Monday, June 5, 2023

Bruce Beasley

Bruce Beasley is the author of ten poetry collections, and has won several awards, including from University of Georgia Press, and Ohio State University Press. His books include The Corpse Flower: New and Selected Poems (2007, University of Washington Press), and his new collection Prayershreds (2023, Orison Books). In 1996 Charles Wright selected his book Summer Mystagogia to receive the Colorado Prize for Poetry.

Prayersheds is a fascinating collection, woven both from Beasley’s obsession with words, and our attempts at communication through words that we call prayer. His brain seems to continually be in a musical whirl of homonyms, homophones, etymologies, and nonce words combining familiar syllables for greater precision of meaning. Kathleen Norris insightfully compares his playfulness to that of E.E. Cummings. His word-wrestling doesn’t seem to be intended to distance himself from the reader, since many of the poems are quite accessible, however the poems sometimes take a path that require us to make our paradigm of what a poem should be more flexible. Rather than a book of prayer poems, this is more a book of poems about prayer.

The following poem first appeared as “The Responsive Amens” in the journal Subtropics, and it is from Prayershreds.

Verily

------------I

Shut your eyes―we were taught
in the Children’s Sermon
on how to pray―
shut your eyes tight until
you hear the pastor say Amen

but sometimes when I forgot to listen

for that end-signal word, sleep and prayer
would indistinguish themselves

------------II

Mandatory postrequisite
of creed
prerequisite for exit Amen

Vocally italicized Yes

that compelled and terminal
assent

It means Verily, so be it, decidedly it’s true,
means Here is where we go
back to normal-talk

We make it
mean

Please Lord let it end make it
mean Oh God
would would would
that it were so


------------III

To my body I will be as the
amen
is to the flesh’s
Let us pray Let us pray Let us pray

------------IV

Every amen
scissors the traced
outline of the prayer, ripping
the cut-out space of what we say to God

from the scrapped
silver silk of all we’d never say

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Hildegard of Bingen*

Hildegard of Bingen (1098—1179) was the youngest of ten children. Her parents dedicated her to God as a tithe, placing her under the anchoress Jutta as her servant and apprentice.

As a child she received visions of light she could not interpret. These visions persisted, reaching a pinnacle when she was 42 years old. She said: "A fiery light, flashing intensely, came from the open vault of heaven and poured through my whole brain. Like a flame that is hot without burning, it kindled all my heart and all my breast. … Suddenly I could understand."

Jutta and Hildegard had formed a Benedictine convent, which Hildegard moved to the Rhine River town of Bingen after Jutta’s death. She also established monasteries at Rupertsberg, and Eibingen as the community expanded.

Hildegard wrote of her visions, and her interpretations of those visions in books, and went on speaking tours throughout the Rhine region. Opposition came when she criticized church leaders for abuses of power; however, both Bernard of Clairvaux and Pope Eugenius III supported her efforts. She also started writing music for her nuns to sing as part of the Divine Office.

She is primarily known today for her music and poetry, although she also wrote practical books on biology, botany, medicine, theology and the arts.

O Comforting Fire of Spirit

O comforting fire of Spirit,
Life, within the very Life of all Creation.
Holy you are in giving life to All.

Holy you are in anointing
those who are not whole;
Holy you are in cleansing
a festering wound.

O sacred breath,
O fire of love,
O sweetest taste in my breast
which fills my heart
with a fine aroma of virtues.

O most pure fountain
through whom it is known
that God has united strangers
and inquired after the lost.

O breastplate of life
and hope of uniting
all members as One,
O sword-belt of honor,
enfold those who offer blessing.

Care for those
who are imprisoned by the enemy
and dissolve the bonds of those
whom Divinity wishes to save.

O mightiest path which penetrates All,
from the height to every Earthly abyss,
you compose All, you unite All.

Through you clouds stream, ether flies,
stones gain moisture,
waters become streams,
and the earth exudes Life.

You always draw out knowledge,
bringing joy through Wisdom's inspiration.

