Monday, October 16, 2017

R.C. Trench

R.C. Trench (1807—1886) is a former Archbishop, a philologist and a poet. He was born in Dublin, and graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge. His first collection The Story of Justin Martyr and Other Poems was favourably received in 1835. This and his other early collections demonstrated the influence of Wordsworth upon his writing. His 1851 book The Study of Words established his reputation as a philologist. He was also influential in the eventual development of the Oxford English Dictionary.

In 1856 Trench became the Dean of Westminster Abbey, and in 1864 the Archbishop of Dublin. His grave is in the central nave of Westminster Abbey where a plaque in Latin declares:
----"In memory of Richard Chenevix Trench, Dean of this church for
----7 years, Archbishop of Dublin for 21 years, who, captivated by
----the love of eternal truth in Christ, sang of its most holy
----beauty in his poetry and illuminated it in his expositions, and,
----in times of joy, in times of trouble, living and dying, he
----devoted himself to it with a singular and unimpaired
----faithfulness. His family erected this monument in thankfulness
----to God. He died in the year of salvation 1886, aged 78".

Sonnet 3

Spent in Thy presence will prevail to make —
What heavy burdens from our bosoms take,
What parchèd grounds refresh, as with a shower!
We kneel, and all around us seems to lower;
We rise, and all, the distant and the near,
Stands forth in sunny outline, brave and clear;
We kneel how weak, we rise how full of power!
Why, therefore, should we do ourselves this wrong,
Or others — that we are not always strong;
That we are ever overborne with care;
That we should ever weak or heartless be,
Anxious or troubled, when with us is prayer,
And joy, and strength, and courage, are with 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, October 9, 2017

John Poch

John Poch is the author of four poetry collections, the newest of which, Fix Quiet (2015, St. Augustine’s Press), won the 2014 New Criterion Poetry Prize.

My first connection with his poetry was through the CD collection Poetry on Record which brings together recordings of 98 different poets reading their own work — including such early voices as Tennyson, Whitman, Yeats and Frost — and contemporary poets such as Li-Young Lee and Carolyn Forché. Poch’s recording, from 2004, has him reading his poem “Simon Peter” which originally appeared in the magazine, America.

He is the editor of the journal 32 Poems, and teaches at Texas Tech University. The following poem first appeared in Blackbird.

John's Christ

The auctioneer commits his little gaffe
when his helpers lift the latch-hook tapestry
of Leonardo’s Christian masterpiece:
The Large Supper. The waiting bidders laugh.

And though the latest spiritual fad has raptured
a populace of novel novel-lovers,
DaVinci’s purpose is better left to others.
But here at our local auction I am captured,

wanting to lean, like John, away from the master,
get some perspective on His hands, the gist
of one opening, one closing, not a fist,
His arms apart, beholding, Jesus’ gesture—

over his empty plate and the rag-tag cast—
preparing for the word, large, or last.

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 2, 2017

Fanny J. Crosby

Fanny J. Crosby (1820—1915) is most famous as a writer of gospel songs, having written songs that appear in virtually every church hymnal up to the present day. She wrote more than 9,000 hymns and gospel songs, besides the secular songs she wrote and the four collections of poetry she had published.

When she was six weeks old she caught a cold. While their family doctor was away, her illness was treated by a man pretending to be a doctor who prescribed hot mustard poultices to be placed on her eyes. This treatment left her blind, and caused the imposter to quickly leave town.

Her hymns were of great significance in the evangelistic campaigns of Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey. Some of her most popular songs include: "Blessed Assurance", "All the Way My Savior Leads Me", "To God Be the Glory", "Rescue the Perishing", and "Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross."

The following poem is from her poetry collection The Blind Girl, and Other Poems (1844). Crosby included an epigraph with the poem, explaining that she visited the Falls in September of 1843 with her blind companions from the New York Institution for the Blind.

Niagara

Awake, my muse! thy wings expand!
----Oh, what sublimity is here!
Niagara's mighty thunders burst
----With awful grandeur on mine ear.
Niagara! on thy brink I stand,
----And taste unutterable bliss;
What pen, what language can portray
----A scene so wonderful as this?
Father Divine!— we lift our hearts
----In humble gratitude to thee—
Who spreads the azure vault above,
----Whose hand controls the boisterous sea!
Thou bades the foaming cataract roll!
----Thou forms the rainbow tints we see!
We gaze— we wonder and admire—
----Niagara!— we are lost in 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 25, 2017

François Villon

François Villon (1431—1463) is a French poet — the best known of the middle ages — who was also a thief, a brawler, and a murderer. His most famous work is The Testament (1461) which he wrote while imprisoned for some unknown crime. He was familiar enough with Christian concepts to write the following (rather tongue-in-cheek) lines about the Bishop whose prison he was in,

-------But since the Church says we should pray
-------For those who hate us, I am leaving
-------To Him who said, "I shall repay,"
-------The last, eternal reckoning.
It is true that Villon often expresses regrets for his wasted life, and repents of his sins, but his repentance doesn't appear to bring any change in his behaviour.

Was he ever able to embrace Christian discipline, to truly turn and follow God? His circumstances at the time of the following poem suggests, he hadn't yet, but perhaps this was that moment. I pray to the God who exists outside of time that Villon may have truly found salvation.

His work has been translated by many, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Richard Wilbur, although the translator of the following poem is unknown. "Ballad of the Gibbet" is an epitaph for himself and those with him, who expected they were about to be hanged. It is believed to have been written in late 1462, when Villon was in the Châtelet prison under sentence of death.

Ballad of the Gibbet


Brothers and men that shall after us be,
Let not your hearts be hard to us:
For pitying this our misery
Ye shall find God the more piteous.
Look on us six that are hanging thus,
And for the flesh that so much we cherished
How it is eaten of birds and perished,
And ashes and dust fill our bones' place,
Mock not at us that so feeble be,
But pray God pardon us out of His grace.

Listen, we pray you, and look not in scorn,
Though justly, in sooth, we are cast to die;
Ye wot no man so wise is born
That keeps his wisdom constantly.
Be ye then merciful, and cry
To Mary's Son that is piteous,
That His mercy take no stain from us,
Saving us out of the fiery place.
We are but dead, let no soul deny
To pray God succour us of His grace.

