Monday, May 20, 2019

Juana Inés de la Cruz

Juana Inés de la Cruz — in English, Joan Agnes of the Cross — (1648—1695) is a Mexican Heironymite nun. She was largely self-taught in childhood — secretly reading volumes from her grandfather’s library, which was forbidden for girls to do. She became accomplished in such areas as science, philosophy, languages, music and poetry.

Her most-significant pieces are The Divine Narcissus and First Dream. She was influenced by the poet Luis de Góngora.

After joining the nunnery in 1667, she began writing poetry and prose pieces concerning love, faith and feminism. She was often criticized by Catholic leaders who thought a woman should be devoting herself to prayer rather than writing. She argued that it would be better to have women teaching women (as encouraged in 1 Timothy 5). In 1693 she seems to have stopped writing, which was probably due to pressure from church authorities.

While caring for those who were ill with the plague, she herself grew ill and died.

The following is from The Divine Narcissus. Here it is Narcissus (that is Christ), appearing as the Good Shepherd, who is speaking.

The Divine Narcissus — Third Tableau, Scene VIII

-----Poor little lost sheep,
forgetful of you Master,
where can you be straying?
When you depart from me,
it’s life you leave behind, will you not see?
-----Drinking stagnant waters
out of ancient cisterns,
you slake your foolish thirst,
while, deaf to you mistake,
the spring of living waters, you forsake.
-----Call to mind my favors:
you’ll see how lovingly
I watch over you
to free you of offense,
laying down my life in your defense.
-----Covered with frost and snow,
I leave the flock behind,
to follow your foolish steps;
still you spurn this love of mine,
though for you I’ve left the other ninety-nine.
-----Consider that my beauty,
beloved of every creature,
desired by them all—
by every single one—
has set its heart on winning you alone.
-----Down paths through briary wastes,
I follow where you’ve trod,
I brave these rugged woods
until my feet are torn,
are stabbed and pierced by every passing thorn.
-----Still, I shall seek you out
and, even if in the search
I risk my very life,
yours I shall not disown:
to find you I would sooner lose my own.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Robert Herrick*

Robert Herrick (1591—1674) is the most significant of the poets from a group of dramatists and poets known as “Sons of Ben” — a tribute to the English poet Ben Jonson. He was ordained in the Church of England in 1623 after having graduated with his Masters degree from Cambridge University.

In 1592 his father fell from an upper storey window of their London home, which is suspected to have been a suicide. The desire for a father figure, partially fulfilled by Ben Jonson, shows itself throughout his verse.

Herrick’s only published book of poems is Hesperides: Or, The Works Both Humane & Divine (1648) — a collection of 1400 poems (many of which are just epigraphs). It includes a section entitled “His Noble Numbers,” which are his collected religious poems, and may have originally been intended to appear as a separate book.

In 1994 a memorial to Robert Herrick was unveiled in the new Poets' Corner window in Westminster Abbey.

Litany to the Holy Spirit

In the hour of my distress,
When temptations me oppress,
And when I my sins confess,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When I lie within my bed,
Sick in heart and sick in head,
And with doubts discomforted,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the house doth sigh and weep,
And the world is drowned in sleep,
Yet mine eyes the watch do keep,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the passing bell doth toll,
And the Furies in a shoal
Come to fright a parting soul,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the tapers now burn blue,
And the comforters are few,
And that number more than true,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the priest his last hath prayed,
And I nod to what is said,
'Cause my speech is now decayed,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When, God knows, I'm tossed about
Either with despair or doubt;
Yet before the glass be out,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the tempter me pursueth
With the sins of all my youth,
And half damns me with untruth,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the flames and hellish cries
Fright mine ears and fright mine eyes,
And all terrors me surprise,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the Judgment is revealed,
And that opened which was sealed,
When to Thee I have appealed,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Robert Herrick: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Les Murray*

Les Murray (1938—2019) is considered the leading Australian poet of his generation. His most-recent poetry collection, Waiting for the Past, won the Judith Wright Calanthe Award at the 2015 Queensland Literary Awards. This is just one more in a series of honours Les Murray has received, such as having Queen Elizabeth II present him with the Gold Medal for Poetry at Buckingham Palace in 1999. He died last Monday — April 29th — at age 80.

The late Derek Walcott once wrote of Murray’s poetry, “There is no poetry in the English language now so rooted in its sacredness, so broad-leafed in its pleasures, and yet so intimate and conversational.”

Murray 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. He was very generous in helping me to obtain the various rights to use his poetry within various jurisdictions around the globe.

The following poem is from Waiting for the Past and first appeared in First Things.

Jesus Was A Healer

Jesus was a healer
never turned a patient down

never charged coin or conversion
started off with dust and spittle

then re-tuned lives to pattern
simply by his attention

often surprised himself a little
by his unbounded ability

Jesus was a healer
reattached his captor’s ear

opened senses, unjammed cripples
sent pigs to drown delirium

cured a shy tug at his hem
learned to transmit resurrection

could have stood more Thank You
for God’s sake, which was his own

Jesus was a healer
keep this quiet, he would mutter

to his learners. Copy me
and they did to a degree

still depicted on church walls
cure without treatment or rehearsals.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Les Murray: first post, second post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Hugo von Hofmannstal

Hugo von Hofmannstal (1874—1929) is an Austrian poet, playwright and librettist. When he was just 16, he began publishing remarkably advanced poetry, and became well-connected within Vienna’s literary community.

