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.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Norman Nicholson*

Norman Nicholson (1914—1987) is an English poet, born in the town of Millom, Cumbria, where he lived his entire life—with the exception of almost two years in his teens in a tuberculosis sanatorium.

He was born the year WWI started, and "born again" the year WWII started—1939. Both place and faith are significant themes in his verse. He valued life away from large cities, and was a fervent environmentalist. He was over 40 when he met and married his wife, Yvonne.

When he was in his twenties, he was a protégé of T.S. Eliot who published his work with Faber & Faber. In addition to seven collections of poetry, he also wrote novels, plays, criticism and essays. When he died The Times obituary acclaimed him 'the most gifted English Christian provincial poet of his century'.

Carol for the Last Christmas Eve

The first night, the first night,
The night that Christ was born,
His mother looked in his eyes and saw
Her maker in her son.

The twelfth night, the twelfth night,
After Christ was born,
The Wise Men found the child and knew
Their search has just begun.

Eleven thousand, two fifty nights,
After Christ was born,
A dead man hung in the child's light
And the sun went down at noon.

Six hundred thousand or thereabout nights,
After Christ was born,
I look at you and you look at me
But the sky is too dark for us to see
And the world waits for the sun.

But the last night, the last night,
Since ever Christ was born,
What his mother knew will be known again,
And what was found by the Three Wise Men,
And the sun will rise and so may we,
On the last morn, on Christmas morn,
Umpteen hundred and eternity.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Norman Nicholson: 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, December 14, 2015

O Antiphons

The O Antiphons are ancient poems written in Latin, and which are sung or recited at Vespers in various churches, including by Lutherans, Anglicans and Catholics. They date from at least the eighth century, if not earlier.

The seven antiphons each proclaims a different name for Christ, and are featured during Advent.
-------December 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
-------December 18: O Adonai (O Lord)
-------December 19: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
-------December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David)
-------December 21: O Oriens (O Dayspring)
-------December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the nations)
-------December 23: O Emmanuel (O With Us is God)

Two fine Christian poets have recently found inspiration in the O Antiphons for their own poetry Malcolm Guite in Sounding the Seasons (2012), and Jill Peláez Baumgaertner in What Cannot Be Fixed (2014).

Five of the seven Antiphons are used in the following Christmas carol. John Mason Neale translated the hymn into English for his hymnal Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861).

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

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 7, 2015

Madeleine L'Engle*

Madeleine L'Engle (1918—2007) was born and raised in New York City, although during her teen years she lived in the Swiss Alps and in Charleston, South Carolina. She met her husband, Hugh Franklin, when she was living in Greenwich Village and working in theatre. They were married in 1946, and he died in 1986. She was librarian at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York for more than thirty years.

She is best known for her Newbery Medal winning novel A Wrinkle in Time (1963) and its sequels. In her poems, L'Engle primarily uses traditional structures. Her highly-quotable Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art was first published in 1980. Her new and collected poems, The Ordering of Love (Shaw), appeared in 2005.

The following poem appeared in the Christmas collection Winter Song (1996) — which is a collaboration between Madeleine L'Engle and Luci Shaw.

Into the Darkest Hour

It was a time like this,
War & tumult of war,
a horror in the air.
Hungry yawned the abyss —
and yet there came the star
and the child most wonderfully there.

It was time like this
of fear & lust for power,
license & greed and blight —
and yet the Prince of bliss
came into the darkest hour
in quiet & silent light.

And in a time like this
how celebrate his birth
when all things fall apart?
Ah! wonderful it is
with no room on the earth
the stable is our heart.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Madeleine L'Engle: 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, November 30, 2015

Elizabeth Jennings*

Elizabeth Jennings (1926—2001) is the author of more than two dozen volumes of poetry, mostly published by Macmillan and Carcanet. Her family moved to Oxford, when she was six years old, and she lived there for the rest of her life. She was a traditionalist, rather than an innovator — demonstrating a fine lyrical style and mastery of poetic forms. In 1992 she became a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).

She once wrote, "Only one thing must be cast out, and that is the vague. Only true clarity reaches to the heights and the depths of human, and more than human, understanding." She was discussing the work of other significant authors, but she clearly applied this principle to her own writing.

She is one of the poets to be featured in an upcoming anthology of Christian poetry I am editing for the Poiema Poetry Series.

The Visitation

She had not held her secret long enough
To covet it but wished it shared as though
Telling it would tame the terrifying moment
When she, most calm in her own afternoon,
-----Felt the intrepid angel, heard
His beating wings, his voice across her prayer.

This was the thing she needed to impart
The uncalm moment, the strange interruption,
The angel bringing pain disguised as joy,
But mixed with this was something she could share
-----And not abandon, simply how
A child sprang in her like the first of seeds.

And in the stillness of that other day
The afternoon exposed its emptiness,
Shadows adrift from light, the long road turning
In a dry sequence of the sun. And she
-----No apprehensive figure seemed,
Only a moving silence through the land.

And all her journeying was a caressing
Within her mind of secrets to be spoken.
The simple fact of birth soon overshadowed
The shadow of the angel. When she came
-----Close to her cousin’s house she kept
Only the message of her happiness.

