Monday, October 15, 2018

Joseph Seamon Cotter

Joseph Seamon Cotter (1861—1949) is the author of six books of poetry, including A White Song and a Black One (1909). He is also among the first black American playwrights to have their work published. Although he had received little formal education prior to adulthood, he became a grammar school teacher and principal — serving in Louisville schools for over fifty years. He was a close friend of the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar.

Cotter and his wife had four children, including Joseph Seamon Cotter Jr. — a promising young poet, who died of tuberculosis at age 23.
Cotter’s Collected Poems appeared in 1938.

Sonnet To Negro Soldiers

They shall go down unto Life's Borderland,
Walk unafraid within that Living Hell,
Nor heed the driving rain of shot and shell
That 'round them falls; but with uplifted hand
Be one with mighty hosts, an arméd band
Against man's wrong to man—for such full well
They know. And from their trembling lips shall swell
A song of hope the world can understand.
All this to them shall be a glorious sign,
A glimmer of that resurrection morn,
When age-long Faith crowned with a grace benign
Shall rise and from their brows cast down the thorn
Of prejudice. E'en though through blood it be,
There breaks this day their dawn of Liberty.

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 8, 2018

Luis de León

Luis de León (1527—1591) is an Augustinian monk, and one of Spain’s greatest lyric poets. In 1560 he was appointed to the chair of theology at Salamanca. In 1546 the Council of Trent had declared the Latin translation known as the Vulgate to be the authentic text of the Bible. Because de León and others used Hebraic texts and the Septuagint, by 1572 he was arrested and accused of heresy by the Inquisition. Although he escaped punishment, he was hounded by them again in 1582, because of his views concerning predestination.

He wrote commentaries on the books of Job, Obadiah, Galatians, and Song of Songs. He also wrote translations of selections from Virgil, Horace and the Psalms. His prose masterpiece The Names of Christ is, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, “the supreme exemplar of Spanish classical prose style”. It echoes themes also found in his poetry. In 1588 he prepared and published the first collected edition of the writings of Teresa of Ávila.

The following translation is by Willis Barnstone

On The Ascension

---Do you leave, shepherd saint,
your flock here in this valley, deep, obscure,
---in loneliness and plaint,
---and rise piercing the pure
high air–to that immortal refuge sure?

---Those who were formerly
lucky are melancholy and grieving too.
---You nourished them. Suddenly
---they are deprived of you.
Where can they go? What can they now turn to?

---What can those eyes regard
(which one time saw the beauty of your face)
---that is not sadly scarred?
---After your lips’ sweet grace
what can they hear that isn’t blunt and base?

---And this tumultuous sea,
Who can hold it in check? Who can abort
---The gale’s wild energy?
---If you’re a sealed report,
Then what North Star will guide our ship to port?

---O cloud, you envy us
Even brief joy! What pleasure do you find
---Fleeing, impetuous?
---How rich and unconfined
You go! How poor you leave us and how blind!

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 1, 2018

Tania Runyan*

Tania Runyan is the author of four poetry collections, including Second Sky (2013, Poiema Poetry Series) and her new book What Will Soon Take Place (2017, Paraclete Press). The former book focuses on the life and writing of the Apostle Paul, while the latter collection is inspired by the Book of Revelation. Luci Shaw endorses Runyan’s new book by saying, “This bold collection is stunning, with poems that reveal the visceral views of both the prophet and the writer.”

She has also written three nonfiction books: How To Read A Poem, How To Write A Poem, and — less exciting but very practical — How To Write A College Application Essay.

One of Runyan’s poems from Second Sky is the first poem to be posted on D.S. Martin’s new web-journal Poems For Ephesians which debuted this past week on the McMaster Divinity College website.

The following poem, which first appeared in The Christian Century is from What Will Soon Take Place.

Ephesus

I was in love with God for one afternoon.
Twenty, alone on a beach, I dropped rocks
by the edge and watched the ocean wash
gray into blue, brown into red. An hour
of my crunching steps, the clack of pebbles,
the water’s rippling response. Never mind
invisibility. We were the only ones, and I
so intoxicating—sand-blown hair,
denim cut-offs, no reason to believe
anyone’s faith could dissolve. My prayers
were as certain as the stones I threw,
the answers as sure as the cove’s blue floor.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Tania Runyan: first post, second post.

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, September 24, 2018

Diane Tucker

Diane Tucker is a Vancouver poet. She has three full-length poetry collections: God on His Haunches (Nightwood Editions, 1996), Bright Scarves of Hours (Palimpsest, 2007) and Bonsai Love (Harbour Publishing, 2014). She has also published a YA novel, His Sweet Favour (Thistledown, 2009). In 2013 her first stage play, Here Breaks the Heart: The Loves of Christina Rossetti, was produced by Fire Exit Theatre in Calgary.

She is one of the poet-organizers of Vancouver’s Dead Poets Reading Series — literally presenting the work of poets that are no longer around to read their own work.

