Monday, April 8, 2024

Jane Clark Scharl

Jane Clark Scharl is a poet, essayist, and playwright, who lives with her husband and children in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak, Michigan. Her new poetry collection, Ponds (2024, Cascade Books) has just appeared as part of the Poiema Poetry Series.

Ponds is her first book which would be considered a collection of poems. She has also published a verse-play Sonnez Les Matines (2023, Wiseblood Books) which imagines three significant figures ― John Calvin, Ignatius of Loyola, and François Rabelais ― as students together in Paris in the 1520s. They discover a dead body, and as they investigate the murder, each must probe deep questions on his own.

J.C. Scharl and Brian Brown, in conjunction with the Anselm Society, have also recently edited the essay collection Why We Create (2023, Square Halo). This book is an examination by numerous thinkers of how we have been created to create.

I am honoured to have worked with Jane Scharl as the editor of Ponds. For those of you attending the Festival of Faith & Writing, in Grand Rapids, Michigan this April (and those who live nearby) I invite you to attend the Poiema Poetry Series reception on Thursday, April 11th at 7:30. Jane Clark Scharl will be one of our many readers.

In her Plough article “Poetry at Home” from last October, she points to the very first recorded words from Adam when God presented him with his wife, and points out that they are written as poetry (Genesis 2:23). Scharl says, “Poetry should be nourished beside the hearth, not in the lecture hall. When we invite poetry into our homes, we make our family life more abundant, but we also help poetry itself grow richer and more beautiful.” Perhaps the best argument to support her premise is the following poem, which is from Ponds.

To My Unborn Child

There is a story of how God,
before anything else existed, was everything.
And one day he looked out and saw
that everything was him, and he knew
that if he wanted to make some other thing,
first he’d have to vacate
some of what is, to make room, you see.
And so (the story goes) he breathed
in a mighty breath and with it
he pulled in a little of himself,
leaving just the smallest hollow
surrounded by the everything
that is him. Then, into
the hollow, he breathed, but kept himself
held back, just a little, and in
that empty space he made all Creation.

I wish I knew, dear little one,
if the story is true, and if
now he sits like this, hands cupped
around the hollow at his center
that is filling up with something
that is not entirely him;
if he too feels it shift and kick,
and what it is he wonders then.

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 1, 2024

Charles Wesley*

Charles Wesley (1707―1788) along with his brother John were central figures in the Methodist Revival in eighteenth century Britain. Charles was the most significant hymn writer of his day, and is the most prolific hymnist of all time, having written ten times the number of hymns that Isaac Watts did, who comes a distant second.

In 1729, while a student at Oxford, Charles founded the “Holy Club,” which was later joined by John, and by George Whitefield. Beginning in 1738 the Wesley brothers held meetings throughout Britain, which consisted of hymn-singing and preaching.

The following hymn is one of those most identified with Easter Sunday. Most hymnals today only include four to six of Wesley’s eleven verses. In the 19th century an "Alleluia" was added at the end of each line, perhaps to make it fit the tune “Easter Hymn.”

Christ the Lord is Risen Today

“Christ the Lord is risen today”
Sons of men and angels say
Raise your joys and triumphs high
Sing ye heavens, and earth reply

Love’s redeeming work is done
Fought the fight, the battle won
Lo! Our sun’s eclipse is o’er
Lo! He sets in blood no more.

Vain the stone, the watch, the seal
Christ has burst the gates of hell!
Death in vain forbids his rise:
Christ hath opened paradise!

Lives again our glorious King
Where, O death, is now thy sting?
Dying once he all doth save
Where thy victory, O grave?

Soar we now, where Christ has led?
Following our exalted head
Made like him, like him we rise
Ours the cross—the grave—the skies!

What though once we perished all
Partners in our parent’s fall?
Second life we all receive
In our heavenly Adam live.

Risen with him, we upward move
Still we seek the things above
Still pursue, and kiss the Son
Seated on his Father’s throne.

Scarce on earth a thought bestow
Dead to all we leave below
Heaven our aim, and loved abode
Hid our life with Christ in God!

Hid, till Christ our life appear
Glorious in his members here
Joined to him, we then shall shine
All immortal, all divine!

Hail the Lord of earth and heaven!
Praise to thee by both be given
Thee we greet triumphant now
Hail the resurrection thou!

King of glory, soul of bliss
Everlasting life is this:
Thee to know, thy power to prove,
Thus to sing and thus to love!

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Charles Wesley: 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, March 25, 2024

George Herbert*

George Herbert (1593–1633) is an English poet, priest, and orator, who was a member of Parliament briefly during 1624 and 1625.

The two most influential of the seventeenth century English metaphysical poets are George Herbert and John Donne. These poets are significant to the legacy of Christian poetry in the English language, and their influences stretches into other languages as well. Some of the other metaphysical poets include Henry Vaughan, Andrew Marvell, Thomas Traherne, Richard Crashaw, and Joseph Beaumont.