And those two women in their quick embrace
Gazed at each other with looks undisturbed
By men or miracles. It was the child
Who laid his shadow on their afternoon
-----By stirring suddenly, by bringing
Back the broad echoes of those beating wings.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Elizabeth Jennings: first post, third 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, November 23, 2015

Edmund Waller

Edmund Waller (1606—1687) is an English poet who was elected to parliament when he was sixteen-years-old. He was educated at Eton College, and King's College, Cambridge. He tried to play both sides in the stormy political 1640s. After he had been caught by parliamentarians in his plot to secure London for the King, he was exiled from 1643 to 1652. In 1655 Waller's "Panegyrick to my Lord Protector" appeared, which seems to have been an attempt to gain Cromwell's favour. By 1660 he (perhaps more sincerely) celebrated “To the King, upon his Majesties happy return.”

Both John Dryden and Alexander Pope were admirers of Waller's poetry, in particular his "heroic couplets", which they both imitated. Edmund Waller's Divine Poems appeared in 1685.

Of the Last Verses in the Book

When we for age could neither read nor write,
The subject made us able to indite.
The soul, with nobler resolutions decked,
The body stooping, does herself erect:
No mortal parts are requisite to raise
Her, that unbodied can her Maker praise.

The seas are quiet, when the winds give o’er,
So calm are we, when passions are no more:
For then we know how vain it was to boast
Of fleeting things, so certain to be lost.
Clouds of affection from our younger eyes
Conceal that emptiness, which age descries.

The soul’s dark cottage, battered and decayed,
Lets in new light through chinks that time has made;
Stronger by weakness, wiser men become
As they draw near to their eternal home:
Leaving the old, both worlds at once they view,
That stand upon the threshold of the new.

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, November 16, 2015

Brett Foster*

Brett Foster (1973—2015) is the author of the poetry collection The Garbage Eater (2011), and the chapbook Fall Run Road (2012). It was discovered last year that he had colon cancer. He passed away last Monday at his home in Wheaton, Illinois where he lived with his wife and two children. He served as Associate Professor of English at Wheaton College.

On a personal note, Brett assisted me with the editing of my most recent poetry book. He also introduced me to N.T. Wright's excellent book on the Psalms, when we were hanging out together at the Festival of Faith and Writing in Michigan last year.

The best way to honour him, is to share some of his fine poetry. Of the following poems, the first recently appeared in Books & Culture, and the second in the most-recent issue of Image.

Poem with a Phrase from George Herbert

Even if the body's garment has been rent,
it can still become an establishment
for rebuilding spirit, new, tender, and quick.
If there is no market for one's sickness,
there is at very least an etiquette
for feeling better—felt pain and everything met
in extremity, that is. There exists
the tumor, cyst, or grisly polyp, and Christ
resides, persists amid these hundred hells,
his garment hemmed with pomegranates, golden bells.

Tongue Is The Pen

Isaiah 43

I am making all things new! Or am trying to,
being so surprised to be one of those guys
who may be dying early. This is yet one more
earthen declaration, uttered through a better
prophet’s more durable mouth, with heart
astir. It’s not oath-taking that I’m concerned
with here, for what that’s worth— instead just a cry
from the very blood, a good, sound imprecation
to give the sickness and the shivering meaning.
Former things have not been forgotten,
but they have forgotten me. The dear, the sweet,
the blessed past
, writes Bassani. Tongue is the pen.
Donning some blanket of decorousness
is not the prophet’s profession, not ever.
Not that I’ve tasted the prophet’s honey or fire:
I’m just a shocked, confounded fellow
who’s standing here, pumping the bellows
of his mellifluous sorrow. Yet sorrow’s the thing
for all prophets. Make a way in the wilderness,
streaming your home-studio-made recordings
from a personal wasteland. These are my thoughts.
I can’t manage the serious beard. My sackcloth
is the flannel shirt I’m wearing. But the short-circuited
months have whitened my hair, and it’s not
for nothing that Jeffrey calls me, with affectionate
mockery, the silver fox. It’s a prerequisite, finally—
being a marginal prophet, but a severe attention
to envisioned tomorrows must be present, too,
must be perceived as possible, audible, or followable.
There’s a hypothetically bright future for everything,
each wounded creature that is bitten, or bites.
And speaking of things overheard, you heard right:
if I have to go out, I am going to go out singing.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Brett Foster: 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, November 9, 2015

Bernard of Clairvaux*

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090—1153) was born in what is now France. He is known as an abbot, a theologian, and a poet. He was canonized in 1174, and given the title "Doctor of the Church" in 1830. Martin Luther highly admired Bernard of Clairvaux, and wrote, "he was the best monk that ever lived, whom I admire beyond all the rest put together."

The following hymn is attributed to Bernard. It is believed that he wrote the 192 line Latin poem "Dulcis Jesu Memorial", and that writer Edward Caswall translated portions of it during the nineteenth century into English to form this hymn. Some, however, believe that the Latin poem originated in England before it ever appeared in France.

The tune was written by John B. Dykes. Most hymnals only use about four verses.

Jesus, The Very Thought Of Thee

Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills the breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.

Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find
A sweeter sound than Thy blest Name,
O Saviour of mankind!

