Monday, January 18, 2021

Angeline Schellenberg*

Angeline Schellenberg is a Winnipeg poet, and the author of the new collection Fields of Light and Stone (2020, University of Alberta Press). The poems are, as Don McKay says, “acts of remembrance that are all the more poetic for being scrupulously plainspoken…” He also describes them as “a series of love letters to the dead” which says a lot of how Angeline Schellenberg, in these poems, commemorates her Mennonite grandparents, while thoughtfully considering the heritage they passed down to her. Her first full-length collection, Tell Them It Was Mozart, was published by Brick Books in 2016.

Although I was already well aware of her poetry, I only first met Angeline Schellenberg in Winnipeg in 2019 at the inaugural Faith In Form arts conference, which was organized by Burl Horniachek.

The following poem is from Fields of Light and Stone.

Generations

1586: as far back
as the Mennonite database
can take me.

All I find: the surname Voht,
a town called Culm.

My great-great-great-
great-great-great-
great-great-great-

great-great-grandfather
had a daughter
who had a baby.
And on it goes.

What chases us down a family tree?
A high forehead?
A voice? A fear?

What drives me to scratch
the earth for these four-letter
kernels?

Voht’s daughter named her son
Hans―God is gracious,
a promise I can translate.

But I cannot hear
the plea it answered.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Angeline Schellenberg: 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, January 11, 2021

Andrew Lansdown*

Andrew Lansdown is one of Australia’s most-significant poets. The newest of his 15 poetry collections has just appeared as part of the Poiema Poetry Series from Cascade Books ― Abundance: New & Selected Poems. I am honoured to have edited this important collection with Andrew, and am pleased to be able to help expand his influence in North America. In Australia his poetry has won a number of prestigious awards, including the Western Australian Premier’s Book Award (twice), and the Adelaide Festival of Arts’ John Bray National Poetry Award.

In A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Australian Poetry, Geoff Page wrote:
----------Lansdown is able to suggest very deftly and concisely
----------the so-called ‘thisness’ of things, especially things
----------in nature… Lansdown has a very sincere and direct way
----------of handling poems about his immediate family which
----------subtly suggests great tenderness without becoming
----------sentimental… They have a descriptive exactness and a
----------seeming spontaneity, combining to produce a text to
----------which one can imagine no change being made without damage.

In recent years, Lansdown has explored his fascination with Japanese poetry and culture ― writing in Japanese forms such as Haiku and Tanka, honouring Basho and other influential Japanese poets, and visiting Japan to encounter its cherry-blossom beauty and the hollow solitude of Buddhist shrines.

The following poem first appeared in The McMaster Journal of Theology & Ministry.

The Martyred Mother

i.m. Hashimoto Tecla and her children, Kyoto, 1619 AD

I speak not of the other four children
who were condemned with her, nor even of
the newest child in her womb, but only
of the smallest one bound to her bosom.

One might have imagined the rope would burn
through fast so the baby’s body would fall
away from hers—slump free from the torso
to which it was tied as if to a stake.

And yet it seems the persecutors’ cord
bore the flames better than the martyrs’ flesh.
Perhaps they had soaked that rope in water
before they wrapped it around their victims.

Still, hemp’s surely coarser, tougher than flesh.
How long would it take for flames to fray it?
Longer, I guess, than it would take to melt
fat in an infant’s cheek, a woman’s breast.

Whether wet or dry, thick or thin, that rope
held out long enough for the flames to fuse
the child to its mother’s chest, meld the two
into one greasy charred misshapen lump.

On the fumie the faithful won’t trample
the carved Madonna clasps the destined Child—
in like manner, but with bound and burned arms,
the martyred mother held her infant fast.

And in this embrace both she and the babe
defied the shogun and exposed his shame.
Their souls rode up in palanquins of smoke,
up to their Sovereign, who wept as they came.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Andrew Lansdown: 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, January 4, 2021

Reginald Heber

Reginald Heber (1783―1826) is an Anglican clergyman who served as a country parson for fifteen years before being appointed Bishop of Calcutta. While a student at Oxford University he distinguished himself as a poet, winning the Newdigate Prize ― which has since been won by such poets as Matthew Arnold, Oscar Wilde, and Andrew Motion. In 1812 Heber’s Poems and Translations appeared.

For me, his most familiar contribution is the great anthem "Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!" ― which, in the hymnal I remember from childhood, was honoured as hymn #1 and sung with great enthusiasm.

As Bishop of Calcutta, Heber took great interest in the people he served, studying the Tamil language, and using his authority to ordain as deacon the first native Indian to receive Holy Orders. In 1824 he began an extensive sixteen-month journey throughout India, which also brought him through what is now Bengladesh and Sri Lanka. He was critical of the disrespect shown by the British East India Company toward Indian people, and was concerned that few were promoted to senior positions.

Heber died suddenly in Trichinopoly, India, at the age of 42. His Narrative of a Journey Through the Upper Provinces of India: 1824–25 was published posthumously. A marble memorial was erected to him in St. Paul’s Cathedral. There is also a sculptured portrait of Heber in the inner courtyard of what was once the India Office, now the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office in London.

This poem is from The Poetical Works of Reginald Heber, D.D. Lord Bishop of Calcutta (1830, Frederick Warne).

Epiphany

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning!
---Dawn on our darkness and lend us Thine aid!
Star of the East, the horizon adorning,
---Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

Cold on His cradle the dew-drops are shining,
---Low lies His head with the beasts of the stall;
Angels adore Him in slumber reclining,
---Maker and Monarch and Saviour of all!