The work of these poets has influenced my own poetry, and the work of so many of the other poets I admire. The very first post here at Kingdom Poets, from back in 2010, is one about George Herbert.

One of the poems in my forthcoming collection Pride Be Not Death (& Other Poems) is a response to Herbert’s poem “Love (3),” another comes from his “Perirrhanterium,” another is after “Denials,” and a fourth arises from a line in the following Herbert poem.

The Cross

---------What is this strange and uncouth thing?
To make me sigh, and seek, and faint, and die,
Until I had some place, where I might sing,
---------And serve thee; and not only I,
But all my wealth and family might combine
To set thy honour up, as our design.
---------And then when after much delay,
Much wrestling, many a combat, this dear end,
So much desired, is giv’n, to take away
---------My power to serve thee; to unbend
All my abilities, my designs confound,
And lay my threat’nings bleeding on the ground.
---------One ague dwelleth in my bones,
Another in my soul (the memory
What I would do for thee, if once my groans
---------Could be allowed for harmony):
I am in all a weak disabled thing,
Save in the sight thereof, where strength doth sting.
---------Besides, things sort not to my will,
Ev’n when my will doth study thy renown:
Thou turnest th’ edge of all things on me still,
---------Taking me up to throw me down:
So that, ev’n when my hopes seem to be sped,
I am to grief alive, to them as dead.
---------To have my aim, and yet to be
Further from it then when I bent my bow;
To make my hopes my torture, and the fee
---------Of all my woes another woe,
Is in the midst of delicates to need,
And ev’n in Paradise to be a weed.
---------Ah my dear Father, ease my smart!
These contrarieties crush me: these crosse actions
Do wind a rope about, and cut my heart:
---------And yet since these thy contradictions
Are properly a crosse felt by the Sonne,
With but four words, my words, Thy will be done.

*This is the fourth Kingdom Poets post about George Herbert: first post, second post, third 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, March 18, 2024

Susan Cowger*

Susan Cowger is a poet and artist living in Cheney, Washington, and is the author of two poetry collections: Slender Warble (2020, Poiema/Cascade) and her new book Hawk & Songbird.

What makes this publication particularly sweet, is what the poet has gone through to get here. While the rest of us were anxious about how the pandemic might change our lives, Susan Cowger received her diagnosis — blood cancer: multiple myeloma — an incurable disease. She says,
-----“Like a fledgling careening from the nest, my mind shrilled a frenzy
-----of questions: whywhywhy? No answer. From vertebral collapse to
-----cancer to brain tumor to brain abscess to stem cell transplant,
-----one after the other, I did not find the answer to why. I found
-----Presence… [an] awareness of God I could almost touch: strength
-----embodied standing over me; an ever-watchful eye keeping vigil
-----whose single glance could dash away fear; silent invisible
-----protection, care, love … certainty. God’s Presence alone makes
-----the horrific journey worth every minute.”

Although twenty-five-hundred miles away, I walked with Susan, as one of her many companions in prayer, and am grateful she now has the reasonable hope “that maintenance medicine might keep [her] well enough to eventually die of something else.” I have also been able to partner with her as the editor for both of her full-length poetry books.

Susan Cowger will be one of our readers at the Poiema Poetry Series reception at the Festival of Faith & Writing (on Thursday, April 11th at 7:30) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The following poem is from Hawk & Songbird (2024, Poiema/Cascade).

She Says You Get What You Get

It’s windy on the porch
She props a gimpy leg on a wooden chair
exposes it to sun----She says you get what you get

Ever mumbling to God for attention----something like
look at me look at me and oh wow there it is
another bruise blooming just below the knee

She turns her face to the sky----and draws
a patient breath----In prayer-like motion
she smears salve over the parch of skin
a pauper’s salvation

where pity for a sick thing takes on something akin to
gladness for some attention----Despite the defect
now it’s hard to hate
what she loves----The broken parts
she hands back to God

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Susan Cowger: 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, March 11, 2024

Jesse Keith Butler

Jesse Keith Butler is an Orthodox Christian poet who has recently published his first collection, The Living Law, with Darkly Bright Press. He lives in Ottawa with his wife and two children.

By day, Jesse is a program evaluator for the Government of Canada, assessing the effectiveness of government programs in relation to their objectives. He previously did a PhD in education, during which time he published widely in academic journals on the topics of citizenship education, educational policy, and Indigenous education. Jesse and his wife also have a long history of working with Indigenous communities, including two summers spent working with a Christian organization on a First Nations reserve in northern Ontario.

A.M. Juster has written, "With this debut collection, Jesse Butler is joining the growing group of Canadian poets who are taking poetry away from the academy and returning it to a broader audience of poetry lovers. Butler's poems are thoughtful, well-crafted, and a pleasure to read."