O hope of every contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind Thou art!
How good to those who seek!

But what to those who find? Ah, this
Nor tongue nor pen can show;
The love of Jesus, what it is,
None but His loved ones know.

Jesus, our only joy be Thou,
As Thou our prize will be;
Jesus be Thou our glory now,
And through eternity.

O Jesus, King most wonderful
Thou Conqueror renowned,
Thou sweetness most ineffable
In Whom all joys are found!

When once Thou visitest the heart,
Then truth begins to shine,
Then earthly vanities depart,
Then kindles love divine.

O Jesus, light of all below,
Thou fount of living fire,
Surpassing all the joys we know,
And all we can desire.

Jesus, may all confess Thy Name,
Thy wondrous love adore,
And, seeking Thee, themselves inflame
To seek Thee more and more.

Thee, Jesus, may our voices bless,
Thee may we love alone,
And ever in our lives express
The image of Thine own.

O Jesus, Thou the beauty art
Of angel worlds above;
Thy Name is music to the heart,
Inflaming it with love.

Celestial Sweetness unalloyed,
Who eat Thee hunger still;
Who drink of Thee still feel a void
Which only Thou canst fill.

O most sweet Jesus, hear the sighs
Which unto Thee we send;
To Thee our inmost spirit cries;
To Thee our prayers ascend.

Abide with us, and let Thy light
Shine, Lord, on every heart;
Dispel the darkness of our night;
And joy to all impart.

Jesus, our love and joy to Thee,
The virgin’s holy Son,
All might and praise and glory be,
While endless ages run.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Bernard of Clairvaux: 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, November 2, 2015

Pamela Cranston

Pamela Cranston is a novelist and is the author of the poetry collection, Coming To Treeline: Adirondack Poems.

She is an Episcopal priest who was born in New York City, and raised in Massachusetts. She was the first American to join the Anglican Franciscan Order, serving in the 1970s as a nun in Somerset, England and San Francisco. She lives in Oakland, California, with her husband, and is the vicar at St. Cuthbert's Episcopal Church.

Poem For Christ The King

See how this homeless babe lifted
himself down into his humble Crèche
and laid his tender glove
of skin against that splintered wood —
found refuge in that rack
of raspy straw — home
on that chilly dawn, in sweetest
silage, those shriven stalks.
See how this outcast King lifted
himself high upon his savage Cross,
extended the regal banner
of his bones, draping himself
upon his throne — his battered feet,
his wounded hands not fastened
there by nails but sewn
by the strictest thorn of Love.

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, October 26, 2015

William Baldwin

William Baldwin (c.1515—c.1563) is a poet from southwest England who worked at Edward Whitchurch's Printing House in London — the house that published the first complete edition of the Bible in English.

Little is known about Baldwin's life, although it is believed that he graduated from Oxford University in 1533. He was well known as a writer, translator and editor — having published numerous books, including many religious works. He was a supporter of the Protestant Reformation, and outspoken in his opposition to the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1555 Baldwin completed A Mirror For Magistrates, which included four of his own poems, but it could not be published during Queen Mary's reign.

Christ To His Spouse

Lo , thou, my love, art fair;
Myself hath made thee so:
Yea, thou art fair indeed,
Wherefore thou shalt not need
In beauty to despair;
For I accept thee so,
--------------For fair.

For fair, because thine eyes
Are like the culvers' white,
Whose simpleness in deed
All others do exceed:
Thy judgement wholly lies
In true sense of sprite
--------------Most wise.

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, October 19, 2015

Gerard Manley Hopkins*

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844—1889) is one of the most significant poets of the nineteenth century. As a Jesuit priest, he felt a conflict between the humility and turning away of attention from himself that was expected of him, and the need to provide an audience for his art. In 1884 he became professor of Greek and Latin at University College, Dublin.

He developed in his poetry what he called sprung rhythm, which was intended to imitate the rhythm of natural speech, where the first syllable is stressed and is followed by several unstressed syllables. The number of unstressed syllables varies, but the number of stressed syllables remains constant. The stress marks in his poems are intended to help readers to follow the rhythm.

Hopkins once referred to the poem "The Windhover" as the best thing he'd ever written.

The Windhover

To Christ our Lord

I caught this morning morning's minion, king—
---dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his
------riding
---Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
---As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and
------gliding
---Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, — the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
---Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

---No wonder of it: shèer plòd makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
---Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold vermilion.

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things —
---For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
------For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
---Landscape plotted and pieced — fold, fallow, and plough;
------And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
---Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
------With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
---------------------------Praise him.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Gerard Manley Hopkins: first postthird 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, October 12, 2015

Dave Harrity

Dave Harrity is a Kentucky poet, and an Assistant Professor of English at Campbellsville University. He is the founder of Antler — a community-building and spiritual-formation organization designed to encourage the integration of creativity in devotional practice. Visit Antler here. The heart of Antler can be seen in Harrity's book, Making Manifest: On Faith, Creativity, and the Kingdom at Hand, which consists of meditations and writing exercises.

My friendship with Dave Harrity began many years ago at the Festival of Faith & Writing in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It's been good to witness his development as a writer and speaker. His poetry chapbook, Morning & What Has Come Since, was released by Finishing Line Press in 2007, and was nominated for several awards. At that time Nicholas Samaras declared, "...we welcome the arrival of David Harrity whose observations are acute, [and] whose turns of phrase are artful, arresting and original..."

