Monday, October 20, 2014

Kevin Hart

Kevin Hart is an Australian poet, philosopher and theologian. He has published thirteen books of poetry, beginning with The Departure (1978). His poetry has received numerous awards such as the NSW Premier's Award, and the Greybeal-Gowen Prize. His most-recent collection is Morning Knowledge (2011). His earliest poetry influence was Percy Bysshe Shelley—particularly the poem "Ozymandius".

Hart is the Edwin B. Kyle Professor of Christian Studies and Chair of the Religious Studies Department at the University of Virginia.

The Room

It is my house, and yet one room is locked.
The dark has taken root on all four walls.
It is a room where knots stare out from wood,
A room that turns its back on the whole house.

At night I hear the crickets list their griefs
And let an ancient peace come into me.
Sleep intercepts my prayer, and in the dark
The house turns slowly round its one closed room.

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, October 13, 2014

Simeon the New Theologian

Simeon the New Theologian (9491022) is a Byzantine monk, poet and mystic. He was born at Galatia, and educated at Constantinople.  In about 980, he became Abbott of the monastery at St. Mamas. He is one of three saints of the Orthodox church given the title theologianthe others being John the Apostle (John the Revelator), and Gregory of Nazianus.

Simeon's Hymns of Divine Loves describe his spiritual experiences.

We Awaken in Christ's Body

We awaken in Christ’s body
 as Christ awakens our bodies,
and my poor hand is Christ. He enters
my foot and is infinitely me.

I move my hand, and wonderfully
my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him
(for God is indivisibly
whole, seamless in his Godhood).

I move my foot, and at once
He appears in a flash of lightning.
Do my words seem blasphemous? – Then
open your heart to Him.

And let yourself receive the one
who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him,
We wake up inside Christ’s body

Where all our body, all over,
every most hidden part of it,
is realized in joy as Him.
And he makes us utterly real.

And everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in him transformed

and recognized as whole, lovely,
radiant in his light.
We awaken as the Beloved
in every last part of our body.

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, October 6, 2014

Jeanne Murray Walker*

Jeanne Murray Walker is a poet who writes of the everyday, and yet is able to make it all brand new. Her new poetry collection is Helping the Morning: New and Selected Poems (2014, WordFarm), which draws on her previous seven poetry books. Luci Shaw has written of it, "What a world this is, that arouses a poet to write ordinary things into gifts for the spirit!" Mark Jarman has similarly said of her new book, "I have always admired Jeanne Murray Walker's gift for finding the poetry in the everyday, the song in the mundane, the epiphany in the moment..."

Walker has also recently had The Geography of Memory: A Pilgrimage through Alzheimer's appear from Center Street Books (2013). This memoir is primarily about the decade she and her sister spent, caring for their aging mother. It encourages caregivers to connect with Alzheimer's patients by knowing and recounting their past.

The following is one of the new poems in Helping the Morning.

Miniature Psalm of Complaint

You claim you've weighed the mountains
in your scales. But have you noticed smaller

chunks of the world are flaking off?
I sweep leaves from the walk. The oak,

like the mainmast of a warship, towers
above me, sending down its brown hands,

which hardly weigh a thing. So many friends
sick now. As for me? A bit of bone and hair.

My arteries ordinary as the pipes and spigots
that bring us water. Your thunder shakes my teeth.

On our hillside, your fingers of drizzle pick the final
chrysanthemums to pieces. I don't bear a grudge,

mind you, only wonder if you would step closer,
say something smaller. Back in the house,

wiping my feet, I hear a scratching. A dentist
with his pick. Or maybe a mouse. Two brilliant eyes,

cowlicky fur, in her genetic coding, years
of wiles. As she helps herself to our birdseed,

I hear her tiny breathing. Okay, I think,
okay. What she is, can't help, didn't ask for,

and is doomed to love—herself. I flick on
the porch light to keep her safe from owls.

I can almost see us from the road, our tiny house,
hanging like one last gold leaf in the oak tree.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Jeanne Murray Walker: 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, September 29, 2014

Dunstan Thompson

Dunstan Thompson (1918—1975) is an American poet who settled in England after WWII. At Harvard he gained much towards his goal of being a writer, but not through academic pursuits. He was befriended by Conrad Aiken, who introduced him to T.S. Eliot. Another early mentor was Oscar Williams. Early in his career Thompson published Poems (1943, Simon & Schuster) followed by Lament for the Sleepwalker (1947, Dodd Mead).

In New York before the war, and later in London, Thompson lived a life of promiscuous homosexuality. After converting to Christian faith he completely transformed his lifestyle. It has been suggested that his subsequent inability to attract the attention of publishers may be in part due to his inclusion of religious poems in his manuscripts, and because his new work lacked the incoherence some "avant-garde" publishers were looking for.