The rain out of heaven has washed us clean,
The sun has scorched us black and bare,
Ravens and rooks have pecked at our eyne,
And feathered their nests with our beards and hair.
Round are we tossed, and here and there,
This way and that, at the wild wind's will,
Never a moment my body is still;
Birds they are busy about my face.
Live not as we, nor fare as we fare;
Pray God pardon us out of His grace.

L'Envoy

Prince Jesus, Master of all, to thee
We pray Hell gain no mastery,
That we come never anear that place;
And ye men, make no mockery,
Pray God pardon us out of His grace.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

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 18, 2017

Catharina Regina von Greiffenberg

Catharina Regina von Greiffenberg (1633—1694) is an Austrian poet who is now regaining recognition for her legacy. She published collections of poetry in 1672, 1675, and 1678. As Protestants in Catholic Austria, her family experienced persecution under the Habsburg dynasty. Even so, as she gained popularity as a poet, she was bold enough to attempt to persuade Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I, to adopt her Lutheran views.

Burl Horniachek, who recommended I should post about Catharina Regina von Greiffenberg, mentioned that Canadian poets Joanne Epp, Sally Ito, and Sarah Klassen have been working on new translations of her poetry. I look forward to learning more about this as the work unfolds.

The following is from Meditations on the Incarnation, Passion, and Death of Jesus Christ translated by Lynne Tatlock. The image the poem refers to is reproduced below.

Explanation of the Frontispiece

Blot out the entire world. The tablet of my thoughts
be wiped clean. Let nothing remain but Jesus Christ.
I will stand for nothing else. There shall be no thing
within remembrance's bounds but Him who is all.
Lust for knowledge may inspire many lovely things;
Jesus alone restores me, more than can vast knowledge.
However the world may lust for money, art, wisdom,
I want and know nothing but the strength of His cross.
May gall and vinegar's sponge blot out all vanity.
Let the crucified one alone stay in my mind.
How far Totality, when alone can outspread
and change everything we clearly see herein
I want this sum of all things alone in my mind.


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 11, 2017

Anya Krugovoy Silver*

Anya Krugovoy Silver is a prolific poet who teaches at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. She was named the Georgia Author of the Year/Poetry for 2015. Her two most-recent books are From Nothing (2016) — which like her first two collections is published by Louisiana State University Press — and the recently released Second Bloom, which I assisted with as editor for the Poiema Poetry Series (2017, Cascade Books).

She is also one of the poets featured in my anthology The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry(available here) and through Amazon. Second Bloom is also available on either site.

The following poem is from Second Bloom, and first appeared in Saint Katherine Review.

Holy Saturday, 1945

It was for you, Maria Skobsova,
that Mozart wrote his Requiem.
Bolshevik nun, instead of celebrating
the funeral of Christ, you walked
into the gas chamber at Ravensbrück
in place of another woman.
Instead of trailing the coffin
around the church, you claimed
a place in the line entering hell.
It was for you, Maria Skobsova,
that Mozart fainted in the writing
of his mass, Let them, Lord, pass.
All work remains unfinished:
the composer’s delirious lines,
the forging of baptismal certificates
in your Parisian convent, the censing
of the church on Holy Saturday.
Instead of incense, fumes of Zyclon B
haloed the shorn heads of the dying.
No beaded shrouds for Mozart’s
common grave, for your grey smoke.
Give thanks to the Lord, we sing.
for he is good: for his mercy endures forever.


Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Anya Krugovoy Silver: 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, September 4, 2017

Robert Siegel*

Robert Siegel (1939—2012) is one of the first poets whose work appeared as part of the Poiema Poetry Series. His collection Within This Tree of Bones (2013, Cascade Books) is his final book, his final selected collection, and the only book where the poems he was writing as he was nearing death appear. I am glad that, even though I did not know that he was battling cancer at the time, I encouraged him to add several more new poems to the collection than he had originally planned. I want to post again about Bob and his fine poetry, because his incredible talent and the beautiful legacy of Within This Tree of Bones has not received the attention it deserves; at least not yet.

This blog post is one small way I am seeking to encourage others to read Robert Siegel. Another is that I have included half a dozen of his poems in the anthology The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poets(available here) and through Amazon.

As John Wilson, who was editor for Books & Culture, has eloquently said: "Robert Siegel is one of my favorite poets, and I'm frustrated that so many readers are unfamiliar with him. This handsome 'new and selected' volume is an ideal introduction to his work, and I may just resort to hawking it on street corners, like those ragamuffin kids peddling papers in old movies. You want the latest news? Read Within This Tree of Bones."

The Prodigal

She floated before him like a summer cloud,
pink and white through his sweat and then lay down
squealing, by her sucklings, a teat for each mouth.
The husks caught in his throat. If he'd only known
the pigs would have it better than he, he never...
He, ripe offal, stuck in the world's latrine!
—so he told himself over and over and over
and over again. With tears came a keen

ache in his chest. Next day he started home.
He tried to stop his thoughts, lethally busy,
but at night yearned for the slops and warmth of the barn,
the hogs' contented grunting and homely stink. Alone,
he knew he'd failed beyond all hope of mercy.
He didn't even see his father till wrapped in his arms.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Robert Siegel: first post, second 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 28, 2017

Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer

Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer (1836—1870) is a significant Spanish poet, playwright, and short story writer. Although he found success, it wasn't until after his death that much of his work was published. He is considered the main writer of the post-romanticism movement, which dominated Spanish poetry in the latter part of the 19th century.

His father, who died when he was five-years-old, was a well-respected painter in Seville. His brother Valeriano also became a painter.

In 1857, Bécquer began an ambitious project about Spanish Christian art, combining religious ideals, architecture, and history — the first volume of which was published as Historia de los Templos de España. In that same year he was infected with tuberculosis, which worsened in 1870, leading to his death.

In Spanish-speaking countries he is often required reading at high schools; his influence is evident in many 20th century writers.

To All The Saints

Patriarchs, you who were the seed
of the tree of faith in distant centuries,
to the divine conqueror of death
pray for us.

Prophets, you who, inspired, tore away
the mysterious veil of the future,
to him who drew light from the darkness
pray for us.

Guiltless souls, Innocent Saints,
you who increased the choir of the angels,
to him who called the children to his side
pray for us.

Apostles, you who cast into the world
of the Church its powerful cement,
to him who is the depository of truth
pray for us.

Martyrs, you who won your palms
in the sand of the arena, in red blood,
to him who gave you strength in your struggles
pray for us.