I am so pleased to have been able to assist him as editor for his first full-length poetry collection, These Intricacies, which has just appeared as part of the Poiema Poetry Series from Cascade Books. The following is from These Intricacies.

from Novena (6)

Let me know the distance
from your ghost to my bones.

Let these knees singe the ground
under coal-brushed clouds.

Let my voice grow into prayer
with my face against the soil.

Let the seed begin the tree,
the taproot kiss through stone.

Let hands grow to branches,
divide and rise to green.

Let fingers flower into leaves
and wander to the sky.

Let churning be an icon,
the beginning to your reach.

Let rain create the heat,
and batter every leaf.

Let lines of lightning chalk the sky,
fierce flare to flash and rush.

Let my pieces smolder
in the absence of your touch.

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, October 5, 2015

The Pearl Poet

The Pearl Poet is the name used to refer to the author of the 14th century Middle English poem, which survives only in a single manuscript. The same manuscript also includes the romance "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight", and two Christian narrative poems: "Patience" and "Cleanliness". All four poems are believed to be the work of a single author.

In "Pearl" (spelled "Perle" in the original), a father mourns the death of his young daughter, and dreams he encounters her as a grown woman in heaven, although he is still earthbound. She answers his questions with doctrinal teaching, and shows him the heavenly city. The 101 12-line stanzas are very alliterative.

The following is from J.R.R. Tolkien's translation of "Pearl".

from Pearl (88)

Of sun nor moon they had no need,
For God Himself was their sunlight;
The Lamb their lantern was indeed
And through Him blazed that city bright
That unearthly clear did no light impede;
Through wall and hall thus passed my sight.
The Throne on high there might one heed,
With all its rich adornment dight,
As John in chosen words did write.
High God Himself sat on that throne,
Whence forth a river ran with light
Outshining both the sun and moon.

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, September 28, 2015

Martha Serpas

Martha Serpas grew up in Galliano, Louisiana, takes seriously the wetland habitat of southern Louisiana, and is active in seeking it's preservation and restoration. She has taught at the University of Tampa (Florida) and is now a Professor of English at the University of Houston (Texas). She has also worked as a trauma hospital chaplain.

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 I hope will appear in the Spring of 2016.

Martha Serpas's third poetry collection, The Diener (2015) was published by LSU Press. The following poem is from her 2007 collection, The Dirty Side of the Storm (W.W. Norton).

Fais Do-Do

A green heron pulls the sky behind it
like a zipper. Sharp rows

of clouds fold into themselves, erasing
the framed blue tide.

Barrier islands disappear into
the Gulf’s gray mouth.


Everywhere something strives to overtake something else:
Grass over a mound of fill dirt, ants over grass,

the rough shading of rust between rows
of sheet metal frustrating the sky.

Boats breast up three deep in every slip
and as soon docked are waved away.


The only music’s crickets and lapping,
happy bullfrogs on slick logs.

A rustling skirt of palmettos
around the roots of a modest oak

that appear after hard rain. A fiddle,
or idling motor, moves away.


Go to sleep. God will come
in an extended cab for all of us:

the children, the dogs, the poets.
That old Adversary, the Gulf,

our succoring Mother, having given
everything, will carry the whole of us 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, September 21, 2015

John Dryden

John Dryden (1631—1700) is an English poet — the leading poet and literary critic of Restoration England. He was raised a Puritan, but became a member of the Church of England, and eventually a Roman Catholic. In politics he was a monarchist. He also wrote plays, producing three a year for The King's Company, after the Puritan ban on the theatre was lifted in 1663. He became Poet Laureate in 1668. His major work containing poems of faith is Religio Laici (1882).

His translation of The Aeneid by Virgil is still considered the best in the English language. His use of heroic couplets greatly influenced the poetry of Alexander Pope. John Dryden is buried at Westminster Abbey.

Veni, Creator Spiritus

Creator Spirit, by whose aid
The world’s foundations first were laid,
Come, visit every pious mind;
Come, pour thy joys on human kind;
From sin, and sorrow set us free;
And make thy temples worthy Thee.

O, Source of uncreated Light,
The Father’s promis’d Paraclete!
Thrice Holy Fount, thrice Holy Fire,
Our hearts with heav’nly love inspire;
Come, and thy Sacred Unction bring
To sanctify us, while we sing!

Plenteous of grace, descend from high,
Rich in thy seven-fold energy!
Thou strength of his Almighty Hand,
Whose power does heaven and earth command:
Proceeding Spirit, our Defence,
Who do’st the gift of tongues dispence,
And crown’st thy gift with eloquence!

Refine and purge our earthly parts;
But, oh, inflame and fire our hearts!
Our frailties help, our vice control;
Submit the senses to the soul;
And when rebellious they are grown,
Then, lay thy hand, and hold ’em down.

Chase from our minds the Infernal Foe;
And peace, the fruit of love, bestow;
And, lest our feet should step astray,
Protect, and guide us in the way.

Make us Eternal Truths receive,
And practise, all that we believe:
Give us thy self, that we may see
The Father and the Son, by thee.