Say, shall we yield Him, in costly devotion,
---Odours of Edom and off'rings divine?
Gems of the mountain and pearls of the ocean,
---Myrrh from the forest or gold from the mine?

Vainly we offer each ample oblation;
---Vainly with gold would His favour secure:
Richer by far is the heart's adoration,
---Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning!
---Dawn on our darkness and lend us Thine aid!
Star of the East, the horizon adorning,
---Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

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 28, 2020

Alfred Tennyson*

Alfred Tennyson (1809—1892) is well-celebrated as one of England’s greatest poets, although the poetics of the nineteenth century fell out of fashion in the twentieth. He served as Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland from 1850 until his death.

The following poem is from In Memoriam, A.H.H. (1850). Tennyson wrote the elegy as a tribute to his close friend Arthur Henry Hallam. It has been said that the image for this poem comes from when Tennyson was staying near Waltham Abbey and heard the church bells clanging in the wind on a stormy night.

Although it is technically addressed to the bells, the poem is like a New Year’s prayer, and acknowledges the one we need to turn to. I find the request in stanza four particularly fitting for our troubled times as we enter 2021.

Ring Out, Wild Bells

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Alfred Tennyson: 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, December 21, 2020

Alfred Noyes

Alfred Noyes (1880―1958) is an English poet who grew up in Wales. He was educated at Oxford, but missed getting his degree because, during his finals, he was meeting with his publisher to arrange for his first poetry collection, The Loom of Years (1902). During WWI he wrote poems and stories to boost morale; he was made a CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 1918.

In his 1934 book of apologetics The Unknown God, Alfred Noyes outlines the intellectual steps which led him from agnosticism to Christian faith. He became a Catholic in 1927.

In a 1995 BBC poll, his much-anthologized poem “The Highwayman” was voted Britain’s 15th most popular poem.

A Belgian Christmas Eve

Thou, whose deep ways are in the sea,
Whose footsteps are not known,
To-night a world that turned from Thee
Is waiting—at Thy Throne.

The towering Babels that we raised
Where scoffing sophists brawl,
The little Antichrists we praised—
The night is on them all.

The fool hath said ... The fool hath said ...
And we, who deemed him wise,
We who believed that Thou wast dead,
How should we seek Thine eyes?

How should we seek to Thee for power
Who scorned Thee yesterday?
How should we kneel, in this dread hour?
Lord, teach us how to pray!

Grant us the single heart, once more,
That mocks no sacred thing,
The Sword of Truth our fathers wore
When Thou wast Lord and King.

Let darkness unto darkness tell
Our deep unspoken prayer,
For, while our souls in darkness dwell,
We know that Thou art there.

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 14, 2020

Robert Southwell*

Robert Southwell (1561―1595) is an English poet who was first educated in France, and then joined the Jesuits in Rome. In 1586 he returned as an illegal missionary to Protestant England, becoming the domestic chaplain to Anne Howard, whose husband the Earl of Arundel was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Once Southwell himself was captured, he was tortured by authorities trying to learn of the activities of other Catholics. He was later placed in solitary confinement in the Tower of London for over two years, before being executed for treason.

Southwell wrote exclusively religious poetry, seeking to turn readers’ attention away from pagan and classical themes. His literary significance at the time of his death is reflected in his influence on such writers as Donne, Herbert and Crashaw, and through several allusions to his work in Shakespeare’s plays.

The following poem plays with the paradoxes of the Word who made the world coming into the world as a newborn babe.

“The Nativity of Christ”

Behold the father is his daughter’s son,
The bird that built the nest is hatched therein,
The old of years an hour hath not outrun,
Eternal life to live doth now begin,
The Word is dumb, the mirth of heaven doth weep,
Might feeble is, and force doth faintly creep.
O dying souls, behold your living spring;
O dazzled eyes, behold your sun of grace;
Dull ears, attend what word this Word doth bring;
Up, heavy hearts, with joy your joy embrace.
From death, from dark, from deafness, from despairs,
This life, this light, this Word, this joy repairs.
Gift better than himself God doth not know;
Gift better than his God no man can see.
This gift doth here the giver given bestow;
Gift to this gift let each receiver be.
God is my gift, himself he freely gave me;
God’s gift am I, and none but God shall have me.
Man altered was by sin from man to beast;
Beast’s food is hay, hay is all mortal flesh.
Now God is flesh and lies in manger pressed
As hay, the brutest sinner to refresh.
O happy field wherein this fodder grew,
Whose taste doth us from beasts to men renew.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Richard Southwell: 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, December 7, 2020

David Brendan Hopes

David Brendan Hopes is a poet and playwright who lives in Asheville, North Carolina, where he has been a professor of English at UNCA since 1983. His Memoir A Childhood in the Milky Way: Becoming a Poet in Ohio (1999, Akron University Press) was nominated for both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. His plays have been widely staged in various cities, including New York. One recent play Night Music won the 2016 North Carolina Playwrights Prize. He has also authored fiction, and two collections of nature essays from Milkweed Editions.

I included the following poem in the anthology Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse; it is also in David Brendan Hopes’ fourth poetry collection Peniel (2017, Saint Julian Press).

On the Adoration of the Shepherds

God is born tonight in the next town.
Be serious. Who wouldn’t go?
Lock the back door. Turn the furnace down.
Throw a handful of food at the dog. Blow
off the dinner with the couple you really like.
Riffle through the bills for those
which absolutely will not wait. Take a hike.
The way? The consequence? The point? Who knows?
Select a path, an avenue, goat trail, a turnpike,
on through the twilight and the early snows.
Angel voices are, of course, a plus,
but go in dark and silence if you must.
Remember to seek the narrowest wretched door.
Prepare to diminish, resign, dispense, adore.

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.