thee deciding
The course that I must take,
Then follow in the wake
Where Thou art guiding.

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, August 24, 2015

Sandra Duguid

Sandra Duguid grew up in western New York State. For twenty years she taught literature, composition and creative writing at colleges in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area, and at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania. She lives in New Jersey.

Her first poetry collection, Pails Scrubbed Silver, was published by North Star Press in 2013. In 2014 she contributed a poem to my blog The 55 Project.

John Leax has said of her poetry, "She asks her reader, 'Can you imagine?' and then with sure insight and shining words, she makes imagination possible."

This following poem is from Pails Scrubbed Silver, and first appeared in America. It was also awarded a prize in a contest from Calvin College.

Road to Emmaus

There have been crucifixions, too,
in our town—innocents
gunned down in their doorways
or in school halls; or radiation's
black outlines, three crosses
marked a sister's chest: no wonder
we walk in quiet rage, musing.

And who, on this road, will join us,
seeming unaware
of the worst news in the neighborhood,
but spelling out the history of the prophets
and a future:
---Ought not Christ to have suffered these things
---and to enter into his glory?

Could our hearts still burn within us?

Will we ask the stranger to stay?
Break bread? And how
will our well-hammered and nailed
kitchens and bedrooms appear to us
when we understand who he is
just as he steals away?

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, August 17, 2015

Izaak Walton

Izaak Walton (1593—1683) is a writer with the temperament of a fly fisherman. He wrote brief biographies of such writers as John Donne, and George Herbert which were collected into a volume often referred to as Walton's Lives. He is best known for his book The Compleat Angler — first published in 1653, but casually amended throughout the remainder of his life.

He was born in Strafford, but by 1614 he had an Ironmonger's shop in London's Fleet Street. During this time he became a verger and church warden, becoming a close friend of the vicar John Donne.

In 1644 he moved to a rural property he had purchased along a riverbank. It's been said that the last forty years of his life were spent visiting eminent clergymen and others who enjoyed fishing.

Lines On A Portrait Of Donne In His Eighteenth Year

This was for youth, Strength, Mirth, and wit that Time
Most count their golden Age; but t'was not thine.
Thine was thy later years, so much refined
From youth's Dross, Mirth & wit; as thy pure mind
Thought (like the Angels) nothing but the Praise
Of thy Creator, in those last, best Days.
Witness this Book, (thy Emblem) which begins
With Love; but ends, with Sighs, & Tears for sins.

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, August 10, 2015

Franz Wright*

Franz Wright (1953—2015) is an American poet who has written more than twenty books of poetry. He died of cancer on May 14th. He is best known for his collection Walking To Martha's Vineyard (2004) for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. He and his father, the poet James Wright, have many things in common. Besides having both won the Pulitzer, Franz and his father were both victims of alcoholism, mental instability, and cancer — which took James Wright's life in 1980.

Drinking and drug abuse eventually led to Franz losing his job at Emerson College in Boston, and a downward spiral which included a suicide attempt. His life turned around in 1999 with his marriage to Elizabeth Oehlkers, his embracing of Christianity, and his successfully gaining a life of sobriety. The obituary in The New York Times describes him as a poet "whose work illuminated his passage from abiding despair to religious transcendence."

I am honoured to have received the following note from Franz Wright in 2011, in response to the Kingdom Poets post I wrote about him. It speaks to his vulnerability and of his struggles for success in his life and art:
-------"Just wanted to say that I came across your (marvelously) brief
-------discussion of me, me & my father, my book—and that the
-------friendliness of it was kind of staggering to me, I am so used to
-------the opposite. That is probably too strong a way of putting it,
-------but it feels that way sometimes, open season on FW ever since he
-------held a gun to the head of whoever hands out the Pulitzer Prize &
-------forced them to award it to him. It's remarkable how fast I went
-------from being someone who had fairly actively written and published
-------for thirty years without much official critical attention, then
-------overnight got more of it—and unfortunately at a very unstable
-------time in my life, there have been a few of those—than I would
-------ever have wanted. I suppose I make myself clear enough., I am
-------grateful to you. Franz"

Theology

There must be someone else
who wakes in fear alone;
too bad we can’t talk
on our tiny phone.
Someone hidden from the day
like me, preparing to endure the
resurrection of the body, ouch;
or the gentler life to come,
oblivion. Who
mutters in synch with me, Christ
has come in the midst of the world
not to abolish suffering—
clearly!—
but to take part in it.
What does this mean?

