Monday, April 29, 2013

Madeline DeFrees

Madeline DeFrees was born in Ontario, Oregon in 1919. She is the author of eight full-length poetry collections, including Blue Dusk, which received the 2002 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, and Spectral Waves (2006) both from Copper Canyon Press. Both of these books were awarded Washington State Book Awards.

She spent 38 years as a Catholic Nun, until 1973 when she requested a release to enable her to focus more on her poetry. She has taught at many colleges including: Univerisity of Montana and University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Psalm for a New Nun

My life was rescued like a bird from the fowler's snare.
It comes back singing tonight in my loosened hair

as I bend to the mirror in this contracted room
lit by the electric music of the comb.

With hair cropped close as a boy's, contained in a coif,
I let years make me forget what I had cut off.

Now the glass cannot compass my dark halo
and the frame censors the dense life it cannot follow.

Like strength restored in the temple this sweetness wells
quietly into tissues of abandoned cells;

better by as much as it is better
to be a woman, I feel this gradual urgency

till the comb snaps, the mirror widens, and the walls recede.
With head uncovered I am no longer afraid.

Broken is the snare and I am freed.
My help is in the Lord who made
heaven and earth.
Yes, earth.

This poem is from Madeline DeFrees' collection Blue Dusk: New & Selected Poems, 1951-2001, which is available here.

This is the first Kingdom Poets post about Madeline DeFrees: second post

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca

Monday, April 22, 2013

Hildegard of Bingen

Hildegard of Bingen (1098—1179) is a German mystic, known today for her writings and musical compositions. She founded monasteries in Rupertsberg in 1150 and Eibingen in 1165. Her writings include poems, liturgical plays, songs, and books on medicine, theology and botany. She also wrote three books of visions, including Scivias, which she dedicated ten years of her life to write.

She told her story, once, as follows: "Listen: there was once a king sitting on his throne. Around him stood great and wonderfully beautiful columns with ivory, bearing the banners of the king with great honour. Then it pleased the king to raise a small feather from the ground and he commanded it to fly. The feather flew, not because of anything in itself but because the air bore it along. Thus am I 'A feather on the breath of God.'"

Interest today in medieval women of the church has led to extensive reading of Hildegard’s writings, and interest in her life. Her music has been extensively recorded. The ensemble Sequentia has made Hildegard a particular focus, having now recorded her complete works on seven CDs. The following poem was translated by Barbara Newman.

Song to the Creator

You, all-accomplishing
Word of the Father
are the light of primordial
daybreak over the spheres.
You, the foreknowing
mind of divinity,
foresaw all your works
as you willed them,
your prescience hidden
in the heart of your power,
your power like a wheel around the world,
whose circling never began
and never slides to an end.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca

Monday, April 15, 2013

Lucille Clifton

Lucille Clifton (1936—2010) has received much recognition for her poetry. She served as Poet Laureate of Maryland from 1979 to 1985, had two different poetry collections published in 1987 both as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, and she received the National Book Award for Blessing the Boats: New and Collected Poems 1988—2000. She is also the author of eighteen children’s books.

In 1966 Langston Hughes included some of her poems in an anthology of Black poetry. When her first collection Good Times (1969) appeared The New York Times called it one of the year’s ten best books.

Peggy Rosethal said in The Christian Century, "The first thing that strikes us about Lucille Clifton's poetry is what is missing: capitalization, punctuation, long and plentiful lines. We see a poetry so pared down that its spaces take on substance, become a shaping presence as much as the words themselves". This is evident in the following poem.

sprng song

the green of Jesus
is breaking the ground
and the sweet
smell of delicious Jesus
is opening the house and
the dance of Jesus music
has hold of the air and
the world is turning
in the body of Jesus and
the future is possible

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca

Monday, April 8, 2013

Charles G.D. Roberts

Sir Charles G.D. Roberts (1860—1943) is often called the father of Canadian literature because he was one of Canada’s first poets to receive international acclaim, and because of the work he did to promote Canadian literature. He was born in New Brunswick, and grew up in Sackville and Fredericton where his father served as a church rector. He and his cousin, the poet Bliss Carman, attended school together. Roberts is the first of a group now known as the Confederation poets. His first collection Orion and Other Poems appeared in 1879. It was a significant influence on Archibald Lampman.

Roberts also wrote fiction, which was more lucrative than poetry; he became a pioneer in writing stories that avoided the anthropomorphism of other animal stories of the time. He lived for a time in New York City, in Europe, in London, and eventually settled in Toronto. He was knighted in 1935. The following poem is from his 1896 collection, The Book of the Native.

Resurrection

Daffodil, lily, and crocus,
---They stir, they break from the sod,
They are glad of the sun, and they open
---Their golden hearts to God.

They, and the wilding families,—
---Windflower, violet, may,—
They rise from the long, long dark
---To the ecstasy of day.

We, scattering troops and kindreds,
---From out of the stars wind-blown
To this wayside corner of space,
---This world that we call our own,—

We, of the hedge-rows of Time,
---We, too, shall divide the sod,
Emerge to the light, and blossom,
---With our hearts held up to God.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca

Monday, April 1, 2013

Katharine Tynan

Katharine Tynan (1859—1931) is the most prominent female writer associated with the Irish Revival which began in the 1880s. She and W.B. Yeats were close friends for years, and encouraged one another in their poetry. They wrote to one another for decades; his side of the correspondence was eventually published as Letters to Katharine Tynan (1953). She also exchanged letters with Gerard Manley Hopkins whom she first met in 1886.

Her first book of poetry Louise de la Vallière and Other Poems (1885) established her reputation. The following poem comes from her collection Twenty One Poems By Katharine Tynan (1907); the poems for the book were selected by Yeats. The second poem comes from Flower of Youth: Poems in War Time (1915).

Easter

Bring flowers to strew His way,
Yea, sing, make holiday;
Bid young lambs leap,
And earth laugh after sleep.

For now He cometh forth
Winter flies to the north,
Folds wings and cries
Amid the bergs and ice.

Yea, Death, great Death is dead,
And Life reigns in his stead;
Cometh the Athlete
New from dead Death's defeat.

Cometh the Wrestler,
But Death he makes no stir,
Utterly spent and done,
And all his kingdom gone.

A Prayer (For Those Who Shall Return)

LORD, when they come back again
From the dreadful battlefield
To the common ways of men,
Be Thy mercy, Lord, revealed!
Make them to forget the dread
Fields of dying and the dead!

Let them go unhaunted, Lord,
By the sights that they have seen:
Guard their dreams from shell and sword;
Lead them by the pastures green,
That they wander all night long
In the fields where they were young.

Grant no charnel horrors slip
'Twixt them and their child's soft face.
Breast to breast and lip to lip,
Let the lovers meet, embrace!
Be they innocent of all
Memories that affright, appal.

Let their ears love music still,
And their eyes rejoice to see
Glory on the sea and hill,
Beauty in the flower and tree.
Drop a veil that none may raise
Over dreadful nights and days.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca