Monday, December 10, 2018

John Heath-Stubbs

John Heath-Stubbs (1918—2006) is an English poet, who was almost completely blind right from childhood. He didn’t see this as a hindrance, but once said, “As a poet, I have found that blindness actually tends to stimulate the imagination.”

He was one of the editors (and one of the eight poets) of Eight Oxford Poets (1941) which helped establish his career. Later, he taught at various universities, including Leeds and Merton College, Oxford. Among his accomplishments are translations of poetry from Latin, Greek, Persian, Italian and French — and significant awards, including the Queen’s Gold Medal for poetry in 1973, and an OBE in 1989.

Heath-Stubbs often explored his Christian faith within his poems — and expressed his interest in “the reaffirmation of orthodox religious themes in the poetry of T.S. Eliot and Charles Williams and others.”

The following poem was set to music in 1966 by composer Peter Dickinson.

For The Nativity

Shepherds, I sing you, this winter’s night
Our Hope new-planted, the womb’d, the buried Seed:
For a strange Star has fallen, to blossom from a tomb,
And infinite Godhead circumscribed, hangs helpless at the breast.

Now the cold airs are musical, and all the ways of the sky
Vivid with moving fires, above the hills where tread
The feet—how beautiful!—of them that publish peace.

The sacrifice, which is not made for them,
The angels comprehend, and bend to earth
Their worshipping way. Material kind Earth
Gives Him a Mother’s breast, and needful food.

A Love, shepherds, most poor,
And yet most royal, kings,
Begins this winter’s night;
But oh, cast forth, and with no proper place,
Out in the cold He lies!

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, December 3, 2018

Eugene H. Peterson*

Eugene H. Peterson (1932—2018) is the author of more than thirty books, including A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, and his vernacular Bible translation The Message. Before retiring in 2006, he served as Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver.

In early October Eugene Peterson was hospitalized after “a sudden and dramatic turn in his health caused by an infection.” The hope at that time was that he might live for a few more months; he passed away on October 22nd.

He has greatly influenced millions through his books — most-famously the rock singer Bono of U2 who describes Peterson’s book about the prophet Jeremiah, Run With The Horses, as “a powerful manual for me.” Bono visited the Petersons at their isolated home in Flathead Lake, Montana in 2015, as documented in a video (produced by Fuller Theological Seminary) where he and Eugene discuss their common love of the Psalms.

I included one of Peterson's poems in the anthology The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry. He generously wrote an endorsement for my subsequent anthology Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse (both of which are available here).

The following poem is from Peterson’s poetry collection Holy Luck (2013, Eerdmans).

Cradle

She gave birth to her first-born son
And wrapped him in swaddling clothes,
And laid him in a manger. — Luke 2:7


For us who have only known approximate fathers
And mothers manqué, this child is a surprise:
A sudden coming true of all we hoped
Might happen. Hoarded hopes fed by prophecies,

Old sermons and song fragments now cry
Coo and gurgle in the cradle, a babbling
Proto-language which as soon as it gets
A tongue (and we, of course, grow open ears)

Will say the big nouns: joy, glory, peace;
And live the best verbs: love, forgive, save.
Along with the swaddling clothes the words are washed

Of every soiling sentiment, scrubbed clean
Of all failed promises, then hung in the world’s
Backyard dazzling white, billowing gospel.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Eugene Peterson: 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, November 26, 2018

Francis Thompson*

Francis Thompson (1859—1907) was uninspired as a medical student, and neglected his studies. During an illness he became addicted to opium, and started living on the streets of London. At this time he applied to Oxford University, but was turned down due to his addiction. His fortunes began to turn for the better, however, when his first poems appeared in the periodical Merrie England. That’s when Robert Browning took notice of them. At the Premonstratensian Monastery in Storrington, Sussex, he was able to become free of opium.

In 1893 his book Poems was highly praised by Coventry Patmore in the Fortnightly Review. Much of Thompson’s best work relates to his Christian faith, particularly his best known poem, “The Hound of Heaven.”

To A Snowflake

What heart could have thought you? —
Past our devisal
(O filigree petal!)
Fashioned so purely,
Fragilely, surely,
From what Paradisal
Imagineless metal,
Too costly for cost?
Who hammered you, wrought you,
From argentine vapor? —
"God was my shaper.
Passing surmisal,
He hammered, He wrought me,
From curled silver vapor,
To lust of His mind —
Thou could'st not have thought me!
So purely, so palely,
Tinily, surely,
Mightily, frailly,
Insculped and embossed,
With His hammer of wind,
And His graver of frost."

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Francis Thompson: 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, November 19, 2018

Kathleen Norris*

Kathleen Norris is the author of several New York Times bestselling memoirs, including: The Cloister Walk, Acedia & Me, and Dakota: A Spiritual Geography. She is also the author of seven poetry collections, including: Journey: New and Selected Poems.

Norris explained in a recent interview why she writes across different Christian traditions:
-----“...when I first encountered the Benedictine monks, I was on
-----a religious search...I wasn’t sure if I was even a Christian...
-----It’s one of God’s gifts to me that I found this tradition of
-----communal prayer — the Psalm readings, you know, and monastic
-----spirituality. A lot of what I’m talking about is included in
-----Benedictine material, but it comes from a time when there
-----weren’t any divisions in the church. There was no Roman Catholic
-----Church versus Eastern Orthodox versus Protestant. It all stems
-----from the original taproot of the religions, so it’s really
-----accessible to anyone, and that’s how I’ve always felt as a
-----Protestant. The monastic tradition is mine, too.”