Virgins like lilies,
you whom summer dressed in snow and gold,
to him who is the source of light and beauty
pray for us.

Monks, you who sought from life's struggle
peace in the silent cloister,
to him who is the rainbow of calm in storms
pray for us.

Doctors whose pens bequeathed us
the rich treasure of virtue and wisdom
to him who is the plenitude of inexhaustible knowledge
pray for us.

Soldiers of Christ's army,
all Saints male and female,
pray to him to forgive our faults,
Him who lives and reigns among you.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

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 21, 2017

Julia A. Carney

Julia A. Carney (1823—1908) is a poet and educator who was born in Massachusetts. Much of her poetry was published under various pseudonyms, credited to others or appeared anonymously. She married the Reverend Thomas J. Carney in 1849; they had nine children, four of which died in infancy.
Carl Sandburg grew up directly across the street from the Carney family. He said in Always The Young Strangers, "Often we saw on that porch rocking in a chair a little old woman, her hair snow-white with the years. She had a past, a rather bright though not dazzling past, you might say. She could lay claim to fame, if she chose. Millions of children reading the McGuffey and other school readers had met her name and memorized lines she had written."
Her most famous poem which she wrote in 1845 appears below.

Little Things

Little drops of water,
-------Little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean
-------And the pleasant land.
Little deeds of kindness,
-------Little words of love,
Make our earth an Eden,
-------Like the heaven above.

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 14, 2017

John Milbank

John Milbank is Director of the Centre of Theology and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham. Last summer he retired from his position as Nottingham's Research Professor of Religion, Ethics, and Politics. He has also taught at the universities of Virginia, Cambridge and Lancaster. As a student he studied under Rowan Williams.

Of his three poetry collections, The Dances of Albion (2015, Shrearsman Books) is most recent. As a poet he is more focused on British mythology and fairy tales than theology.

He is, however, better known as a theologian — particularly for founding the "Radical Orthodoxy" movement — and is the author of several influential books including, Theology and Social Theory, and The Suspended Middle. He is sceptical of secular reason, and critical of liberalism.

Considering Lilies

Looking for rain,
celestial water
above all ponds,
the weed-lilies of convulvulus
in September foregather in the hedgerows
like white bells for a late marriage
of a still beautiful virgin,
their pure glamour disparaged,
as gypsy-women are the tares of queendom,
more savagely still in their darkness
and more blowingly resplendent
through its untamed virtue.

Returning on the train in hope
after many years
of a better consummation, he
recalled the school bell’s autumn sound
which once confirmed yet interrupted
his childhood rural pasturage.
It had reached attractively and insidiously
across all fields and past them,
suspending forever nature’s mute
untimetabled instruction.
So we probe the stars with signals,
travel anywhere in lines and pay
in numbers if we get them right
for anything available.

While nature lost still stays our course,
like a vast golden shadow of background,
ever forgotten, ever present
to accuse us of a wholly inadequate answer
to her perennial welcome.
Why do the skies alter, the seas surge and yet
the earth stays firm on which we are planted
in order to till, walk ever onwards,
look upwards that we might re-consider always?
Shifting the soils like a horde of phantoms
has got us nowhere.
Gridding the earth with waves and networks
has communicated to us nothing.

The road bends: he longs to linger
by the gate’s opening perchance
to greet her. Lone winds leave
the fascinating clouds from which
the dark birds also swarm. The willowherb
grows in this season more freely than the grasses.

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 7, 2017

Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas (1225—1274) is an Italian philosopher, theologian and priest. His theological masterpiece Summa Theologica, written between 1265 and 1273, was intended to be the sum of all known learning as understood through the philosophy of Aristotle.

In 1256 he began teaching theology at the University of Paris, and then in 1265 he was summoned to Rome to serve as the papal theologian.

In his day, he was the leading proponent of natural theology. He took a poetic approach to his thought, seeking the meaning of the whole visible universe, writing down what he observed, and considering its relationships. In the area of poetry he is best known for his five Eucharistic Hymns.

Thee We Adore, O Hidden Savior

Thee we adore, O hidden Savior, Thee,
Who in Thy sacrament dost deign to be;
Both flesh and spirit at Thy presence fail,
Yet here Thy presence we devoutly hail.

O blessed memorial of our dying Lord,
Who living Bread to men doth here afford!
O may our souls forever feed on Thee,
And Thou, O Christ, forever precious be.

Fountain of gladness, Jesu, Lord and God,
Cleanse us, unclean, with Thy most cleansing blood;
Increase our faith and love, that we may know
The hope and peace which from Thy presence flow.

O Christ, Whom now beneath a veil we see,
May what we thirst for soon our portion be,
To gaze on Thee unveiled, and see Thy face,
The vision of Thy glory and Thy grace.

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 31, 2017

Vittoria Colonna

Vittoria Colonna (1492—1547) the marchioness of Pescara, is the most successful and renowned female Italian writer of her day. At age 19 she married Fernando Francesco d'Ávalos — who within two years was off to fight the French. The couple rarely saw each other, for he was often engaged as a military captain under Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. When he died in 1525, as a result of battle wounds, she immediately tried to join a convent. She dedicated herself to writing poetry, including a series of poems in his memory.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, inspired by the ideal of her grief, wrote a poem which includes the lines:
-------She knew the life-long martyrdom,
---------The weariness, the endless pain
-------Of waiting for some one to come
---------Who nevermore would come again.

She became close friends with Michelangelo in 1536. He made drawings of her, addressed sonnets to her, and they spent a lot of time together. In return, she presented him with a gift manuscript of spiritual poetry.

Colonna was an advocate of religious reform, as demonstrated within her poetry and in the prose meditations she published. Some believe that her popularity began to wane as both she and Michelangelo started expressing the Protestant-flavoured theology of grace.

Although more formal translations exist, I have included Jan Zwicky's more contemporary free translation of the following poem.

from Sonnets for Michelangelo — 31

If this little music, stirring the frail air,
can gather up the spirit,
open it and melt it as it does —
If this mere breeze of sound, this mortal voice,
can lift the heart so,
heal it, startling thought and firing our resolve —
what will that heart do when,
before God in the first and ancient heaven,
it hears the music of all being?
When, struck by truth, it steps forth
in the great wind of that singing?

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

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 24, 2017

Madeline DeFrees*

Madeline DeFrees (1919—2015) is the author of eight full-length poetry collections. In 1937 she entered the order of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, and took on the name of Sister Mary Gilbert. It was under this name that she published her early poetry, including her first collection, From the Darkroom (1964). Her greatest influences have perhaps been Hopkins, and Dickinson.