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Franz Wright: 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, August 3, 2015

Dante Alighieri*

Dante Alighieri (1265—1321) is one of the world's most influential poets. He wrote his epic poem The Divine Comedy — which consists of Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso — while in exile from his home of Florence. It is an allegory, warning corrupt society to turn from evil, and to truly follow Christ. Rather than writing in Latin, Dante chose to write in an Italian centred on the Florentine vernacular; in so doing he did much to begin to unify the Italian language.

In July, my wife and I visited Dante's Florence, from which he was exiled for the last twenty years of his life. Ironically, the city of Florence for centuries has wanted to have his bones returned to them. The photograph shows me standing at the foot of Dante's statue in Piazza Santa Croce. The statue was erected in 1865 — 150 years ago — to mark the 600th anniversary of his birth.

The following is from Allen Mandelbaum's translation. It is spoken by those in Purgatory on behalf of those still living.

from Purgatorio Canto IX

“Our Father, You who dwell within the heavens—
but are not circumscribed by them—out of
Your greater love for Your first works above,

praised be Your name and Your omnipotence,
by every creature, just as it is seemly
to offer thanks to Your sweet effluence.

Your kingdom’s peace come unto us, for if
it does not come, then though we summon all
our force, we cannot reach it of our selves.

Just as Your angels, as they sing Hosanna,
offer their wills to You as sacrifice,
so may men offer up their wills to You.

Give unto us this day the daily manna
without which he who labors most to move
ahead through this harsh wilderness falls back.

Even as we forgive all who have done
us injury, may You, benevolent,
forgive, and do not judge us by our worth.

Try not our strength, so easily subdued,
against the ancient foe, but set it free
from him who goads it to perversity.

This last request we now address to You,
dear Lord, not for ourselves—who have no need—
but for the ones whom we have left behind.”

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Dante Alighieri: 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, July 27, 2015

Michelangelo

Michelangelo (1475—1564) is considered to be one of the greatest artists of all time. He is famous for his painting on the Sistine Chapel's ceiling — particularly for the scene depicting the creation of Adam — although he didn't consider himself to be a painter. As a sculptor he is known for his marble statue of David (in Florence), and his Pietà, (which is now in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome). His skill as an architect is demonstrated by his design for the dome of St. Peter's, which was completed after his death.

All of these wonders my wife and I were able to see on our recent visit to Italy, which inspired me to investigate the poetry and spirituality of the man. Michelangelo said, "The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection." He also said, "Many believe — and I believe — that I have been designated for this work by God. In spite of my old age, I do not want to give it up; I work out of love for God and I put all my hope in Him."

It was in the 1530s that he began to write poems, about 300 of which have been preserved. The following translation is by the British poet Elizabeth Jennings.

Sonnet LXXVII

Although it saddens me and causes pain,
The past, which is not with me any more,
Brings me relief, since all that I abhor —
My sin and guilt — will not come back again.

Precious it is to me because I learn,
Before death comes, how brief is happiness:
But sad also, since when at last I turn
For pardon, grace may yet refuse to bless.

Although, Oh God, your promise I attend,
It is too much to ask you to forgive
Those who for pardon have so long delayed.

But in the blood you shed, I understand
What recompense and mercy you've displayed,
Showering your precious gifts that we may live.

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, July 20, 2015

Francis of Assisi

Francis of Assisi (c.1181—1226) is the founder of the Franciscan order. His father was a wealthy cloth merchant. Francis, however, turned his back on living the life of the nouveau riche to take a vow of poverty. He believed that possessions only increased envy and conflict, and were destructive to peace in the world.

During this time, Rome came down hard on lay groups who were critical of papal abuses, and the Franciscan's poverty could have been seen as an indictment of the Church's opulence. In France in 1209, the Pope had twenty thousand people killed in one day for supposed heresy. The Franciscans received papal approval, however, because their leader did not criticise the Church publicly. By the 1220s they officially became a religious order.

At his death, the Catholic Church went to great trouble to take control of Francis's legacy. He was canonized within two years, and work was started on the basilica in Assisi — built supposedly in his honour. Francis, however, would never have endorsed the building of such a church. Joan Acocella has written of this in The New Yorker: "It is hard to think of a single important Franciscan principle that was not violated." Early writings about Francis were suppressed, in an attempt to rewrite his history. His own writings remain, including many inspiring poems, such as the following.

This post is inspired by a visit to Assisi my wife and I enjoyed earlier this month.

Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is Hatred, let me sow Love.
Where there is Injury, Pardon.
Where there is Doubt, Faith.
Where there is Despair, Hope.
Where there is Darkness, Light, and
Where there is Sadness, Joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much
seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

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.