In 1911 he wrote his adaptation of the 15th century English morality play Everyman, which later became (and still is) a regular feature of the Salzburg Festival. George Sterling says, Hofmannstal “vivified and humanized” the play, adding powerfully to “the dramatic and emotional elements”.

He also worked with Richard Strauss, being the librettist for several of his operas including Elektra (1909) and Arabella (1933). During WWI he held a government post, but the end of the war also marked the end of the monarchy to which he had been dedicated. His latter plays increasingly reflect his Christian faith.

The following are the first lines spoken by God in Everyman, translated by George Sterling and Richard Ordynski.

From Everyman

O men! vile men! how long shall I endure
The hardness of your hearts? Forgetting Me,
Dreading Me not, ye live the lives of beasts.
Basely sin-soaked, blind to My light and law.
And know Me not your God. The world alone
Enthralls you. Heavenly things beget your scorn.
The bond between My majesty and you
Ye have forgotten that I gave My blood.
Dying upon the Tree that men might live,
That I was nailed upon a martyr's cross,
That cruel thorns were woven for my crown,
That I gave all to you. Now all my laws
Ye break. But swiftly shall my judgment come
On sinful man. Unerring messenger!
Stand forth! I have a journey for thee, Death.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Elizabeth Rooney

Elizabeth Rooney (1924—1999) is a poet who grew up on a farm in Blue Mounds, Wisconsin. It is the same farm where the Cave of the Mounds was discovered in 1939 — an attraction well-known throughout Wisconsin. While raising their children she and her husband Mike lived in New York State, where she worked as an employment councillor. Years later, she returned to the Blue Mounds farm to run the Cave of the Mounds National Natural Landmark — a tourist site.

She didn’t begin writing poems until 1978; on a retreat with a group of Episcopal lay women called The Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross, she felt a call from God. Over the next two decades she wrote over 700 poems.

In a letter to Luci Shaw, she once described what inspiration for her poems was like: "Mine seems to come like butterflies, and I try to net them and get them on paper without knocking too many bright bits of color off their wings."

The following poem was written in 1981, and is available in her book Morning Song.

Openings

Now is the shining fabric of our day
Torn open, flung apart,
Rent wide by Love.
Never again
The tight, enclosing sky,
The blue bowl,
Or the star-illumined tent.
We are laid open to infinity,
For Easter Love
Has burst His tomb and ours.
Now nothing shelters us
From God's desire —
Not flesh, not sky,
Not stars, not even sin.
Now Glory waits
So He can enter in.
Now does the dance begin.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Edwin Arlington Robinson

Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869—1935) is an American poet who began his career publishing with a vanity press and receiving little attention.

In response to a critique of his first book, where he was accused of having the bleak view that our world is a prison, Robinson replied, “The world is not a prison house, but a kind of spiritual kindergarten, where millions of bewildered infants are trying to spell God with the wrong blocks.”

In 1904, Theodore Roosevelt’s son, Kermit, brought Robinson to his father’s attention. President Roosevelt convinced Charles Scribner's Sons to republish Robinson’s second book, The Children of the Night, and reviewed it himself.

In his poem “The Children of the Night” he says:
-----“For those that never know the light,
-----The darkness is a sullen thing…”
After which the poet poses erroneous views — such as that this life is all there is, that God is a lie, or that there is only chaos — which God will respond to in love:
-----“…God counts it for a soul gone mad,
-----And if God be God, He is just…”
The poet concludes the poem:
-----“...Let us, the Children of the Night,
-----Put off the cloak that hides the scar!
-----Let us be Children of the Light,
-----And tell the ages what we are!”

The following poem is from the same book.

Calvary

Friendless and faint, with martyred steps and slow,
Faint for the flesh, but for the spirit free,
Stung by the mob that came to see the show,
The Master toiled along to Calvary;
We gibed him, as he went, with houndish glee,
Till his dimmed eyes for us did overflow;
We cursed his vengeless hands thrice wretchedly, —
And this was nineteen hundred years ago.

But after nineteen hundred years the shame
Still clings, and we have not made good the loss
That outraged faith has entered in his name.
Ah, when shall come love's courage to be strong!
Tell me, O Lord — tell me, O Lord, how long
Are we to keep Christ writhing on the cross!

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Marie J. Post

Marie J. Post (1919—1990) is a Michigan poet, a graduate of Calvin College, and a former teacher of junior high students. Her poems regularly appeared in The Grand Rapids Post, and in The Banner. A number of her own original hymns appear in the Christian Reformed Church’s Psalter Hymnal.

Her collection, I Had Never Visited an Artist Before and Other Poems (Being Press) appeared in 1973, followed by a book of poems focussing on the Apostle Peter — Sandals, Sails & Saints (1993). Some of her poems were also included in Luci Shaw’s anthology of incarnation poems, A Widening Light — which originally appeared in 1984, and has been reissued by Regent College Press.

Palm Sunday

Astride the colt and claimed as King
that Sunday morning in the spring,
he passed a thornbush flowering red
that one would plait to crown his head.

He passed a vineyard where the wine
was grown for men of royal line
and where the dregs were also brewed
into a gall for Calvary’s rood.

A purple robe was cast his way,
then caught and kept until that day
when, with its use, a trial would be
profaned into a mockery.

His entourage was forced to wait
to let a timber through the gate,
a shaft that all there might have known
would be an altar and a throne.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.