Monday, April 21, 2014

Mary Elizabeth Coleridge

Mary Elizabeth Coleridge (1861—1907) is a British writer, who also wrote poetry under the pseudonym Anodos (a character in the George MacDonald novel Phantastes). During her lifetime she was best known for such novels as The King With Two Faces (1897). Today she is more remembered for her verse.

She was raised in a home that encouraged the arts, and which was visited by such writers as Robert Browning and Alfred Tennyson. She is the great-grand-niece of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Mary Elizabeth Coleridge taught literature and grammar for twelve years at Working Women's College, seeing it as her Christian duty to help the poor.

Good Friday In My Heart

GOOD FRIDAY in my heart! Fear and affright!
My thoughts are the Disciples when they fled,
My words the words that priest and soldier said,
My deed the spear to desecrate the dead.
And day, Thy death therein, is changed to night.

Then Easter in my heart sends up the sun.
My thoughts are Mary, when she turned to see.
My words are Peter, answering, ‘Lov’st thou Me?’
My deeds are all Thine own drawn close to Thee,
And night and day, since Thou dost rise, are one.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new 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, April 14, 2014

William Everson

William Everson (1912—1994) is a beat poet of the San Francisco Renaissance. When he discovered the poetry of Robinson Jeffers, he dropped out of university and decided to become a poet himself. During WWII he was a conscientious objector, working in lumber camps in Oregon. In 1947 Kenneth Rexroth wrote a bold endorsement of Everson's work that helped launch him as a national poet.

After having recently read Augustine's Confessions, at midnight mass on Christmas Eve 1948 he had a mystical experience, which led to his conversion. He took on the name Brother Antoninus, having become a lay brother with the Dominican order. The three books he wrote during this time are often considered his finest work: The Crooked Lines of God (1959), The Hazards of Holiness (1962) and The Rose of Solitude (1967). The media grew intrigued at the thought of a monk being associated with the Beat movement, and so Everson was in demand for public readings. Dana Gioia says that "Fame proved Everson's undoing." He left the order in 1969 to marry a woman he'd been counselling.

He was poet-in-residence at University of California, Santa Cruz during the '70s and '80s.

The Making of the Cross

Rough fir, hauled from the hills. And the tree it had been,
Lithe-limbed, wherein the wren had nested.
Whereon the red hawk and the grey
Rested from flight, and the raw-head vulture
Shouldered to his feed—that tree went over
Bladed down with double-bitted axe; was snaked with winches;
The wedge split it; hewn with adze
It lay to season toward its use.

So too with the nails: milleniums under the earth,
Pure ore; chunked out with picks; the nail-shape
Struck in the pelt-lunged forge; tonged to a cask,
And the wait against that work.

Even the thorn-bush flourished from afar,
As do the flourishing generations of its kind,
Filling the shallow soil no one wants.
Wind-sown, it cuts the cattle and the wild horse;
It tears the cloth of man, and hurts his hand.

Just as in life the good things of the earth
Are patiently assembled: some from here, some from there;
Wine from the hill and wheat from the valley;
Rain that comes blue-bellied out of the sopping sea;
Snow that keeps its drift on the gooseberry ridge,
Will melt with May, go down, take the egg of the salmon,
Serve the traffic of otters and fishes,
Be ditched to orchards…

So too are gathered up the possibles of evil.

And when the Cross was joined, quartered,
As is the earth; spoked, as is the Universal Wheel—
Those radials that led all unregenerate act
Inward to innocence—it met the thorn-wove Crown;
It found the Scourges and the Dice;
The Nail was given and the reed-lifted Sponge;
The Curse caught forward out of the heart corrupt;
The excoriate Foul, stoned with the thunder and the hail—
All these made up that miscellaneous wrath
And were assumed.

The evil, the wastage and the woe,
As if the earth's old cyst, back down the slough
To Adam's sin-burnt calcinated bones
Rushed out of time and clotted on the Cross.

Off there the cougar
Coughed in passion when the sun went out; the rattler
Filmed his glinty eye, and found his hole.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new 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, April 7, 2014

Doug Beardsley

Doug Beardsley has published seven books of poetry, and three books about hockey—Canada's national game. He is also known as an authority on the Holocaust. His new and selected poems, Wrestling with Angels, appeared from Montreal's Signal Editions in 1995. He is married to literary critic and poet, Rosemary Sullivan. Doug Beardsley taught at the University of Victoria from 1981 to 2006.

He collaborated with celebrated Canadian poet Al Purdy on two books. The Man Who Outlived Himself, about John Donne, and No One Else is Lawrence, honouring the poetry of D.H. Lawrence. The Canadian Encyclopedia also notes Beardsley is "a friend and longtime correspondent of Irving Layton," another of Canada's best known poets.

The following poem is from Doug Beardsley's book Kissing the Body of My Lord: the Marie Poems (1982), which is a series of poems written from the point of view of Marie of the Incarnation—the leader of a group of nuns who came to New France (Quebec) to establish the Ursuline Order in 1639.

Gospel Prayer

Often I have seen the many sides of myself down falling
through my fault, my most grievous fault
my feeble faith. Why You came to me I cannot know.

My life wells up. What we do in this world,
how we pass through cannot be called sin.
We live by what we love.

What does it mean to be saved,
what is salvation but knowing all
that You are. No one can see Your face

and not die. In Your sight I searched to find
nothing. I have made a cross here at the centre
of myself and come up empty

From You I draw my final breath
the way the sisters draw water from our frozen well.
Wet me with Your grace, take me with Your love,

will me to be what you want
me to know, my whole life a prayer
of preparation.