She is one of the poets featured in my anthology The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry(available here) and through Amazon.

When asked — in a 2009 Image interview with Jennifer Maier — about the pressure within the convent to avoid individuality, as she was developing as a poet, she said:
----"There was a lot of internal pressure away from poetry. I knew
----Hopkins had given it up because he thought it would interfere
----with prayer...I used to think that because poetry required a
----kind of total attention, and so did prayer, that they went
----together. I had superiors, at least one, who told me that I
----wasn’t anything special just because I was a poet. I knew I
----wasn’t supposed to be writing poems when I was supposed to be
----praying. But they really are very close."

DeFrees was released from her vows in 1973. She explained why her poems would rarely be seen as being particularly Christian:
----"I used to think that the reason I didn’t write religious poems
----was that I really respected religion, and there was nothing worse
----than a poem that wanted to be religious and fell short of the
----mark. The main shortcoming would be sentimentality."

The following poem is from her collection Blue Dusk: New & Selected Poems (2001, Copper Canyon).

Balancing Acts

At 47, Hope's driven to find her feet in construction.
She crawls the hip roof of her house like a cat burglar,
gives herself plenty of rope, lashed to
the chimney. In her left hand, she carries a loaded
staple gun. Her right grips the insubstantial.

Cordless phone in my lap, I watch at 74, from my rented
wheelchair, fingers tattooing 9-1-1.
Let me hop with the help of the Sunrise Medical Guardian
to the open door to rehearse
our common fate. We are Siamese joined by a bungee

cord at the inner ear, that delicate point of balance.
Every day we devise new methods
of locomotion. When my walker, upset by a comforter,
collapses to the floor and takes me
with it, I want to reverse the digits:

four and seven, seven and four. Yesterday, Hope wrestled
the circular saw over the edge
where she clung to the ridge and tripped on the safety
cord. It was then I heard the Sirens
wooing Ulysses tied to the mast. Twilight hangs fire

in the west, then snuffs it out. Behind the slant roof
of a dormer, Hope disappears. Two ladders
reach into the void. Is that white flash a sneakered
foot in search of a rung? I conjure a cloudy head
between the smokestack and the evergreen.

No matter how I strain, I cannot bring her back.
Reluctantly I fiddle with the blind,
hear a tune old as the burning of Rome as I weave
between the cave and the whirlpool for a saving
equilibrium. What if I call her Faith,
the evidence of things unseen?

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Madeline DeFrees: 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 17, 2017

Dulce María Loynaz

Dulce María Loynaz (1902—1997) is a Cuban poet and novelist, who published her first poetry collection in 1938. After the Cuban Revolution (1959) she refused to join the communist party. Even though the Castro government had her books removed from libraries and ensured that she was not published, she did not go into exile, but lived quietly in Havana. In 1992 when she received Spain's greatest literary honour — The Cervantes Prize — her work was once again permitted publication in Cuba.

The following poem was translated by James O'Connor.

Poems With No Names — XCVII

----Lord, it is You who gave me these eyes. Where should
I turn them during this long dark night that will last
longer than my own eyes?
----King to whom I swore my first vow, it is You who
gave me these hands. What should I take and what should
I leave behind on this pilgrimage that makes no sense to
any of my senses, this pilgrimage where I never have
enough or I have much more than I need?
----Sweetness in the bitter-sweetness of my heart, it is You
who gave me this desert voice. What word is worthy of
scaling the high peak of your silence?
----Breath in the clay of my flesh, it is You who gave me
these feet. Tell me. Why did you put so many forks in the
road if You are the Way, the Truth and the Life?

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

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 10, 2017

Frederick Goddard Tuckerman

Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (1821—1873) is an American poet who only published one book of poems in his lifetime: Poems (1860). His work was ignored by most of his contemporaries, although he received encouragement from Nathaniel Hawthorne and Alfred Tennyson, whom he had visited in his home on the Isle of Wight in 1855.

He completed a law degree from Harvard, but scarcely practiced. In the mid-1840s when he met and fell deeply in love with Hannah Jones, he began writing poems — primarily sonnets. They married in 1847. When she died shortly after the birth of their third child in 1857, Tuckerman was completely grief-stricken. It is out of this tragedy that much of his best poetry comes.

Although he was significantly influenced by the English romantic poets and the American romantics of his time, his rational, Anglican background, combined with the death of his dear wife, caused Tuckerman to become somewhat anti-romantic in his rejection of the pantheistic optimism of many of his contemporaries.

Jason Guriel wrote in The New Criterion, that Tuckerman "wrote poems too weird to be much appreciated in his own milieu, the United States of the nineteenth century, and not weird enough to distinguish the poet for many of his later readers who, failing to squint, saw little more than an accomplished sonneteer."

Sonnet XXVIII

Not the round natural world, not the deep mind,
The reconcilement holds: the blue abyss
Collects it not; our arrows sink amiss
And but in Him may we our import find.
The agony to know, the grief, the bliss
Of toil, is vain and vain: clots of the sod
Gathered in heat and haste and flung behind
To blind ourselves and others, what but this
Still grasping dust and sowing toward the wind?
No more thy meaning seek, thine anguish plead,
But leaving straining thought and stammering word,
Across the barren azure pass to God:
Shooting the void in silence like a bird,
A bird that shuts his wings for better speed.

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 3, 2017

Pedro Calderón de la Barca

Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600—1681) is a Spanish poet and dramatist of what is called the golden age of Spanish literature. Life is a Dream (1629—35) is one of his best known secular plays, and The Great Theatre of the World (c. 1635) one of his best known religious plays. King Philip IV was his patron, providing a pension for him, and funding the extravagant productions of his plays. He is also associated with the rise of opera in Spain. In 1651 Calderón was ordained to the priesthood, and in 1663 was appointed honorary chaplain to the king. He successfully found a dramatic form that well expressed Christian doctrine.

The following poem was translated by R.C. Trench.

