Monday, April 25, 2016

Thomas Traherne*

Thomas Traherne (1637—1674) is a British poet — born in Hereford, England — whose work is only recently coming to light and becoming valued. He was mentioned by Samuel Johnson as one of the metaphysical poets, but few knew his work at that time. In the twentieth century Traherne influenced such writers as Dorothy L. Sayers, Thomas Merton, Elizabeth Jennings and C.S. Lewis.

He is venerated as a saint within the Anglican church. In 2007 four stained glass windows by artist Tom Denny, honouring Thomas Traherne, were installed in Herford Cathedral's Audley Chapel. The photo here is of one of these windows.

The following poem in Traherne's Centuries of Meditations is preceded by these words: "Upon those pure and virgin apprehensions which I had in my infancy I made this Poem."

The Approach

1
That childish thoughts such joys inspire,
Doth make my wonder, and His glory higher,
His bounty, and my wealth more great
It shows His Kingdom, and His work complete.
In which there is not anything,
Not meet to be the joy of Cherubim.

2
He in our childhood with us walks,
And with our thoughts mysteriously He talks;
He often visiteth our minds,
But cold acceptance in us ever finds:
We send Him often grieved away,
Who else would show us all His Kingdom's joy.

3
O Lord, I wonder at Thy Love,
Which did my infancy so early move:
But more at that which did forbear
And move so long, though slighted many a year:
But most of all, at last that Thou
Thyself shouldst me convert, I scarce know how.

4
Thy gracious motions oft in vain
Assaulted me: my heart did hard remain
Longtime! I sent my God away
Grieved much, that He could not give me His joy.
I careless was, nor did regard
The End for which He all those thoughts prepared.

5
But now, with new and open eyes,
I see beneath, as if above the skies,
And as I backward look again
See all His thoughts and mine most clear arid plain.
He did approach, He me did woo;
I wonder that my God this thing would do,

6
From nothing taken first ,I was;
What wondrous things His glory brought to pass!
Now in the World I Him behold,
And me, enveloped in precious gold;
In deep abysses of delights,
In present hidden glorious benefits.

7
These thoughts His goodness long before
Prepared as precious and celestial store
With curious art in me inlaid,
That childhood might itself alone be said
My Tutor, Teacher, Guide to be,
Instructed then even by the Deity.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Thomas Traherene: first post

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Marjorie Maddox

Marjorie Maddox is Sage Graduate Fellow at Cornell University (MFA) and a professor of English at Lock Haven University, in Pennsylvania, where she is also director of their Creative Writing program. She has published five full-length poetry collections, five chapbooks, two children's books, and has co-edited (with Jerry Wemple) the anthology Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania. Her short story collection What She Was Saying is forthcoming from Fomite Press.

Her most recent poetry books are Local News from Someplace Else (2013, Wipf & Stock), and True, False, None of the Above (2016, Cascade Books). I am pleased to say that I assisted with her new collection as editor, and have included it in the Poiema Poetry Series.

The following poem is from True, False, None of the Above.

Distinctions

-----------“There is one notable dead tree . . .
-----------the inscape markedly holding its
-----------most simple and beautiful oneness . . . .”
------------------------------------—Hopkins’ journals

Inscape

Curled into this moment,
swirled into this tree,
epiphany with a capitol E,
an ordained extraordinary gene
translated to mean uniquely
breathed into being and why
the world sings its key
of awe.

Instress

Such power to hold the whole
symphonic cosmos, spring pushing up
into twig and Trinity, each leaf
cradled by Creator, the Spirit
breathing its force field
of sentience, circling the sense
of our being that now—
this moment or the next—
breaks open its seed
of seeing.

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Samuel Johnson

Samuel Johnson (1709—1984) is the subject of the most influential biography ever written: James Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson. He is remembered as a poet, playwright, essayist and literary critic (among other things) and is one of the most quoted writers of all time.
Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language (1755), was the most popular dictionary for well over a century, prior to the publication of the Oxford English Dictionary.

He was a conservative Anglican, who believed that most denominational differences had more to do with politics than religion. Although he often wrestled with doubt, in his will he expressed confidently, "I Samuel Johnson, being in full possession of my faculties, but fearing this night may put an end to my life, do ordain this my last will and testament. I bequeath to God a soul polluted with many sins, but I hope purified by repentance, and I trust redeemed by Jesus Christ."

The City of God

City of God, how broad and far
Outspread thy walls sublime!
The true thy chartered freemen are,
Of every age and clime.

One holy Church, one army strong,
One steadfast high intent,
One working band, one harvest-song,
One King Omnipotent.

How purely hath thy speech come down
From man’s primeval youth;
How grandly hath thine empire grown
Of Freedom, Love, and Truth!

How gleam thy watchfires through the night,
With never fainting ray;
How rise thy towers, serene and bright,
To meet the dawning day!

In vain the surge’s angry shock,
In vain the drifting sands;
Unharmed, upon the Eternal Rock,
The Eternal City stands.

This is one of several poets suggested to me by Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, April 4, 2016

William Dunbar

William Dunbar (c1465—c1513) is a Scottish poet, born near Edinburgh, who graduated from St. Andrews University in 1479. He served in the court of King James IV. Most of his poetry comes from his time as a court poet between 1490 and 1510.

Hugh MacDiarmid used the phrase "Back to Dunbar" as a rallying cry to encourage Scottish poets in the twentieth century to transform Scottish verse away from its traditional rustic image, and towards sophistication.