Therefore, praise be to you
who are the sound of praise
and the greatest prize of Life,
who are hope and richest honor
bequeathing the reward of Light.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Hildegard of Bingen: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Nola Garrett

Nola Garrett is a Pittsburgh poet who taught literature and writing for many years at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Her books include a collection of sestinas The Dynamite Maker’s Mistress (2009), and The Pastor’s Wife Considers Pinball (2013). In this latter collection she has created the persona of the pastor’s wife, whom she imagines as seperate from herself, and yet in relationship with her. Mayapple Press released Garrett's Ledge: New & Selected Poems in 2016.

She is one of the poets whose work appears in Taking Root in the Heart (2023, Paraclete Press) ― a new anthology, of poets whose work has appeared in The Christian Century, edited by Jill Peláez Baumgaertner. Some of the other featured poets include Brett Foster, Julie L. Moore, Luci Shaw, and Anya Silver.

Nola Garrett has also translated Macedonian poetry, along with her daughter-in-law Natasha Garrett.

The Pastor’s Wife and I

The pastor’s wife does not go out to play.
Outside it is Tuesday—merciless and far
from Sunday. She is all righteous carrots
and earnest potatoes. Sometimes she hurts
me with her notions, makes my shoulders droop,
reminds me that Nola’s dreams are a troupe
of untrained monkeys. She recycles
my prayers, drags me away from dark angels.
But, when her hair grew prim and gray, I made
her dye it brown. Then, she chose our second husband,
a good man given to chills—him, I seduced.
Now, like a gun, she holds her watch
to my ear, forces me to write these poems.
It was I who fed her those wild greens,
a salad cut from the last of my pagan
garden’s rue. Her mouth burns
for benedictions and shooting stars.
Into my mirror she stares, worries
I might disappear—her feral woman—
the woman who met Christ at the well.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Abigail Carroll*

Abigail Carroll is a poet living in Vermont whose new collection is one written in conversation with the Psalms. Cup My Days Like Water (2023) like it’s predecessor Habitation of Wonder (2018) has been published by Cascade Books as part of the Poiema Poetry Series. I selected both of these books and worked with the poet as editor to ready them for publication.

Walter Brueggemann has said of her new book, “This rich poetic collection is overwhelming in its rich imagery, its simplicity of wording, and its unflinching witness to the reality and goodness of God. Abigail Carroll is fixed on the concreteness of life as she sees it, even as she makes winsome linkages to the specificities of Scripture. If you love poetry, get this book! If you do not yet love poetry, get this book and you will promptly learn to love poetry—along with the honest knowing faith of this poet.”

Carroll holds a PhD in American Studies from Boston University, where she has taught both history and writing. She is pastor of arts and spiritual formation at Church at the Well, in Burlington, Vermont. Her other passions include photographing nature, and playing the harp.

The following poem is from Cup My Days Like Water and relates to the following quotation from Psalm 10:1 — “O LORD, why do you stand so far away?”

Where is the Lord?

Always hiding—
a well deep in the earth,
a herring gull’s feather, white,
waiting to be picked up.
Where is the Lord?
Always riding
the space between
breath and branches, light-years
and stars—
the bright, slow rendering
of who we were into who
we at last are.

Where is the Lord?
Always in song
behind a curtain, behind
a wall,
behind a truth too tall to scale.
Yes, always behind a strong veil,
a fire screen,
a heat shield by which we’re spared
the brunt of a vast love—
scouring, wild.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Abigail Carroll: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.

Monday, May 8, 2023

Anne Southwell

Anne Southwell (c.1573–1636) was born in Devon, within the prominent British classes. Her father, Sir Thomas Harris, served as an MP. Her husband Thomas Southwell was nephew to the Jesuit poet Robert Southwell, though he and Anne were distinctly Protestant. She became known as Lady Anne Southwell when her husband was knighted by King James I.

For reasons that are unclear, Anne did not gain position in the new queen’s court. She and her husband moved to Poulnalong Castle in Ireland around 1603. Thomas died in 1626, and although Anne remarried (to Captain Henry Sibthorpe) she maintained her title.