The Cross

Tree which heaven has willed to dower
With that true fruit whence we live,
As that other death did give;
Of new Eden loveliest flower;
Bow of light, that in worst hour
Of the worst flood signal true
O'er the world, of mercy threw;
Fair plant, yielding sweetest wine;
Of our David harp divine;
Or our Moses tables new;
Sinner am I, therefore I
Claim upon thy mercies make;
Since alone for sinners' sake
God on thee endured to die.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

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 26, 2017

G.C. Waldrep

G.C. Waldrep was born in Virginia, and is Associate Professor of English at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. He directs the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets. He has five collections of poetry, from Goldbeater's Skin (2003) which was selected by Donald Revell for the Colorado Prize for Poetry, to Testament (2015) which consists of a single, long poem. He is the editor of West Branch, and is Editor-at-large for the Kenyon Review.

He is a member of the Old Order River Brethren, a conservative group who developed along the Susquehanna River, having branched away from the Mennonites. The following poem is from his first poetry collection.

Palinode: Cotton Mather

Praying Always. But in the literal sense?
In the bath? Under the dull breath
of any given second, like his particular faiths?
—Exemplary mutterer, moving through days
with his great mind always fluttering
in the dark cave of his mouth, his manic concern.
He meant well, we might say, and late in life
gave up the constant patter, the need
to bring the world into being, moment by moment,
himself. Watching thereunto with all perseverance
and supplication for all saints
. Fair enough:
he persevered, maintained the mission of his public id,
and his supplications, if unheeded, were at least
archived in the libraries of New England.
When I lived in Boston I liked to walk
down past the Common to where the cherries bloomed
in their plots of grass and scored slate,
product of a more decorous generation
though perhaps less prescient: all that careful
horticulture, prayers of hope and terror trembling
on the lips of the women as they left the tomb.
They mistook Christ for the gardener.
As for Mather, his ashes have long been reabsorbed
into the city he helped fix upon said hill.
What he would have wanted? Probably not:
a hard man, though supple in his genuflection
to the order nature brings; this would have been
his Sodom. Now with spring in the air
I lean once more against the oak bench and bargain
what's left of my own heart for mercy on the tongue,
that darkling zeal, those exclamations.

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, June 19, 2017

Elizabeth Jennings*

Elizabeth Jennings (1926—2001) is an Oxford poet, often associated with "The Movement" but always independent in her poetry. She was influenced by Herbert and Hopkins, remaining consistent in her tone without becoming repetitious.

Hester Jones wrote in The Church Times, "Like [her contemporary, Sylvia] Plath, Jennings suffered from mental illness in her adult life, but, as a Roman Catholic, she drew on the tradition of the 'dark night' of St John of the Cross to explore this suffering within the context of faith. Consequently, much of her poetry is marked by moments that contain both momentary glimpses of God's love and the experience of darkness, guilt, and God's absence."

She is one of the poets featured in my new anthology The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry(available here) and through Amazon.

Her Collected Poems 1953-1985 — which she had ruthlessly edited down to 213 pages of the "work she wishes to preserve" — received the W.H. Smith Literary Award. In 2001 she received an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Durham University.

The Lord's Prayer

"Give us this day." Give us this day and night.
Give us the bread, the sky. Give us the power
To bend and not be broken by your light.

And let us soothe and sway like the new flower
Which closes, opens to the night, the day,
Which stretches up and rides upon a power

More than its own, whose freedom is the play
Of light, for whom the earth and air are bread.
Give us the shorter night, the longer day.

In thirty years so many words were spread,
And miracles. An undefeated death
Has passed as Easter passed, but those words said

Finger our doubt and run along our breath.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Elizabeth Jennings: first post, second 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, June 12, 2017

Marin Sorescu

Marin Sorescu (1936—1996) is a Romanian poet, playwright and prose writer. In 1964 the Romanian government began to relax its censorship rules, which led to a resurgence of literature in that country. Sorescu became one of the leading figures.

His 1968 play Iona (Jonah) takes the Biblical story and expands it to imaginatively include a tale of what went on inside the whale's belly. It played to packed theatres in Bucharest, until it was withdrawn because of its controversial content.

The following poem (translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Linda Vianu) was written in the Cochin Hospital, Paris in October of 1996 — and the second, two months later, just three days before Sorescu's death. They both appear in The Bridge.

Lord!

Lord,
Take me by the hand
And let's go! Together we'll run away
From this world!
Let's duck out for some air.
Maybe with a change of scene,
I'll feel more in my element
By Your side.

A Turn For The Better

It's good, O Lord,
That You thought of me
And didn't choose somebody else
For Your delicate, frightful
Experiment.

I knew I could stand up to the worst
And I boasted
That deep inside I had
Inexhaustible energy.

I fell into the sin of pride.
Forgive me,
It's human —
Avert Your glance likewise
From my other sins.

I believe that the life granted me
Really was mine,
That I really was myself,
Perhaps sometimes forgetting You.

Now, beginning to take a turn for the better,
Or so those who see me say,
I must be treading on Your coattails of rainbow,
To the totality of my fright,
I've come to add the precious stone of humility,
And I bring to the Creator of light
My praise of magnificence and glory.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

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 5, 2017

Brian Doyle

Brian Doyle (1956—2017) is a Catholic novelist, essayist and poet, having published 28 works, and been nominated nine times for the Oregon Book Award — eventually winning for his novel Martin Marten (2016), which also won the Leslie Bradshaw Award for Young Adult Literature, and the Banff Mountain Book Award for Fiction. He died on May 27th from complications related to a brain tumor.

In 1991 he became editor of the University of Portland's Portland Magazine, a role he served well in for the remainder of his life. His most-recent poetry collection How The Light Gets In (2015, Orbis Books) — whose title comes from a Leonard Cohen song — is described as a collection of prose poems, since Doyle's style is quite conversational, and unconcerned with meter or other maters of poetic musicality.

The following poem first appeared in The Christian Century.

Mrs. Job

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job;
And he was essentially a blameless dude, and unarrogant,
And he was blessed with seven sons, and three daughters,
Which is a lot of children, and where, I ask politely, is the
Part of the Book of Job where we talk about Job’s spouse,
Who is conspicuously not discussed in the back and forth
With his buddies and then suddenly the Big Guy Himself
Answering out of the whirlwind and commanding old Job
To gird up his loins, which loins were undeniably vigorous
Previous to the Lord interrupting Job, and after the Maker
Finishes one of the greatest eloquent scoldings of all time,
He grants old Job another seven sons and three daughters,
Again without the slightest thanks for the astounding Mrs.
Job who suddenly has twenty count them twenty children
With no mention of her humor, or the vast hills of diapers,
Or her wit which survived kids throwing up and the sheep
Wandering off, and plagues of locusts and things like that.
A good editor, I feel, would have asked for just a glancing
Nod to the wry hero of the tale, at least acknowledgment;
Something like a new last line after So Job died, being old
and full of days, which might read, And also passed a most
Amazing woman, of whom nothing other than the blessing
Was ever said, her heart being a gift beyond calculation by
Man, her mind sharp, her tongue gentle, her hands a mercy,
And her very presence full reason to kneel in prayer at that
Which the Lord in His mercy has made and granted briefly.
A line like that would only hint at her, but it’s a start, right?

