Monday, January 20, 2020

Marianne Bluger

Marianne Bluger (1945―2005) is a Canadian poet who authored eleven collections, including The Eternities (2005, St. Thomas Poetry Series). Her father was a Jewish Holocaust survivor, and her first husband a Zen master. She was influenced by both, and passionate about her own Anglican, Christian faith.

She studied under Louis Dudek at McGill University, and maintained a friendship with him throughout their lives. She received the Archibald Lampman Award in 1993, for her collection Summer Grass (Brick Books).

Her obituary says, “Bluger co-founded Christians Against Apartheid. She worked for many years with great dedication both in secret and openly to help bring down the evil regime of Apartheid in South Africa. The church network that was able to do so much to topple the oppressors, and the example of the church women of South Africa who suffered so much, taught her the most important lesson of her life: that Christ will never fail the one who loves and trusts Him.”

She administered the Canadian Writers’ Foundation for twenty five years, assisting noteworthy Canadian writers with financial needs. She also co-founded the Tabitha Foundation to assist those in Cambodia.

The Choirmaster

After the practice
when the choir is gone
in the stilly twilit
stained glass gloom

at the windy organ
in the country church
an old dame with arthritic hands
plays on and on…

a fugue of Bach
its rounded sounds
in perfect tune
fused line on line
pour forth and there
throbbing in the hallowed air
hangs the whole blessed empyrean

her pure heart’s gift to the Holy One

This poem appeared in the Margo Swiss anthology Poetry As Liturgy (St. Thomas Poetry Series).

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 13, 2020

Edmund Spenser*

Edmund Spenser (1552―1599) is considered one of the greatest English poets, for having glorified both England and its language through his epic The Faerie Queene. In the poem ― one of the longest in the English language ― he writes of knights, as a way of speaking allegorically of different virtues, reminiscent of “the armour of God” as described in Ephesians 6.

He was a highly original poet, who absorbed and re-envisioned the influences of ancient poets, such as Virgil, and Petrarch, and of his Italian contemporary Torquato Tasso. Ancient sources contributed to his understanding of structure, and to his vision ― taking the ideas of early philosophies, and pagan mythology, and weaving in his own experience of Christian faith.

from An Hymne of Heavenly Love

With all thy hart, with all thy soule and mind,
Thou must him love, and his beheasts embrace;
All other loves, with which the world doth blind
Weake fancies, and stirre up affections base,
Thou must renounce and utterly displace,
And give thy selfe unto him full and free,
That full and freely gave himselfe to thee.

Then shalt thou feele thy spirit so possest,
And ravisht with devouring great desire
Of his deare selfe, that shall thy feeble brest
Inflame with love, and set thee all on fire
With burning zeale, through every part entire,
That in no earthly thing thou shalt delight,
But in his sweet and amiable sight.

Thenceforth all worlds desire will in thee dye,
And all earthes glorie, on which men do gaze,
Seeme durt and drosse in thy pure-sighted eye,
Compared to that celestiall beauties blaze,
Whose glorious beames all fleshly sense doth daze
With admiration of their passing light,
Blinding the eyes, and lumining the spright.

Then shall thy ravisht soule inspired bee
With heavenly thoughts farre above humane skil,
And thy bright radiant eyes shall plainely see
The idee of his pure glorie present still
Before thy face, that all thy spirits shall fill
With sweet enragement of celestiall love,
Kindled through sight of those faire things above.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Edmund Spenser: 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 6, 2020

Scott Cairns*

Scott Cairns is the author of nine poetry collections ― the most recent include Anaphora (2019), Slow Pilgrim: The Collected Poems (2015), and Idiot Psalms (2014) which were all published by Paraclete Press. In 2007 his spiritual memoir Short Trip to the Edge (Harper San Francisco) first appeared; Greek and Romanian editions have since been published, as well as an expanded English edition. He is now the Director of the Seattle Pacific University Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing.

In a recent interview with Saint Katherine Review, Scott Cairns said, “[I]n order to see anything, you have to really look. You have to pour over the words. You have to pour over the landscape. You have to ‘attend’, as we’re often invited to do during the liturgy. So in my own vocation as a poet, I have to be a lover of language and a truster of language that through the Holy Spirit it will lead me into seeing something I hadn’t anticipated. A vocation is not so much something we’re called to do to serve God. We’re called into a vocation, and in that vocation, if we pursue it with due diligence, that’s where the Lord blesses us further. So it’s not something we do for him so much as it is what he gives us to do that’s worthwhile.”

The following poem is from his new collection, Anaphora.

Sin En Route to Lent

Beneath his breath
the zealot says
thank God I am
not like this man,
the Pharisee
who thought to scorn
the publican.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Scott Cairns: first post, second 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 30, 2019

Romanos the Melodist

Romanos the Melodist lived and wrote during the sixth century. He was born in Syria, later lived in Beirut, and eventually in Constantinople. Little is known about him, since he’s only mentioned by three ancient sources.

According to legend, the following poem came to him as the result of a dream in which Mary gave him a scroll which she commanded him to eat. Of poems written in the kontakion form, the oldest, dateable ones were written by Romanos. As many as 85 kontakia are attributed to him, although some of these are probably not his.