Immortal honour, endless fame,
Attend the Almighty Father’s name:
The Saviour Son be glorified,
Who for lost Man’s redemption died:
And equal adoration be,
Eternal Paraclete, to thee.

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, September 14, 2015

Calvin Miller

Calvin Miller (1936—2012) is the author of more than 40 books including the popular The Singer Trilogy. The first book, The Singer, appeared in 1975 and sold more than a million copies. It is an allegory, behind a gossamer-thin veil, in the tradition of John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress. Through the way Miller weaved his poetic spell, The Singer opened a generation of evangelicals to more artistic modes of expression.

Calvin Miller served as a Baptist pastor in Nebraska for thirty years, and later became a professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and most-recently at Beeson Divinity School.

from The Singer

When he awoke, the song was there.

Its melody beckoned and begged him to sing it.

It hung upon the wind and settled in the meadows where he walked.

He knew its lovely words and could have sung it all, but feared to sing a song whose harmony was far too perfect for human ear to understand.

And still at midnight it stirred him to awareness, and with its haunting melody it drew him with a curious mystery to stand before an open window.

In rhapsody it played among the stars.

It rippled through Andromeda and deepened Vega’s hues.

It swirled in heavy strains from galaxy to galaxy and gave him back his very fingerprint.

“Sing the Song!” the heavens seemed to cry. “We never could have been without the melody that you alone can sing.”

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, September 7, 2015

Thomas Lynch

Thomas Lynch is a Michigan poet, fiction writer, essayist and undertaker. Yes, you read that correctly. In 1974 he took over his father's position as funeral director in Milford, Michigan, and has served that community ever since. His 1997 essay collection, The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade, received the Heartland Prize, the American Book Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Award. He has contributed to such publications as The New Yorker, The Paris Review and The London Times. He and his work have been the subject of two documentaries — one produced by PBS and the other by the BBC.

He is the author of five poetry collections; his most recent is The Sin Eater: A Breviary — published by Paraclete Press, and in an Irish edition by Salmon Press. He spends a portion of each year at the ancestral cottage in West Clare, Ireland, that was the home of his great, great grandfather.

The following poem is from his collection, Still Life in Milford (Norton).

Heavenward

Such power in the naming of things—
To walk out in the greensward pronouncing
Goldfinch, lilac, oriental poppy
as if the shaping of the thing in sound
produced a pleasure like the sight of things
as if the housefinch winters in the mock-orange is
as tasty an intelligence to the lips and ears as
the sight of a small purple bird in December is
perched in a thicket of bald branches.
June you remember: the white blossoms, yellow
jackets, the fresh scent of heaven.

And other incarnations to be named:
nuthatch, magnolia, coreopsis, rose.
Surely this was God’s first gift of godliness—
that new index finger working over the globe
assigning from the noisy void those fresh,
orderly syllables. Ocean, garden,
helpmate, tree of knowledge.

Making came easy, creation
a breeze. But oh, that dizzy pleasure when
God said Eve and the woman looked heavenward.

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 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.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Jane Kenyon*

Jane Kenyon (1947—1995) was poet laureate of New Hampshire at the time of her death. She published four volumes of her own poetry, and a collection of Anna Akhmatova's poems translated from Russian. Her posthumous essay collection, A Hundred White Daffodils, reveals the importance of the local church, she and her husband Donald Hall attended.

The following poem did not appear in any of the books published in her lifetime, but in Otherwise: New & Selected Poems, which Graywolf published in 1996. Some of the most spiritual poems in that collection are among the New poems. According to the New York Times Book Review, Kenyon "sees this world as a kind of threshold through which we enter God's wonder."

In the Nursing Home

She is like a horse grazing
a hill pasture that someone makes
smaller by coming every night
to pull the fences in and in.

She has stopped running wide loops,
stopped even the tight circles.
She drops her head to feed; grass
is dust, and the creekbed’s dry.

Master, come with your light
halter. Come and bring her in.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Jane Kenyon: 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 6, 2015

Paul Quenon

Paul Quenon is a Trappist monk who has primarily lived at Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky since 1958. At age 17 he was drawn to investigate Gethsemani, having read Thomas Merton's autobiography, and then as a novice, he served under the direction of Merton. Quenon is a photographer and a poet. Several of his earlier books, such as Terrors of Paradise, were published by Black Moss Press (Windsor, Ontario). His new collection, Unquiet Vigil: New and Selected Poems appeared from Paraclete Press in 2014.

As my friend, Kentucky poet, David Harrity (who has visited Brother Paul at Gethsemani) has said: "Paul recites and sings poetry seven times a day by profession—namely the ancient psalms of the Bible, in choir with several dozen other monks. This sets the bar pretty high for a boy from West Virginia who came to pray and work and read all about God in a monastery, which makes a natural breeding ground for poets."

The Cowl

—solemn as chant,
one sweep of fabric
from head to foot.
Cowls hanging
on a row of pegs—
tall disembodied spirits
holding shadows
deep in the folds
waiting for light,
for light to shift
waiting for a bell
for the reach of my hand
to spread out the slow
wings, release the
shadows and envelope my
prayer-hungry body
with light.