All heaven is here, all the saints of the past
collect about me in the cold of this church we chose
to call Kébec. As it was

once more, grant me the Word my brother born,
I am coming home to share with You
life's encircled sorrow, this anguished end.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new 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, March 31, 2014

John Leax*

John Leax, the author of six poetry collections, served as professor of English and poet-in-residence at Houghton College in New York State from 1968 until his retirement in 2009. He has also written several books of nonfiction, such as Grace Is Where I Live (2000), and the novel Nightwatch (1989).

His two most recent poetry books have appeared since he was last profiled at Kingdom Poets, and they could hardly be more different from each other. His 2012 collection, Recluse Freedom (WordFarm), follows the familiar path of the outdoorsman—the gardener, hiker, fisherman, bird-watcher—written within Jack's well-crafted free verse style. Read my Ruminate review.

As much as I like that collection, I'm much more excited about his new book. He approached me about it, even as his last was being launched. Remembering Jesus: Sonnets and Songs (Cascade), not only follows traditional poetic structures, but is written entirely from the perspective of the people who encountered Jesus in the gospels. Most of the poems are traditional sonnets, however there are a number of other poems interspersed throughout, called "Resurrection Songs" .

The following poem is from John Leax's new collection, Remembering Jesus: Sonnets and Songs, which is the tenth book I've edited for the Poiema Poetry Series.

Fisherman’s Dream

John 6: 1–21

A boy, eager for excitement, I chased
The crowd along the shore. Disaster surely
Awaited—shipwreck, bodies, bones, the waste
Of life. But not that. A man, lovely
Of voice netted me with stories. I stayed.
The sea was still and quiet. The sun spoke
On the hillside. We lingered. The voice played
The hours short. Then sudden hunger broke
The calm.
---------------------I love this hour of shadows flung
Shoreward by light behind my boat. I heed
Once more the work-rough hand on my arm, the one
Who took my fish and took my bread to feed
The host. Some nights I sail out on the lake
And dream he follows walking in the wake.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about John Leax: first post

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new 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, March 24, 2014

Phillis Wheatley

Phillis Wheatley (circa 1753—1784) is the author of Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773) which was the first book of poetry published by an African-American. At about age seven, she was taken from her home in West Africa to be a slave. She was raised in the household of John Wheatley, a prominent Boston tailor, where she learned to read and write. Along with the family's children she studied the Bible, astronomy, geography, classical literature, and such British authors as John Milton and Alexander Pope. In 1767 the Newport Mercury published her first poem, which was about two men in a storm at sea and their faith in God. Her elegy for evangelist George Whitefield, brought her the valuable attention which led to her book.

Phillis Wheatley travelled to London, where her book was published. She was celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic, and was held up as an example of the potential of black people. Her career was over-shadowed by the American Revolution, and she had trouble finding a publisher for a second collection. She married John Peters, a free black man, and had three children, but they all died in infancy. They experienced financial troubles, and Peters abandoned her. She was forced to hire herself out as a servant. She died at age 31.

On Being Brought from Africa to America

'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
"Their colour is a diabolic die."
Remember, Christians, Negro's, black as Cain,
May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new 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, March 17, 2014

Jill Peláez Baumgaertner*

Jill Peláez Baumgaertner is a Chicago poet, whose newest book What Cannot Be Fixed (2014) has just been published by Cascade Books as part of the Poiema Poetry Series. She has previously published three poetry chapbooks, and one full-length collection. In collaboration with composer Carl Schalk, she is librettist for two pieces (each a series of six motets) with sheet music published by Augsburg Fortress; Schalk has also recently composed an accompaniment to Baumgaertner's Advent meditation, "The Great O Antiphons", the text for which appears as part of What Cannot Be Fixed. A new revised edition of her study Flannery O'Connor: A Proper Scaring has appeared in 2013 through Wipf & Stock.

She is Professor of English and Dean of Humanities and Theological Studies at Wheaton College. The following poem is from her new collection, which I'm pleased to have edited for publication.

Faith

It can be too careful,
a ledge-balancing
tiny slide of the foot
over slick surfaces.

When it finally happens,
---------------------it should be more like a hurdle
----------------------------------------------------into sudden air

off a cliff

faced with
-----------ragged signs
of the earth’s upheaval,

or the rushed snatch of a demon
ferris wheel
that refuses to secure you
-----------with belt or rail
---------------------and seizes you
up in its mechanical hands
to whisk
you
-----------higher,
-------------------------------higher.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Jill Peláez Baumgaertner: first post

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new 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, March 10, 2014

Javier Sicilia

Javier Sicilia is a Mexican poet, novelist, journalist and activist. He has published six novels, and ten poetry collections, including Trinity (1992), Resurrection (1995,) and Desert Triptych (2009)—which won the Premio de Poesía Aguascalientes, one of Mexico's most prestigious literary prizes. At the time of the award, according to the New York Times, he said his focus as a writer is "the mystery of God in a broken world." His most significant literary influences include the mystic poets Teresa of Ávila and John of the Cross. He is a professor at Universidad La Salle.

On March 28, 2011, his 24-year-old son was murdered, along with six friends, by members of a drug gang. Since then, Sicilia has become renowned for his protests against the drug war, and against the Mexican government's inability to stop it. "I've given up poetry after Juan Francisco's murder because language no longer consoles me, and in lieu of poetry I now depend on that depth of faith that can't be uttered or verbalized." He now pours his energy into the new movement against violence.

“Mi último poema” is the Spanish title of the following poem, which is dedicated to Sicilia’s son, Juan Francisco.

My Last Poem

The world is not worthy of words
they have been suffocated from the inside
as they suffocated you, as they tore apart your lungs…
the pain does not leave me
all that remains is a world
through the silence of the righteous,
only through your silence and my silence, Juanelo.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new 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.