The following poem consists of 24 stanzas, three of which are included here. (The complete kontakion may be found here.) The dialogue is between Mary and the magi. In stanza 12 Mary is explaining that Joseph is a witness to all of the events of Christ’s incarnation.

Kontakion on the Nativity of Christ

1
Bethlehem has opened Eden, come, let us see;
we have found delight in secret, come, let us receive
the joys of Paradise within the cave.
There the unwatered root whose blossom is forgiveness
-----has appeared.
There has been found the undug well
from which David once longed to drink.
There a virgin has borne a babe
and has quenched at once Adam’s and David’s thirst.
For this, let us hasten to this place where there has
-----been born
----------a little Child, God before the ages

12
“He proclaims clearly all he has heard.
He declares openly all that he has seen
in heaven and on earth:
the story of the shepherds, how beings of fire sang
-----praises with ones of clay,
that of you, magi, how a star hastened before you,
lighting your way and guiding you.
And so, leaving aside all that you said before,
now recount to us what has befallen you.
Where have you come from, how did you understand
-----that there had appeared
----------a little Child, God before the ages?”…

24
“Save the world, O Saviour. For this you have come.
Set your whole universe aright. For this you have shone
on me and on the magi and on all creation.
For see, the magi, to whom you have shown the light of
-----your face,
fall down before you and offer gifts,
useful, fair and eagerly sought.
For I have need of them, since I am about
to go to Egypt and to flee with you and for you,
my Guide, my Son, my Maker, my Redeemer,
----------a little Child, God before the ages.”

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 23, 2019

Henry Vaughan*

Henry Vaughan (1622―1695) is a Welsh metaphysical poet, who was educated at Oxford. He had already become a successful poet, prior to his conversion, which he attributed to his experience of reading George Herbert’s poetry. After this, he gave up what he called “idle verse.” Although two more collections of his earlier poetry appeared without his authorization, it is still his more mature religious poetry he is celebrated for.

Besides writing his own poetry, Henry Vaughan also translated religious, medical and moral works into English. He was also a medical practitioner.

Although his poetry did not receive the attention it deserved within his lifetime, or even in the years that followed, his brilliance was rediscovered in the 20th century, which has led to modern acknowledgement of his worth.

Christ’s Nativity

Awake, glad heart! get up and sing!
It is the birth-day of thy King.
Awake! awake!
The Sun doth shake
Light from his locks, and all the way
Breathing perfumes, doth spice the day.

Awake, awake! hark how th’ wood rings;
Winds whisper, and the busy springs
A concert make;
Awake! awake!
Man is their high-priest, and should rise
To offer up the sacrifice.

I would I were some bird, or star,
Flutt’ring in woods, or lifted far
Above this inn
And road of sin!
Then either star or bird should be
Shining or singing still to thee.

I would I had in my best part
Fit rooms for thee! or that my heart
Were so clean as
Thy manger was!
But I am all filth, and obscene;
Yet, if thou wilt, thou canst make clean.

Sweet Jesu! will then. Let no more
This leper haunt and soil thy door!
Cure him, ease him,
O release him!
And let once more, by mystic birth,
The Lord of life be born in earth.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Henry Vaughan: first post, second 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 16, 2019

R.S. Thomas*

R.S. Thomas (1913―2000) was born in Cardiff. He spent most of his career as an Anglican priest among rural farmers in the Welsh hill country. The people of those parishes, and the hill country itself, loom large in his poetry. At the close of the century, he was seen as the most significant of all contemporary Welsh poets.

He had a dislike of modern material conveniences, which he felt distracted from the spiritual and from community. He and his wife Mildred married in 1940, and were together until her death in 1991.

His verse is featured in The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry (Cascade Books).

Hill Christmas

They came over the snow to the bread’s
purer snow, fumbled it in their huge
hands, put their lips to it
like beasts, stared into the dark chalice
where the wine shone, felt it sharp
on their tongue, shivered as at a sin
remembered, and heard love cry
momentarily in their hearts’ manger.
They rose and went back to their poor
holdings, naked in the bleak light
of December. Their horizon contracted
to the one small, stone-riddled field
with its tree, where the weather was nailing
the appalled body that had asked to be born.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about R.S. Thomas: first post, second 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 9, 2019

Óscar Romero

Óscar Romero (1917―1980) is a Catholic prelate who served in El Salvador including as Archbishop of San Salvador. As war increased between forces on the left and right, he spoke out against poverty, torture, government-arranged assassinations of many including priests, and against other social injustices.

After having just concluded a sermon, in which he encouraged Salvadoran soldiers to obey God rather than the oppressive government, as he was still standing at the altar, he too was gunned down. No one was ever convicted of his assassination, although investigations concluded that the order had been given by right wing politician, Roberto D’Aubuisson. There was even a massacre at Romero’s funeral, with smoke bombs exploding on the street and thirty-one people killed by gunfire.

In October 2018 he was proclaimed a saint by the Catholic Church.

The God We Hardly Knew

No one can celebrate
a genuine Christmas
without being truly poor.
The self-sufficient, the proud,
those who, because they have
everything, look down on others,
those who have no need
even of God ― for them there
will be no Christmas.
Only the poor, the hungry,
those who need someone
to come on their behalf,
will have that someone.
That someone is God.
Emmanuel. God-with-us.
Without poverty of spirit
there can be no abundance of God.

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.