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, June 29, 2015

Kenneth Leslie

Kenneth Leslie (1892—1974) is a Canadian poet, clergyman and political activist. In the 1920s he was part of a literary society in Halifax called The Song Fishermen which included Charles G.D. Roberts and Bliss Carmen. After this he, and his first wife, moved to New York. His first collection, Windward Rock (Macmillan, 1934), received positive attention on both sides of the Atlantic, and his fourth book, By Stubborn Stars (Ryerson,1938) won him the Governor General's Award.

Although he was not a communist, he was given the nickname "God's Red Poet" due to his political activism. In the late 1930s he worked steadily against fascism and anti-semitism. He founded the influential journal The Protestant Digest, which earned him many friends and many enemies. The magazine's editorial advisers eventually included Paul Tillich and Reinhold Niebuhr. Rather than face the House Un-American Activities Committee, Kenneth Leslie returned home to the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia.

In 2010, The Porcupine's Quill published The Essential Kenneth Leslie.

The Preacher

for Albert Cohoe

Constrained to call and cry the wares of God,
you stumble in the pulpit, troubled, dumb,
suddenly striken, silent as a clod,
no whispered word, not even a breath will come.
What strange antagonist takes strangle hold
upon your spirit's tendons till they bend
to breaking, and yet leaves your spirit bold
to claim a victor's blessing at the end?
There! He has gone, and going swings a gate
for swift release. Your throat, a golden flume,
the flowing torrent of a soul in spate,
mad with hwyl of spirit, fills the room.
Now we can guess the pain, the silent cry,
and whose hand struck the hollow of your thigh.

Jesus Thought Long

Jesus thought long
on an oar thinned to breaking.
It was flesh in His hands
of hard toil partaking.
Jesus found beauty
in the curl of a shaving
And truth in a yoke
worn out and past saving.

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, June 22, 2015

Sergiu Mandinescu

Sergiu Mandinescu (1926—1964) is a Romanian poet who spent fourteen years of his brief life in a communist prison. While incarcerated, he was not permitted to have either pen or paper — sometimes living in solitary confinement — and so, Mandinescu had to memorize his poems as he wrote them. Whenever he shared a cell with other prisoners he was able to recite his poetry to them, but had to be careful of watchful guards and informers. Much of his poetry was lost, due to the continual mistreatment he faced from communist authorities.

Like many Romanian political prisoners, Mandinescu was able to turn to his Orthodox Christian faith, which helped him to survive. It is not surprising, then, that the following poem, is in the form of a prayer.

Amen (Prison Prayer)

If I only had an angel’s quill
and the dark ink of night
perhaps only then I might
gather from all my vagaries
to write my memories
telling why I’m bleeding, I will.
Plundered stars of the night.
At the window of Hope — irons tight.
At the door of Salvation — the lock.
Our pale face, asleep on the block.
As the hatred breaks out, all its dark flame will sweep
in a split second, the fire will wring
our mind, soul and wing,
our ashes piled high, in a heap.
When the terrible hammers will shatter the silence
to pieces, as great as the penance,
our broken-up souls will be reaching the sky,
as the martyrs will burn on the pyre, up high.
Such a terrible grief and the beatings of kind
caused so many inmates to have shattered their mind
as a great many more for eternity strive
from the ones who’ve been there, just the dead are alive.
Just like him and like you, I am only a bloke:
see, My Lord? I do walk and I talk
as a true living corpse my existence is bare
I am ready, My Lord, to be taken up there.
I embrace all the pain and the anguish I merit
as I wait to be called by the heralds of Heaven
in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
Amen.

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, June 15, 2015

Alice Meynell

Alice Meynell (1847—1922) is an English poet, writer, editor and activist. She received early encouragement from Alfred Tennyson. Her first book of poetry, Preludes, appeared in 1875. She spoke out on behalf of the oppressed in the face of European imperialism, and was the vice-president of the Women Writers' Suffrage League.

She, along with her husband, Wilfrid, published the poetry of Francis Thomson in their magazine Merrie England, assisted him in his recovery from opium addiction, and arranged to have his first poetry book published.

Twice she was considered for the post of poet laureate. In 1923 The Poems of Alice Meynell: Complete Edition appeared.

Christ in the Universe

With this ambiguous earth
His dealings have been told us. These abide:
The signal to a maid, the human birth,
The lesson, and the young Man crucified.

But not a star of all
The innumerable host of stars has heard
How He administered this terrestrial ball.
Our race have kept their Lord’s entrusted Word.

Of His earth-visiting feet
None knows the secret, cherished, perilous,
The terrible, shamefast, frightened, whispered, sweet,
Heart-shattering secret of His way with us.

No planet knows that this
Our wayside planet, carrying land and wave,
Love and life multiplied, and pain and bliss,
Bears, as chief treasure, one forsaken grave.

Nor, in our little day,
May His devices with the heavens be guessed,
His pilgrimage to thread the Milky Way
Or His bestowals there be manifest.

But in the eternities,
Doubtless we shall compare together, hear
A million alien Gospels, in what guise
He trod the Pleiades, the Lyre, the Bear.

O, be prepared, my soul!
To read the inconceivable, to scan
The myriad forms of God those stars unroll
When, in our turn, we show to them a Man.