Her husband, the poet David Dwyer, died in 2003. She now divides her time between South Dakota and Hawaii, where she was raised. She is the nonfiction editor for Saint Katherine Review. In 2017 she served as chaplain for Image journal’s Glen workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Answered Prayer

I came to your door
with soup and bread.
I didn’t know you
but you were a neighbor
in pain: and a little soup and bread,
I reasoned, never hurt anyone.

I shouldn’t reason.
I appeared the day
your divorce was final:
a woman, flushed with cooking
and talk, and you watched,
fascinated,
coiled like a spring.

You seemed so brave and lonely
I wanted to comfort you like a child.
I couldn’t of course.
You wanted to ask me too far in.

It was then I knew
it had to be like prayer.
We can’t ask
for what we know we want:
we have to ask to be led
someplace we never dreamed of going,
a place we don’t want to be.

We’ll find ourselves there
one morning,
opened like leaves,
and it will be all right.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Kathleen Norris: 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, November 12, 2018

Daniel Klawitter

Daniel Klawitter lives in Denver, Colorado, where he is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church. He has published several poetry collections — most recently Quiet Insurrections (2018, White Violet Press).

His light touch, and delight in rhyme, makes his verse quite accessible. He has said, “…[A]ll my poems are driven primarily by an obsession with musicality and rhythm. It’s the cadence of a line of writing that haunts me first in my head and usually leads to a full-fledged poem.” His children’s poetry chapbook Put On Your Silly Pants received an honourable mention in the 2017 Dragonfly Book Awards for Children’s Poetry.

His poem “The Misuse of Scripture” demonstrates the playfulness often present in his poetry. It has recently appeared in Poems For Ephesians, a new poetry web-journal edited by D.S. Martin on the McMaster Divinity College website.

The following poem is from his chapbook An Epistemology of Flesh.

A Mystery

It’s true that old age
has its own bouquet:
the remembered, fermented
wine of childhood
now uncorked,
left to breathe
in the dark cellar
of skin, bone and memory.

For some the past
is a mausoleum.
For others, a museum
full of curiosities.

Yet the greatest mystery
is not the history of Eden
but what lies ahead:

that second childhood
where we cross our hearts,
bow our heads
and hope to die
to live again.

The last trumpet
And the last laugh is yours:
New wine will be poured
In new wineskins.

Posted with permission of the poet.

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, November 5, 2018

Guillaume de Salluste du Bartas

Guillaume de Salluste du Bartas (1544—1590) is a French Huguenot, who served in the court of Henri IV, from well before he came to the French throne.

Du Bartas’ divine poetry was appreciated across Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. At the turn of that century he was still the most esteemed poet in France, although literary fashions changed later in the 1600s. Because of his Protestant views, his influence was felt much longer in England — where he had made a significant impression on Philip Sydney, Edmund Spenser, and John Milton. James VI of Scotland’s enthusiasm for du Bartas’ verse also spread the poet’s fame.

He also made an impact on the Metaphysical poets. C.S. Lewis wrote in English Literature in the 16th Century, “…no one can point to a moment at which poetry began to be Metaphysical nor to a poet who made it so; but of all poets perhaps Guillaume de Salluste du Bartas… comes nearest to that position.”

The following is from Josuah Sylvester's translation, which appeared in editions from 1608 to 1641, and is part of the first poem from The Divine Weeks (Part 1—Building The World)

from The First Day

No sooner said He, “Be there light,” but lo!
The formless lump to perfect form ‘gan grow,
And all illustred with light’s radiant shine,
Doffed mourning weeds and decked it passing fine.
All hail, pure lamp, bright, sacred and excelling;
Sorrow and care, darkness and dread repelling;
The world’s great taper, wicked men’s just terror,
Mother of truth, true beauty’s only mirror—
God’s eldest daughter! O, how thou art full
Of grace and goodness! O, how beautiful!
Since thy great Parent’s all-discerning eye
Doth judge thee so, and since His Majesty—
Thy glorious Maker—in His sacred lays
Can do no less than sing thy modest praise.

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, October 29, 2018

Shane McCrae

Shane McCrae is Assistant Professor of Writing at Columbia University in New York City. His most-recent book is Language of My Captor (2017, Wesleyan University Press), and his new poetry collection The Gilded Auction Block will appear from Farrar, Straus & Giroux in February. He is the new Poetry Editor for the journal Image. He has received the Lannan Literary Award, and a Whiting Writers Award.

The following poem first appeared in West Branch and is from his collection The Animal Too Big To Kill (2015, Persea Books).

On the First Day of the Last Week of His Life
Jesus Overturns the Tables of the Money-Changers


For John Gallaher

I wrote to a friend yesterday and told him my new poems were
About or I was trying to say
Something about money to God

I think and I don't understand it why I think it Lord You don't
Understand money
but of course You do / And maybe even

Lord if You were You You on Earth used money maybe You
Didn't just overturn the tables of the money-changers
Maybe You sometimes ached to not

Lord have enough for even a few figs / Maybe You hated figs
-----and always had or always the
Conditioned always of Your time here
hated figs / And maybe figs were usually

The cheapest food available and still You sometimes didn't
-----have enough
Maybe You suffered in Your body first the suffering of in Your
-----body Lord
Inhabiting Your poverty

Maybe Your body Lord was shaped by foods You hated
Maybe You sometimes walking to the market / Felt everybody
-----even only
for a moment / Glancing at You

knew Lord You lived on figs
Lord and You hated figs and always had
And on the day You overturned the tables of the money-changers

You also cursed a fig tree never to produce / Fruit again
because You had come to it hungry Lord
and found it barren

Posted with permission of the poet.

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.