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 29, 2017

Alfred Tennyson

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809—1892) is the most celebrated poet of the nineteenth century. His father served as an Anglican rector, and took his children's education quite seriously. Tennyson was, on the surface, a conventional Anglican, although at times he ventured into unorthodox speculations. In 1849, Tennyson completed the poem "In Memoriam A.H.H." as a requiem for his closest friend Arthur Henry Hallum, who had been engaged to Alfred's sister, but died suddenly in 1833 while visiting Vienna.

"In Memorium" is primarily a collection of elegies that demonstrates the poet's grief and the questioning of his faith. One writer has concluded, "Although Tennyson is submerged in deep sorrow and confronted with questions and challenges to his spiritual beliefs, he becomes a stronger Christian who is filled with faith in a God of love who will reunite him with his departed friend." The poem begins:
------Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
---------Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
---------By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
------Believing where we cannot prove...

Queen Victoria was particularly drawn to this poem, which influenced her to appoint Tennyson as Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland in 1850; a post which he held until his death. He was buried at Westminster Abbey.

The following he saw as his farewell, and expressed that it should be the final poem in any edition of his poetry.

Crossing the Bar

Sunset and evening star,
------And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
------When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
------Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
------Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
------And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
------When I embark;

For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
------The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
------When I have crost the bar.

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 22, 2017

Michael Symmons Roberts*

Michael Symmons Roberts is Professor of Poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University. His most-recent poetry book is Selected Poems (2016). He tells me his next collection, Mancunia, is scheduled to appear in August of 2017. Robert Potts wrote for The Guardian, “He reflects on the world in a way that is informed by a sense of grace, of transcendence, but the pieces are grounded in detail, beautifully expressed, subtly luminous.”

He is one of the poets featured in my new anthology The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry(available here) and through Amazon.

Besides being a poet, Michael Symmons Roberts is a novelist and librettist. The opera The Sacrifice, which he wrote with composer James MacMillan won the RPS Award for opera in 2008.

The following poem is from Drysalter and his Selected Poems — both published by Jonathan Cape.

World Into Fragments

Small breaks first: cup on marble floor,
mirror on staircase, cracked watch-face,
hairlines in roof tiles. Then it escalates.

Plate windows shiver into diamonds,
smoked office towers smoke into tobacco heaps,
screens give way to white noise, then blow.

Reasons for this shattering include
too great a tension, too much shrill,
a world more fragile than we thought.

Yet still it goes, ear-splitting, as
great forests disassemble like mosaics,
sugar-glass trees turn shingle, then the sky,

sun and moon as vast burst bulbs,
hot torrential hail. And when it stops,
we see for real, as if through mud and spit.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Michael Symmons Roberts: 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 15, 2017

Benjamin Myers

Benjamin Myers is the author of two poetry collections, Elegy For Trains (2010, Village Books Press) which won the Oklahoma Book Award, and Lapse Americana (2013, New York Quarterly Books). He has also received a Tennessee Williams Scholarship from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. He is the 2015-2016 Poet Laureate for the State of Oklahoma.

His poems have appeared at Verse Daily, and in Yale Review, Nimrod, and Poetry Northwest. Myers is the Crouch-Mathis Professor of Literature at Oklahoma Baptist University.

The following poem is from Elegy For Trains.

On Taking Communion with My Students

Let greasy spikes be caught in halos
thrown from chapel windows
and the lazy shuffle of saints
trace the body of Christ down the chapel alley.

Let this one,
paper late,
eyes avoiding mine
like two blackbirds in sudden flight,
receive.

And let this one,
absent a week
only to resurface
as the sinking vessel rises
one last time from ocean’s deep midnight,
also receive.

The wind empties itself
outside the chapel,
madly hurls the vowels and consonants
collected all its lifetime
ceaselessly
at the stones.

I hear on the gale
my words
from the morning’s lecture:
the world is text.

I, too, am reading it for the first time.

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 8, 2017

Joost van den Vondel

Joost van den Vondel (1587—1679) is considered to be Holland's national playwright, and the most prominent Dutch poet of the 17th century. Although his Dutch contemporaries — the painters Rembrandt and Rubens — are known internationally, Vondel is little known outside of Holland.

The most valued of all his thirty full-length dramas is Lucifer, which opened at the Amsterdam City Theatre in February of 1654. The play was boycotted and protested by Calvinists who felt Vodel's treatment of scripture was outrageous. Some critics have even suggested that Milton's portrayal of Satan in Paradise Lost (1667) is influenced by Vondel.

The following is from Noel Clark's translation of Lucifer. These lines are spoken by the angel Gabriel.

from Lucifer Act One

Hearken ye Angels! All ye Heavenly bands!
The Supreme Godhead from whose bosom flows
All that is good and holy, who no respite knows
From mercy, but whose store of grace grows greater —
(No creature yet can fathom the Creator!)
This God, in His own image, fashioned Man
So he, together with the Angels can,
By honouring God’s laws with zealous care,
His everlasting Kingdom hope to share.
Earth’s universe God wrought – a wondrous sight,
Both Man and his Creator to delight …
As Eden’s ruler, Man should multiply,
With all his offspring serve the Deity,
Knowing and loving Him, Earth’s stairs ascending
Towards perpetual light and bliss unending.
Long did the Spirit-world all else outshine,
Now, to exalt Mankind is God’s design:
Preferred to Angels even, Man will be shown
A path to splendour equalling God’s own.
Bedecked in flesh and blood, anointed Lord
And Master, passing judgment on the horde
Of Spirits, Angels and Mankind, you’ll see
The King of Heaven come in majesty.
There stands His Throne, already sanctified!
Let Angels all in earnest prayer abide
Till He appears, whose choice of human stature
Sets Him above all beings of our nature!
Then shall the Seraphim less brightly shine,
In human light and radiance divine.
God’s grace puts Nature’s brilliance in the shade:
That is the future. The decision’s made!