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, June 8, 2015

Cyprian Kamil Norwid

Cyprian Kamil Norwid (1821—1883) is a Polish painter and poet. He grew up in Warsaw, but lived for many years in various cities including Berlin, Brussels, Rome, Paris, and even briefly in New York. In 1854 he settled permanently in Paris. His first published poem was, ironically, entitled "My Last Sonnet". Norwid wrote extensively about the philosophic, political, artistic and social issues of his day. The only book of his to appear in his lifetime was Poezje (Poems) published in Liepzig in 1863. By 1880 Norwid was becoming a recluse, partly due to poverty and his advancing deafness.

Although unnoticed in his lifetime the work of Cyprian Kamil Norwid was later discovered by the poet Zenon Przesmycki, who published Norwid's work in the journal Chimera between 1901 and 1907, and also published several volumes of Norwid's writing.

The Past

The past, death and pain are not acts of God,
But of law-breaking man,
Who therefore lives in dread
And sensing evil, wants oblivion!

But is he not like a child in a dray
Crying, "Oh, look, the oak's
Disappearing in the wood…",
While the oak's still and the child's borne away?

The past is now — though somewhat far:
Behind the dray a village barn,
And not something somewhere
Never seen by man!…

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, June 1, 2015

Les Murray*

Les Murray is frequently called the leading Australian poet of his generation. He was raised in a rustic shack near Bunyah, New South Wales — a place of great significance in his poetry. When he was twelve, in 1951, his mother died, and Les had to return home from boarding school to look after his father, who amid the grief was unable to care for himself.

Murray biographer, Peter Alexander has written:
-------"In 1957 Murray went to the University of Sydney to study
-------modern languages. While there he worked on the editorial
-------boards of student publications. At Sydney he was
-------converted from the Free Kirk Presbyterianism of his
-------parents to Roman Catholicism, and the influence of
-------passionately held Christian convictions can be seen
-------everywhere in his verse, though seldom overtly; instead
-------it shows itself, in poems such as 'Blood' or 'The Broad
-------Bean Sermon,' in a strong sense of the power of ritual
-------sacramental in everyday life and of the quality of
-------existence."

It's been five years since the release of his latest collection of new poetry, Taller When Prone. In the mean time, however, his New Selected Poems appeared in the UK in 2012, and in the US in 2014. The following poem is available in this new book.

Poetry And Religion

Religions are poems. They concert
our daylight and dreaming mind, our
emotions, instinct, breath and native gesture

into the only whole thinking: poetry.
Nothing's said till it's dreamed out in words
and nothing's true that figures in words only.

A poem, compared with an arrayed religion,
may be like a soldier's one short marriage night
to die and live by. But that is a small religion.

Full religion is the large poem in loving repetition;
like any poem, it must be inexhaustible and complete
with turns where we ask Now why did the poet do that?

You can't pray a lie, said Huckleberry Finn;
you can't poe one either. It is the same mirror:
mobile, glancing, we call it poetry,

fixed centrally, we call it a religion,
and God is the poetry caught in any religion,
caught, not imprisoned. Caught as in a mirror

that he attracted, being in the world as poetry
is in the poem, a law against its closure.
There'll always be religion around while there is poetry

or a lack of it. Both are given, and intermittent,
as the action of those birds — crested pigeon, rosella parrot —
who fly with wings shut, then beating, and again shut.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Les Murray: 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, May 25, 2015

William Jolliff

William Jolliff is a poet, English Professor at George Fox University in Oregon, and a bluegrass banjo player. His chapbook Whatever Was Ripe won the 1998 Bright Hill Press poetry chapbook competition. His new full-length collection Twisted Shapes of Light has just appeared as part of the Poiema Poetry Series from Cascade Books. I am delighted to have been able to assist the poet as the editor of this book.

Jolliff is the editor of The Poetry of John Greenleaf Whittier (2000). He seems to have been particularly drawn to Whittier's verse because of their common Quaker heritage, and because 19th century American literature is a chosen field of study. Jolliff also edited the journal The Rolling Coulter which was published by Missouri Western State College. He has been playing five-string banjo and a variety of Appalachian folk instruments on stages around the US northwest for many years. (A Bill Jolliff You Tube search will prove rewarding.)

The following poem is from Twisted Shapes of Light and first appeared in Friends Journal.

The Hardness of the Pews

I didn’t mind the hardness of the pews then
and wouldn’t now. If you’ve been perched
on a tractor seat since dawn—or, worse yet,
if you’ve hopped off it half a hundred times
to change a shear bolt or clear a jam of stalks,
Good Lord, a walnut board with some curve
that’s shaped a little like a back is hardly short
of heaven. Or if you’ve been stacking hay,
packing back bales, the hottest, windless hours
of the afternoon, well, a seat in a church house
with a high ceiling and a window to the creek—
that’s likely the best rest you’ve found since dawn.