God on his haunches

such an appalling picture
God on his haunches
like a bird watcher, waiting
for what he knows must happen
but will for the world neither impede nor hurry on
waiting for the crunch of the beak through the egg
waiting for the infusion of blue through the bud
God the time-lapse photographer

such a terrifying picture
that the Timeless One should savour time
should know the necessity of every second
should want to plunge me
into the deeps of every moment
drown me in the glory of that which has been made
raise me, sodden, into uncreated light
gleaming in the sun like a dolphin's back

a barbed baptism, the eternal end
reached only through fiery lungfuls of time
every second clotting the nostrils
each moment a coal ablaze in the throat

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, September 17, 2018

John Slater

John Slater is a poet from the Toronto area, known as Brother Isaac in his life as a Trappist monk in upstate New York. His first poetry collection Surpassing Pleasure appeared from The Porcupine’s Quill in 2011. Canadian poet Tim Lilburn has said — in reference to Slater’s new collection, Lean (Grey Borders, 2016) — “We are lucky to have such an eye and mind among us.”

Along with Jeffery Einboden he has translated The Tangled Braid: Ninety-nine Poems by Hafiz of Shiraz — the 14th century Sufi poet.

Slater lives at The Abbey of Genesse where he cares for elderly monks, works in their Japanese garden, and helps produce the abbey’s popular Monk’s Bread.

The following poem is from Surpassing Pleasure.

Building on Sand

The ocean was for him as light
to a master of stained-glass
windows …

Simple implements, trowel,
bucket, water
to keep the white beach sand
wet and mouldable.

Unconcerned about the crowd
of tourists and curious
passersby, he chiselled
a fine Last Supper, a muscular
bust of Christ, or a crucifix,
etched in block letters
at the base:

JESUS THANK YOU

Each dusk, with an odd mix
of loss and satisfaction
to watch the day’s work
swept away,
dissolved in the slow tide’s
gradual blessing.

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, September 10, 2018

Cyrillona

Cyrillona is a Christian poet of the 4th century AD who wrote in the Syriac language. He is a younger contemporary of Ephrem the Syrian (Ephrem of Edessa), and was perhaps his nephew. Although only five of his poems survive, it is of significance to have anything from him at all. He probably lived in Syria or Mesopotamia. Since the custom of the day was to deliver sermons in verse form, Cyrillona would have been seen more as a pastor by his contemporaries.

The above image is from a Cyrillona manuscript, housed in the British Museum.

The following translation is from Carl Griffin who has said, “Cyrillona’s work is important not only as a rare witness to early Syriac theology, biblical exegesis, and homiletics, but also as an example of the high artistry that Syriac poetry attained in its early, golden age.”

On the Washing of the Feet

[Jesus] came to Simon, and (Simon) was pricked in his heart.
-----He arose before him and asked him:
“The feet of the watchers, out of fear,
-----are covered in heaven lest they be burned,
and you have come to take in your hand, my Lord,
-----the feet of Simon, and to serve me?
All of this you have made manifest to us,
-----your humility as well as your love.
In all of this you have honored us;
-----do not alarm us again now, my Lord.
The seraphim have never even touched the hem of your garment,
-----and see how you wash the feet of lowly men!
You, my Lord, are washing my feet for me—
-----Who may hear of it and not be pricked?
You, my Lord, are washing my feet for me—
-----What land is able to bear it?
This report of what you have done
-----will strike awe in all creation.
This news of what has happened on earth
-----will strike terror into the assemblies of heaven.
Depart, my Lord, leave, for I shall not permit this!
-----I worship you, for I am a debtor.
On the surface of the sea I walked at your order
-----and at your command I traversed the waves,
and was not this first thing enough for me?
-----This latter thing which you endow me with, even greater—
It’s not possible, my Lord, that this should happen!
-----The report of it alone strikes terror in creation.
It’s not possible, my Lord, that this should happen!
-----For it is a great burden beyond measure.”

[Jesus replied:]
“If this is not possible,
-----you have no share with me on my throne.
If this is not possible,
-----give back to me the keys which I committed to you.
If this is not possible,
-----your authority is also taken from you.
If, as you have said, this is not possible,
-----you are not able to be a disciple.
If, as you have said, this is not possible,
-----you shall never taste a portion of my body.”

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, September 3, 2018

Robert Browning*

Robert Browning (1812—1889) is as much celebrated for his romance with poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning as he is for his poetry. His first published book Pauline: A Fragment of a Confession was denounced by John Stuart Mill as being dominated by the poet’s personal emotions and self-consciousness; this critique may be responsible for Browning subsequently veiling himself from his readers in his dramatic monologues.

He was raised in an evangelical home, but briefly became an atheist after having immersed himself in the work of Percy Bysshe Shelley. This was short-lived, however, and after his marriage to Elizabeth Barrett Browning his Christian faith grew steadily deeper — although, like much of his private life, was not declared in a personal way in his poetry.

His extensive piece Christmas-Eve and Easter-Day is an examination of different attitudes towards Christianity, and is one of his most significant contributions from his married years (1846 to 1861). Robert and Elizabeth lived primarily in Florence. Her grave is in the English Cemetery there, and his is in Westminster Abbey.

from Christmas-Eve - X

Earth breaks up, time drops away,
In flows heaven, with its new day
Of endless life, when He who trod,
Very man and very God,
This earth in weakness, shame and pain,
Dying the death whose signs remain
Up yonder on the accursed tree,—
Shall come again, no more to be
Of captivity the thrall,
But the one God, All in all,
King of kings, Lord of lords,
As His servant John received the words,
“I died, and live for evermore!”

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