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

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 1, 2017

Mischa Willett

Mischa Willett teaches English at Seattle Pacific University, where his specialty is nineteenth century poetics. He has taught at Washington University and Northwest University, and has served as Scholar-in-Residence at the University of Tuebingen in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany. His poems have appeared in Books & Culture, Christian Century and Grain, and in his 2013 chapbook, Lunatic.

Scott Cairns has said that, "Mischa Willett has a music all his own, albeit a music informed by years of his attending to the inexhaustible songs that comprise both world poetry and sacred text."

Willett's first full-length poetry collection, Phases, is the newest book in the Poiema Poetry Series. I am pleased to have assisted him as the editor for this collection. Many poems in Phases interact with the classical period or are set in Rome. It is, therefore, note-worthy that this summer he and poet Jennifer Maier will be leading a study trip to Rome with Seattle Pacific University.

Pastoral

Let us not overlook, he says looking out over
us from the lectern like a shepherd
with a crook of words bent on folding
us back into our pen, or penning
us back to our fold, the stupidity
and defenselessness of sheep.
We bleat: in this analogy, who
are we?
He proceeds. Goats, you
see, can handle themselves. Horns
and hoofs, cranial helmets they ram
full tilt into posts, or other goats. But sheep
mind you, sheep have no homing device,
which is why stories begin with a lost one;
they’re even known to head toward danger
—oh look, a wolf! Let’s check it out!— in dumb
allegiance to the interesting, which I find
interesting, and think: how to amend
our sheepish ways? But he, to drive
home both the point and oh ye,
sighs it’s beyond you; beyond me.

Phases is available from Cascade Books.

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, April 24, 2017

Wendell Berry*

Wendell Berry was born in Kentucky in 1934. Other than for occasional stints — such as when a 1961 Guggenheim Fellowship took him to Italy and France, or when he taught at New York University — he has lived there all his life. He and his wife Tanya — whom he married 60 years ago — bought a farm in 1965 in Henry County, Kentucky where they continue to farm. He has written more than 40 books, including poetry, fiction and essays.

Many of his recent poems are an extension of his tradition of what he calls Sabbath poems. The flyleaf of Berry's 2005 collection Given says, "Over the past twenty-five years Mr. Berry has been at work on a long sequence of poems that has resulted from his Sunday morning walks of meditation and observation..." One of his newest poetry collections is A Small Porch, which is primarily made up of his Sabbath poems from 2014 and 2015.

He is one of the poets featured in my new anthology The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry, which came out in November — (available here) and through Amazon.

Berry is known for his opposition to corporate agriculture, and as an outspoken advocate of Christian pacifism, environmental stewardship and of living an agrarian lifestyle. A year ago a documentary film, The Seer: A Portrait of Wendell Berry, appeared. The following is from The Country of Marriage (1973).

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Wendell Berry: 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, April 17, 2017

Robert Lowry

Robert Lowry (1826—1899) is particularly remembered as a hymn writer. He was appreciated for his preaching too, and would have preferred this to have been his lasting legacy, as he was the pastor of Baptist churches in New York City, Brooklyn, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He served as a professor of literature at the University of Lewisburg (now Bucknell University) and later as its chancellor.

He co-wrote hymns with both Annie Hawks, and Fanny J. Crosby, and was also a music editor for the Biglow & Main Publishing Company. In this role he brought to light hundreds of other gospel songs. One of the books he edited, Pure Gold, sold more than a million copies. Some of his best known hymns include: "Shall We Gather at the River?" and "What Shall Wash Away My Sin?" The popularity of gospel hymns drew many Christian poets of the nineteenth century into this genre.

The following hymn I always associate with Easter, particularly from singing it as a child on Easter Sunday mornings at my grandparents' church in London, Ontario.

Christ Arose

Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior,
waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!

Up from the grave he arose;
with a mighty triumph o'er his foes;
he arose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Vainly they watch his bed, Jesus my Savior,
vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!

Up from the grave he arose;
with a mighty triumph o'er his foes;
he arose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Savior;
he tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!

Up from the grave he arose;
with a mighty triumph o'er his foes;
he arose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

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, April 10, 2017

G.A. Studdert Kennedy

G.A. Studdert Kennedy (1883—1929) is an Anglican priest and poet who was born and raised in Leeds. He served as an army chaplain on the Western Front during WWI. He had a reputation for going out during battles, into no-man's-land under the fire of the enemy, to comfort wounded soldiers. In 1917 he was awarded the Military Cross.

After the war he was drawn towards pacifism and socialism. His books include Rough Rhymes of a Padre (1918), and The Unutterable Beauty: the Collected Poetry by G.A. Studdert Kennedy (1927). His proposed burial at Westminster Abbey was refused due to his socialist beliefs.

Indifference

When Jesus came to Golgotha
They hanged Him on a tree,
They drave great nails through hands and feet,
And made a Calvary.
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns;
Red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days,
And human flesh was cheap.

When Jesus came to Birmingham,
They simply passed Him by;
They never hurt a hair of Him,
They only let Him die.
For men had grown more tender,
And they would not give Him pain;
They only just passed down the street,
And left Him in the rain.

Still Jesus cried, “Forgive them,
For they know not what they do.”
And still it rained the winter rain
That drenched Him through and through.
The crowds went home and left the streets
Without a soul to see;
And Jesus crouched against a wall
And cried for Calvary.

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, April 3, 2017

Boris Pasternak

Boris Pasternak (1890—1960) is a Russian poet and novelist. He is famous in the rest of the world for his novel Doctor Zhivago for which he was awarded the 1958 Nobel Prize. It had been rejected for publication in the USSR, but had been smuggled out and published in Milan. The Communist Party pressured Pasternak to refuse the Nobel Prize, which his son later accepted on his behalf in 1989.

In Russia he is better known for his poetry and his translations of Shakespeare, where he is considered by some to be the best Russian poet of the 20th Century. He was born to Jewish Ukrainian parents who had converted to Orthodox Christianity before he was born. His father Leonid Pasternak, a post-impressionistic painter, was friends with Leo Tolstoy, and illustrated his novels War and Peace and Resurrection.

In Chapter 12 of Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak encourages all Jews to "Come to your senses," and to become Christians.

Bad Days

When Passion week started and Jesus
Came down to the city, that day
Hosannahs burst out at his entry
And palm leaves were strewn in his way.