On the Resurrection of Christ

Done is a battle on the dragon black,
Our champion Christ confoundit has his force;
The yetis of hell are broken with a crack,--yetis=gates
The sign triumphal raisit is of the cross,
The devillis trymmillis with hiddous voce,--trymillis=tremble
The saulis are borrowit and to the bliss can go,--borrowit=ransomed
Christ with his bloud our ransonis dois indoce:--indoce=endorse
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.--(He is risen from the grave)

Dungan is the deidly dragon Lucifer,--dungan=overcome
The cruewall serpent with the mortal stang;
The auld kene tiger, with his teith on char,--on char=snarling
Whilk in a wait has lyen for us so lang,
Thinking to grip us in his clawis strang;
The merciful Lord wald nocht that it were so,
He made him for to failye of that fang.--fang=plunder
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.--(He is risen from the grave)

He for our saik that sufferit to be slane,
And lyk a lamb in sacrifice was dicht,--dicht=prepared
Is lyk a lion risen up agane,
And as a gyane raxit him on hicht;--gyane=giant raxit=reached
Sprungen is Aurora radious and bricht,
On loft is gone the glorious Apollo,
The blissful day departit fro the nicht:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.--(He is risen from the grave)

The grit victour again is rissen on hicht,
That for our querrell to the deth was woundit;
The sun that wox all pale now shynis bricht,
And, derkness clearit, our faith is now refoundit;
The knell of mercy fra the heaven is soundit,
The Christin are deliverit of their wo,
The Jowis and their errour are confoundit:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.--(He is risen from the grave)

The fo is chasit, the battle is done ceis,
The presone broken, the jevellouris fleit and flemit;
-----------------------------(jailers frightened into flight)
The weir is gon, confermit is the peis,
The fetteris lowsit and the dungeon temit,--temit=emptied
The ransoun made, the prisoneris redeemit;
The field is won, owrecomen is the fo,
Dispuilit of the treasure that he yemit:--yemit=kept
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.--(He is risen from the grave)

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Christina Rossetti*

Christina Rossetti (1830—1894) is one of the best-known English poets of the nineteenth century. Her most famous collection is Goblin Market and Other Poems (1862). Her work became somewhat neglected with the rise of modernism in the early twentieth century, but gained a resurgence by the 1970s. She is said to have been a significant influence on Gerard Manley Hopkins, Elizabeth Jennings and Philip Larkin, among others.

In 1871 she was diagnosed with Graves' Disease, which she bravely endured with the help of her strong faith. She continued publishing poetry at this point, including A Pageant and Other Poems (1881), but primarily focused on devotional prose writing. She was considered the obvious candidate to succeed Alfred, Lord Tennyson as poet laureate — but she developed cancer in 1891, which eventually took her life.

Easter Monday

Out in the rain a world is growing green,
--On half the trees quick buds are seen
----Where glued-up buds have been.
Out in the rain God's Acre stretches green,
--Its harvest quick tho' still unseen:
----For there the Life hath been.

If Christ hath died His brethren well may die,
--Sing in the gate of death, lay by
----This life without a sigh:
For Christ hath died and good it is to die;
--To sleep whenso He lays us by,
----Then wake without a sigh.

Yea, Christ hath died, yea, Christ is risen again:
--Wherefore both life and death grow plain
----To us who wax and wane;
For Christ Who rose shall die no more again:
--Amen: till He makes all things plain
----Let us wax on and wane.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Christina Rossetti: first post

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, March 21, 2016

John Ditsky

John Ditsky (1938—2006) is a poet, and a literary scholar. He taught at several American universities before settling as an English professor at the University of Windsor, in Ontario, where he spent most of his career. His contribution to studies of American novelist John Steinbeck is extensive, having written several books and numerous essays about his work. Another of John Ditsky's books of literary assessment is: The Onstage Christ: Studies in the Persistence of a Theme.

Ditsky published more than 1300 poems in literary journals and wrote four collections of poetry, including Scar Tissue (1978). He also served for many years as Poetry Editor for Windsor Review.

John Ditsky's papers are archived at Ball State University in Indiana.

On Good Friday

On Good Friday, our Good
Friday, the sun shone
and the frogs sang antiphons;

the geese blew roaster
horns and the skunk cabbage
ruffled upward out of stream
beds. And if this was nearly
all — this and the woodpecker's

prospecting — there would be
more to come. For the Lord
went winking to his grave.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Mary Oliver*

Mary Oliver is, according to the New York Times, by far the best-selling US poet. Her first book, No Voyage and Other Poems, appeared in 1963, and she has since published more than twenty collections. Through the years her voice has developed as one who is very attentive and appreciative of the natural world, and thankful to God for every little beautiful detail.

Mary Oliver's American Primitive (1983) won the Pulitzer Prize, and her New and Selected Poems (1992) won the National Book Award. Her most recent poetry collection is Felicity.

The following poem is from her 2006 collection, Thirst. I thought it would be a fine place to begin our Easter anticipations, as we move toward Palm Sunday.

The Poet Thinks about the Donkey

On the outskirts of Jerusalem
The donkey waited.
Not especially brave, or filled with understanding,
He stood and waited.

How horses, turned out into the meadow,
Leap with delight!
How doves, released from their cages,
Clatter away, splashed with sunlight!

But the donkey, tied to a tree as usual, waited.
Then he let himself be led away.
Then he let the stranger mount.

Never had he seen such crowds!
And I wonder if he at all imagined what was to happen.
Still, he was what he had always been: small, dark, obedient.

I hope, finally, he felt brave.
I hope, finally, he loved the man who rode so lightly upon him,
As he lifted one dusty hoof and stepped, as he had to, forward.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Mary Oliver: first post

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.