The following poem has previously appeared in Solum Journal, and is from The Living Law (2024, Darkly Bright Press).

Villanelle of the Elect

So Jacob was loved, and Esau was hated.
It seems like a bit of an uneven deal.
You won’t stop creating this world you’ve created.

If Esau had hope it was quickly deflated.
The subtle supplanter had him by the heel.
But Jacob was loved, and Esau was hated.

Outside of the city, with heaven ungated
and rungs reaching down, Jacob glimpsed what was real—
you still were creating this world you’d created.

Poor Esau found Jacob’s thin soup overrated
when robbed of his birthright for one meatless meal.
Yet Jacob was loved, and Esau was hated.

You grappled with Jacob. He grunted and grated
while you danced, delighted to meet with such zeal
as you kept creating this world you’d created.

There’s purpose in life but the path isn’t fated.
You unspool these urgings we don’t even feel.
And Jacob was loved. And Esau was hated.
You keep on creating this world you’ve created.

Posted with permission of the poet.

This post was first suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

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, March 4, 2024

Laurie Klein*

Laurie Klein is a poet of the Pacific Northwest, the author of Where the Sky Opens (2015) and of the brand new book, House of 49 Doors ― both from The Poiema Poetry Series.

Her name comes up frequently as the writer of the praise chorus “I Love You, Lord” which has been ubiquitous in church circles for years. Its familiarity led guitarist Phil Keaggy to record it as the only cover-tune on his beautiful instrumental album The Wind and the Wheat (1987, Maranatha Music).

When she was featured at Abbey of the Arts, Laurie Klein said, “For me, entering the presence of the sacred means embracing mystery. And I adore mystery. Poems I love evoke — and expose — irresistible gaps: within my understanding, between the lines themselves, betwixt soul and Truth’s unerring glance.”

As Klein’s editor, for both of her full-length collections, I am delighted to see the arrival of this ambitious new book. It is a memoir of the unspeakable, that takes on a family’s disturbing sorrow with remarkable innocence, beauty, and hope.

Jill Peláez Baumgaertner, of The Christian Century, says of House of 49 Doors, “The voice in these remarkable poems belongs to a girl, a spy, a recorder of daydreams and memories of a home and a war-torn, beloved uncle, whose grisly suicide was a family secret. These poems are handprints left in cement. Once you pick up this book, you will be unable to put it down.”

The following poem is from House of 49 Doors.

Words which are not

enough — despite our regrets
and longings — mound,
musty and swept together
like fallen leaves, crackling
with sorrow nearly

unspeakable. Where is solace
meant to settle cleanly as dew?
A life shatters, its hunger
for wholeness hopefully
drifting toward Mystery,

luring us all nearer
the pure, original spark —
a vitality deeper than

we dare believe. Prayers may
falter, but know this:

though language flails
and has too often failed us,
our questions spiral,
eventually intersect
the beguiling Love

that summoned this universe,
which, from our first
shuddering breath,
clear through forever, rekindles
the sacred flint, blazons our way.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Laurie Klein: 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, February 26, 2024

Tadhg Gaelach Ó Súilleabháin

Tadhg Gaelach Ó Súilleabháin (1715―1795), known in English as Timothy O'Sullivan, is an Irish poet probably born in County Limerick. There are few records concerning his early life, although it is thought that he was a teacher.

His early verse is typical of Munster poetry of the time, including romantic verse, laments, drinking songs, and eulogies for members of the Catholic gentry. He was publicly a Jacobite supporter, and was once imprisoned in Cork for drinking the health of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

In the 1760s he moved to County Waterford and underwent a spiritual conversion, forsaking the writing of secular verse. In the nineteenth century Ó Súilleabháin’s poems were often sung as hymns in Munster churches. The plaque pictured above, was erected in 2001 in the grounds of the Cathedral in Waterford. Ó Súilleabháin died, in 1795, while at prayer in their recently-built Cathedral.

I am indebted to the poet Pádraig J. Daly for sending me a copy of Furnace of Love (Dedalus, 2002) the book of his translations of Tadhg Gaelach Ó Súilleabháin’s religious poetry. The following is from that collection.

from Poem of Jesus

I

Great Son of the resplendent city of enchanting light,
Mercy of Paradise, Person of the Holy Three,
Heart’s Love, pardon my twisted thinking
And steer my soul without turbulence into your kingdom, Jesus.
Amen, O Jesus,
Who bought me dearly
On the cross on Friday,
Your enemies harassing You,
Far from your people,
Your mother beside You,
Pitifully keening;
And I, maliciously,
Since life began in me,
Flaying You fiercely.
Five hundred thousand times
One hundred regrets are mine
That that is how I repaid You.

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.