Anne Southwell wrote both religious and secular poetry; her incomplete sequence of meditative poems on the Ten Commandments are one of her valuable contributions. Her body was buried at Acton Parish Church, where a memorial plaque honouring her is on display.

The following version of one of her poems has had its spelling and punctuation modernized by Horace Jeffery Hodges (with the exception of my keeping the original title), and is from his blog Gypsy Scholar.

All maried men desire to have good wifes

All married men desire to have good wives,
but few give good example by their lives.
They are our head; they would have us their heels.
This makes the good wife kick, the good man reels.
When God brought Eve to Adam for a bride,
the text says she was taken from out man's side,
a symbol of that side, whose sacred blood
flowed for his spouse, the church's saving good.
This is a mystery, perhaps too deep,
for blockish Adam that was fallen asleep.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.

Monday, May 1, 2023

Lisa Russ Spaar

Lisa Russ Spaar is an American poet, and a professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Virginia. Her most-recent poetry collection is Madrigalia: New and Selected Poems (2021, Persea), which consists both of poems from her previous five books, and a generous display of 43 new “Madrigals” or sonnet-like poems. Her debut novel Paradise Close appeared in 2022.

She often writes interrelated poems. The journal Image says of her series of poems where she’s selected insomnia as a focus, [They] “offer a frank and nuanced picture of our laboring toward transcendence, our grief and longing over our distance from our maker, but also our love for the world with which we are so marvelously entangled.”

The following poem first appeared in Image, was awarded a 2016 Pushcart Prize, and is from her book Orexia (2017, Persea). The Latin epigraph ― from the Christmas carol Gaudete Christus est Natus ― appears in translation, italicized, within the poem itself.

Temple Gaudete

-----Deus homo factus est
-----Natura mirante.


Is love the start of a journey back?
If so, back where, & make it holy.

Saint Cerulean Warbler, blue blur,
heart on the lam, courses arterial branches,

combing up & down, embolic,
while inside I punch down & fold a floe

of dough to make it later rise.
On the box, medieval voices, polyphonic,

God has become man, to the wonderment
of Nature.
Simple to say: there is gash,

then balm. Admit we love the abyss,
our mouths sipping it in one another.

At the feeder now. Back to the cherry, quick,
song’s burden, rejoice, rejoice.

O salve & knife. Too simple to say
we begin as mouths, angry swack,

lungs flooded with a blue foreseeing.
Story that can save us only through the body.

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.

Monday, April 24, 2023

H.F. Gould

H.F. Gould (1789―1865) is a Massachusetts poet whose father was among those who fought in the first battle of the American Revolution. While Hannah Flagg Gould was still a child, her mother died, and for many years she dedicated herself to keeping house for her father. Her first poetry collection, consisting primarily of poems that had appeared in magazines and annuals, was put together by her friends in 1832 without her knowledge. Her work became quite popular, which led to ten further collections eventually being published.

Although she never came close to his imaginative skill, Gould was much taken with the poetry of William Blake ― quoting Blake’s comment, "my business is not to gather gold, but to make glorious shapes expressing God-like sentiments."

She wrote abolitionist poetry, nature poetry, children's poetry, and poems of faith ― some of which have become hymns.

A Name in the Sand

Alone I walked the ocean strand;
A pearly shell was in my hand:
I stooped and wrote upon the sand
My name—the year—the day.
As onward from the spot I passed,
One lingering look behind I cast;
A wave came rolling high and fast,
And washed my lines away.

And so, methought, ’t will shortly be
With every mark on earth from me:
A wave of dark oblivion’s sea
Will sweep across the place
Where I have trod the sandy shore
Of time, and been, to be no more,
Of me—my day—the name I bore,
To leave nor track nor trace.

And yet, with Him who counts the sands
And holds the waters in his hands,
I know a lasting record stands
Inscribed against my name,
Of all this mortal part has wrought,
Of all this thinking soul has thought,
And from these fleeting moments caught
For glory or for shame.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.