But days grow more stern and more stormy.
No love can men's hardness unbend;
Their brows are contemptuously frowning,
And now comes the postscript, the end.

Grey, leaden and heavy, the heavens
Were pressing on treetops and roofs.
The Pharisees, fawning like foxes,
Were secretly searching for proofs.

The lords of the Temple let scoundrels
Pass judgement, and those who at first
Had fervently followed and hailed him,
Now all just as zealously cursed.

The crowd on the neighbouring sector
Was looking inside through the gate.
They jostled, intent on the outcome,
Bewildered and willing to wait.

And whispers and rumours were creeping,
Repeating the dominant theme.
The flight into Egypt, his childhood
Already seemed faint as a dream.

And Jesus remembered the desert,
The days in the wilderness spent,
The tempting with power by Satan,
That lofty, majestic descent.

He thought of the wedding at Cana,
The feast and the miracles; and
How once he had walked on the waters
Through mist to a boat, as on land;

The beggarly crowd in a hovel,
The cellar to which he was led;
How, started, the candle-flame guttered,
When Lazarus rose from the dead…

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, March 27, 2017

Gerard Manley Hopkins*

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844—1889) was not a popular poet in his own lifetime, perhaps because his idiosyncratic style was not like that of his contemporaries. None of his now-famous poems were even published until well after his death. He was raised in a family that valued both faith and artistic expression. In 1867 when he became a Catholic priest, he burned all of the poetry he had written to date, saying he would not write unless it was by the wish of church authorities. It wasn't until 1875, with the encouragement of his superior, when the German ship "Deutschland" was wrecked in a storm, that he began writing again.

Hopkins' poems finally appeared in book form in 1918, but did not begin selling well until after the second edition appeared in 1930. He became a major influence on the development of poetry in the twentieth century, including upon such poets as T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden and Dylan Thomas.

Spring

Nothing is so beautiful as Spring —
----When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
----Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
----The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
----The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
----A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. – Have, get, before it cloy,
----Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
----Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Gerard Manley Hopkins: first post second 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, March 20, 2017

Sweeney Astray

Buile Suibhne is an ancient Irish tale of a king, often referred to as Mad Sweeney, who is driven insane by the curse of St. Ronan. Suibhne's name appears as early as the ninth century, and the tale is believed to have taken on its current form by the twelfth. It represents the conflict between paganism and the rise of Christianity. Seamus Heaney entitled his English translation Sweeney Astray. Sweeney is also the central character in T.S. Eliot's incomplete verse drama Sweeney Agonistes.

In the legend, Suibhne, trying to prevent the building of a church in his territory, threw Ronan's Psalter into the lake, and tried to drag him away. At the Battle of Mag Rath (637 A.D.) Suibhne speared to death one of the saint's psalmists who was blessing the troops with holy water. Ronan cursed him, saying he would wander like a bird and die by a spear.

Heaney says in his introduction, "For example, insofar as Sweeney is also a figure of the artist, displaced, guilty, assuaging himself by his utterance, it is possible to read the work as an aspect of the quarrel between free creative imagination and the constraints of religious, political, and domestic obligation..."

At the end of Heaney's translation St. Moling speaks the following words:

from Sweeney Astray

I am standing beside Sweeney's grave
remembering him. Wherever he
loved and nested and removed to
will always be dear to me.

Because Sweeney loved Glen Bolcain,
I learned to love it, too. He'll miss
all the fresh streams tumbling down,
all the beds of watercress.

He would drink his sup of water from
the well beyond that we have called
The Madman's Well; and now his name
keeps brimming in its sandy cold.

I waited long but knew he'd come.
I welcomed, sped him as a guest.
With holy viaticum
I limed him for the Holy Ghost.

Because Mad Sweeney was a pilgrim
to the lip of every well
and every green-banked, cress-topped stream,
their water's his memorial.

Now, if it is the will of God,
rise, Sweeney, take this guiding hand
that has to lay you in the sod
and draw the dark blinds of the ground.

I ask a blessing, by Sweeney's grave.
His memory rises in my breast.
His soul roosts in the tree of love.
His body sinks in its clay nest.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

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, March 13, 2017

Marjorie Stelmach

Marjorie Stelmach is the winner of Beloit Poetry Journal's 24th annual Chad Walsh Prize, for a poem of hers which was selected as the best published in the journal in 2016. Her fifth poetry collection Falter, has just appeared as part of the Poiema Poetry Series from Cascade Books.

I am honoured to have contributed as the editor for this collection, and to have Marjorie Stelmach as one of the poets featured in my new anthology The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry, and in my forthcoming second anthology Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

She was a high school English teacher for 30 years, and has served as visiting poet at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, and as director of the Howard Nemerov Writing Scholars Program at Washington University.

The following poem is from Falter.

On Departure

------El Shaddai, Elohim, and Adonai . . .

A profligate bird I can’t yet name ripples at intervals
outside the window I’ve raised to the rain.

Soon the heater clicks itself on against April’s chill,
------a comforting drone and a warmth we’ll pay for

on departure, along with the firewood we’ll likely consume,
------the local phone, any damages done to the furnishings—

all such accounting deferred by Laura, who late last evening
------welcomed us to Santa Maria and now returns to explain

the rules: first, she asks us not to burn the furniture
------or the cats; second, to help ourselves to the garden.

And it seems that’s it. When we ask about last night’s
------late-night laughter, first night with all of us back together,

our voices rising toward a keening hilarity, her smile widens:
------“Make a joyful noise,” she says, “Rule Three,”

and flings out her arms with such abandon my own arms lift
------as if to follow, wanting more than I’d known for a joyful noise

to rise in me, unconsidered as the sheer of nesting swallows
------planing into the rain; nameless as that profligate bird,

its melody catching over and over in its own throat, an echo of
------the Passage Song we’d lifted through similar catches

beside my brother’s deathbed weeks ago, voicing all the names
------of God we knew, a litany gathered over ages: names

for the going, for what it is we go into; names we hoped
------might also serve for his welcoming song in ceremonies

we can’t attend, or envision, or begin to name. A joy
------in the syllables, even then, even in the rasp

of his laboring breaths, nested within our circled chants, even
------in the first hard silence after, a caesura that began our long

release into the world he’d left, an unaccountably joyful noise
------I’m only beginning to understand, but, at any price,

will gladly pay for on departure.

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.