Especially Wednesday nights, pews didn’t matter.
You were shoulder-to-shoulder, hip-to-hip,
knees-to-linoleum beside those faithful few
who came to pray, to summon a God they not
only believed in, but who, you believed, cared;
to court the Divine with old familiar words of love.
Our thees and thous resounded off the walls.
Now I’m no longer quite that kind of faithful.
My theology? I suspect they’d hardly call me
in the fold. But I can think of far worse ways
to spend a summer evening, than kneeling
in the company of thirsty souls who want this:

to press their lips against the fleshy ear of God.

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, May 18, 2015

Euros Bowen

Euros Bowen (1904—1988) is a Welsh poet who wrote in the Welsh language. He served as an Anglican priest in the Church of Wales. Bowen considered himself a Sacramentalist — writing poems which he presented as signs. He won the bardic crown at the National Eisteddfod of Wales both in 1948 and again in 1950. His four collections of poetry, were all written in Welsh, however in 1974 he produced a bilingual edition of selected poems with his own English translations. Bowen was the editor of the literary journal Y Fflam. His brother, Geraint Bowen, also wrote poetry.

The following poem was translated by Cynthia and Saunders Davies.

Gloria

The whole world is full of glory:

Here is the glory of created things,
the earth and the sky,
the sun and the moon,
the stars and the vast expanses:

Here is the fellowship
with all that was created,
the air and the wind,
cloud and rain,
sunshine and snow:

All life like the bubbling of a flowing river
and the dark currents of the depths of the sea
is full of glory.

The white waves of the breath of peace
on the mountains,
and the light striding
in the distances of the sea.

The explosion of the dawn wood-pigeons
and the fie of the sunset doves,
sheep and cattle at their grazing,
the joy of countless creeping things
as they blossom,
spider and ant
of nimble disposition
proclaim the riches of goodness.

The curse of life is to err.

The meadows and the yellow corn,
the slopes of the grape clusters,
the sweetness of the apple tree's fruit:

The provision on the tray
of the warm comely seasons
a part of each hard beginning:

The discretion that insists on respect
for all our partners —
all the creatures of our day
and our life in the world for ever.

Every land, every language,
became bread and wine:

Every labour,
railway stations,
bus stops
at the beginning of journeys,
every aviation:

Every art
under its own fig tree —
the vision of a man and a maid.
Lest treating
the misunderstanding between man
and his world, becomes
a giving way to meaninglessness:

And perchance we shall see the dancing
in the halls of the atoms
and the meddling with their temperament
as an art of the soul.

The coal in the bowels of the vale,
the clear water of the valleys
and the energy of machines' atmosphere:

The secret of fresh airs —
old meanings a cold well:

The delicate breeze
like the sun on the seagull's belly
awakening wings

All beneficiaries
(unless we spit the original terror of sin on it all)
resounded the Gloria of praise.

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, May 11, 2015

Paul Verlaine

Paul Verlaine (1844—1896) is a French poet — famous for his verse, and notorious for his drinking and debauchery. In 1870 he married 16-year-old Mathilde Mauté, who he believed would save him from his erring ways. Instead Verlaine became obsessed with poet Arthur Rimbald and travelled across France, Belgium and England with him. In 1874, he was imprisoned for having wounded Rimbald with a revolver in Brussels.

During this time he made a sincere return to Christianity, and upon release from prison he participated in a Trappist retreat. During this time (1873—1878) he wrote his book Sagesse (Wisdom), which expressed well his Catholic faith. In January of 1886, however — after the death of a pupil and an unsuccessful attempt to become reconciled to his wife — Verlaine descended into alcoholism and drug addiction, having abandoned hope of leading a respectable life.

Richard Wilbur has included a translation of a previously unpublished Paul Verlaine poem in his most-recent collection, Anterooms.

The Sky’s Above The Roof….

(Sagesse: Bk III, VI)

The sky’s above the roof

--------So blue, so calm!
A tree above the roof
--------Waves its palm.

The bell in the sky you see
--------Gently rings.
A bird on the tree you see
--------Sadly sings.

My God, my God, life’s there,
--------Simple and sweet.
A peaceful rumbling there,
--------The town’s at our feet.

— What have you done, O you there
--------Who endlessly cry,
Say: what have you done there
--------With Youth gone by?

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, May 4, 2015

Margaret Avison*

Margaret Avison (1918—2007) is a Canadian poet who has been describe in large language by many. George Bowering, Canada's first Poet Laureate, referred to her as, “the best poet we have had,” and Michael Higgins, of St. Thomas University, has called her “arguably Canada’s pre-eminent poet writing in English.” Judith Fitzgerald, writing in the Globe and Mail, described her as: “An original, an authentic visionary without the flashily splashy trappings so often accorded those whose egos impose themselves upon others in their dubiously designated ‘poetry,’ Avison praises Creation in all its transplendent awesome/awful mutations.”

The following poem comes from her posthumous book Listening: last poems (2009). My review of that collection, for Trinity Western University's journal, Verge, is available here.

The Eternal One

can winkle out
an unacknowledged
doubt, or a hedged memory
in the dim way of being
between His timelessnesses.

His nestlings are
sheltered within
deep-bosomed trees;
these raise soft domes, care
for the air. We breathe.
Underneath, when
stunned by sunmelt
their felt dimness
is shimmery rest.
Unquestioning at last,
much, lost or unremembered,
murmurs peacefully
under His
timeless largesse.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Margaret Avison: 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.