Despite this discrepancy between the publishing success of his earlier and later work, Dunstan Thompson wished to be remembered for the poetry he wrote after 1950—even giving instructions for his earlier books to not be reprinted. Posthumously, his final three poetry collections were published as Dunstan Thompson, Poems, 1950—1974. The way he saw his early verse is expressed well in the following poem.

Early Poems

These are the ruins of a desperate day.
Among cold jagged stones
The serpents used to sway;
But now their empty skins, dull diamond tones,
Litter the lifeless towers.
The secret grief-enveloped complex rooms
A moment gleam with truth;
For, while the spinning spider winds
His way among the poisoned blooms
That loiter through the arches,
The dank deceitful foliage still reminds
The curious traveller: ‘Here is sadness
And the waste of youth.’

Jesu

However alone
There is always One
Who cares.
Hence, prayers.
At the end time
Will seem
As dreamily done
As this rhyme.
Not alone
But forever with Him.
Happy, I suppose
It is not too much to say.
So for all those
Also alone
Let us pray.
Jesu,
By Thy agony
Remember me,
Alone,
Longing to belong
To You.

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, September 22, 2014

George Whipple*

George Whipple (1927—2014), a well-respected Canadian poet, has died at age 87. His most-recent book is the third and final installment in a series of New and Selected Poems published by Penumbra Press: The Language Tree in Winter (2013). His first poetry collection Life Cycle appeared in 1984.

Whipple was born in St. John, New Brunswick, grew up in Toronto, and lived for the past 29 years in Burnaby, British Columbia. According to the Globe & Mail his papers and other works are archived in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto.

He sent me a hand-written card in 2009—never one to use e-mail—where he wrote, "Art is long, life is short." (God bless you, George.) The following poem is from his book The Colour of Memory.

Churches

One of my favourite churches
is Strathcona Gardens
with its long grape arbour nave,
its baptismal font an oval cistern where
water undulates the sky's
wind-rippled dome supported by
four stoic evergreens;
the censers a few lilac blooms
scenting the warm air with cool perfumes;
the lulling homily the buzz of bees,
my heart the altar, and my eyes
two shining windows gathering the light
reflected from rose bushes everywhere;
and in the choir loft of apple boughs
the last light evensonged of orisons of birds.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about George Whipple: first post

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, September 15, 2014

James McAuley

James McAuley (1917—1976) is an Australian poet, who was also known as a right-wing intellectual. Before he became known as a poet in his own right, he jointly concocted "The Ern Malley Hoax" (1944) with his friend Harold Stewart. Their idea was to expose what they considered to be shallowness in modernist poetry. McAuley and Stewart prepared poems in the modernist style "using partly random composition methods", and submitted them to the journal Angry Penguins, which quickly accepted and published them. Although the influence of modernism in Australian verse slowed in the aftermath of the hoax, ironically, interest in the Ern Malley poems continues to this day and even overshadows McAuley's own critical legacy.

McAuley's first collection Under Aldebaren appeared in 1946. By 1955 he was selected to be editor of the influential Australian journal Quadrant, and in 1961 he became Chair of English at the University of Tasmania. His Collected Poems (1971) was joint winner of the Grace Leven Prize.

Credo

That each thing is a word
Requiring us to speak it;
From the ant to the quasar,
From clouds to ocean floor—

The meaning not ours, but found
In the mind deeply submissive
To the grammar of existence,
The syntax of the real;

So that alien is changed
To human, thing into thinking:
For the world's bare tokens
We pay golden coin,

Stamped with the king's image;
And poems are prophecy
Of a new heaven and earth,
A rumour of resurrection.

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, September 8, 2014

Edwin Thumboo

Edwin Thumboo is a pioneer of English language poetry in Singapore. His poetry books include: Rib of Earth (1956) Gods Can Die (1977) and A Third Map (1993). He has edited many anthologies, promoting the poetry of Singapore and Malaysia. From 1970 to 1993 he taught at the National University of Singapore, heading the Department of English Language and Literature for 16 years.

Another Singapore poet, Aaron Lee, calls Thumboo, "our unofficial poet laureate"—a title others have used as well due to the nationalism in his writing. W.B. Yeats is a significant influence on Thumboo's poetry, such as in his well-known poem "Ulysses by the Merlion", concerning Singapore's break from colonialism, which he sees as mirroring Ireland's nationalistic struggles.

The Poetry Reader

Bring life and living, untidiness and order,
Carbuncles and pearls, dark half-closed doors,
To image, metaphor; lingual calm; a grammar’s
Entity, whose first act lifts the id into super self.

Let burnished, blazing power renew dim faces;
Fire those memories that keep you standing. Nerves
Power roots tingling sap, as discourse smoothes
Its rough moments into damask; filigree syllables.

You know, afresh, why in the very beginning there
Was the Word. So move in the flow, the curving tide,
The drift and wash. So primed for another verbal icon,
While by the waters of the Seine, more poems gather.

--------------I read them; they read me.

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.