Monday, July 25, 2016

David Wright

David Wright is a poet born in central Illinois. He is the author of two poetry collections — the most recent of which is The Small Books of Bach (2014, Wipf and Stock). As an academic he has taught at University of Illinois, Wheaton College, and Richland Community College, and now teaches at Monmouth College — all of which are in Illinois.

He has also completed a book of hymns entitled A Field of Voices, with the music composed by James E. Clemens. The following poem is from his 2003 book, A Liturgy for Stones.

Veni, Sancte Spiritus

When the broken hearted spirit arrives, no one knows
how it enters the room, what to call the groaning ghost.

It could be flame, could be wind, could be song, or syllables
arcing on lips like sparks, arching tongues
to unfamiliar diction, speech so inarticulate and pure.

Wind, flame, words rush over us,
out of us, in a humiliating gush,
until the air bears the sounds of wings.

A dove hovers, trapped in our room,
its rounded, translucent blue head
dazed against the windows.

God is a small, brown-grey, beautiful bird
beating wings against unbreachable glass?

The comforter’s voice vibrates in the spirit-drunk:
Shut up and listen. Lift up the sash.

Let the dove loose, a flame to singe the streets and sky.

Let untamed language fall on a thousand unsuspecting tongues.

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, July 18, 2016

Geoffrey Hill*

Geoffrey Hill (1932—2016), who has been called Britain's greatest post-war poet, died on June 30th at his home in Cambridge, England. He had taught at Boston University for 18 years, and from 2010 to 2015 held the position of Professor of Poetry at Oxford University.

Rowan Williams recently wrote in The Guardian that Hill's poetry has
-----"a sheer fluency with sound that can appear in lyrical elegance,
-----grinding puns, carefully calculated shifts of tone or register,
-----[and] multilingual play. He speaks from deep inside his language.
-----The reader sees the ripple on the surface, puzzling, even
-----apparently arbitrary; but not the fathoms-down movement on the
-----seabed. To read with understanding, you have to join him down
-----there..."

He was knighted Sir Geoffrey Hill in 2012. Broken Hierarchies: Collected Poems 1952-2012 was published by Oxford University Press in 2013. His wife, Alice Goodman, is an Anglican Priest.

Tenebrae

He was so tired that he was scarcely able to hear a note of the songs: he felt imprisoned in a cold region where his brain was numb and his spirit was isolated.

1
Requite this angel whose
flushed and thirsting face
stoops to the sacrifice
out of which it arose.
This is the lord Eros
of grief who pities
no one; it is
Lazarus with his sores.

2
And you, who with your soft but searching voice
drew me out of the sleep where I was lost,
who held me near your heart that I might rest
confiding in the darkness of your choice:
possessed by you I chose to have no choice,
fulfilled in you I sought no further quest.
You keep me, now, in dread that quenches trust,
in desolation where my sins rejoice.
As I am passionate so you with pain
turn my desire; as you seem passionless
so I recoil from all that I would gain,
wounding myself upon forgetfulness,
false ecstasies, which you in truth sustain
as you sustain each item of your cross.

3
Veni Redemptor, but not in our time.
Christus Resurgens, quite out of this world.
‘Ave’ we cry; the echoes are returned.
Amor Carnalis is our dwelling-place.

4
O light of light, supreme delight;
grace on our lips to our disgrace.
Time roosts on all such golden wrists;
our leanness is our luxury.
Our love is what we love to have;
our faith is in our festivals.

5
Stupefying images of grief-in-dream,
succubae to my natural grief of heart,
cling to me, then; you who will not desert
your love nor lose him in some blank of time.
You come with all the licence of her name
to tell me you are mine. But you are not
and she is not. Can my own breath be hurt
by breathless shadows groaning in their game?
It can. The best societies of hell
acknowledge this, aroused by what they know:
consummate rage recaptured there in full
as faithfulness demands it, blow for blow,
and rectitude that mimics its own fall
reeling with sensual abstinence and woe.

6
This is the ash-pit of the lily-fire,
this is the questioning at the long tables,
this is true marriage of the self-in-self,
this is a raging solitude of desire,
this is the chorus of obscene consent,
this is a single voice of purest praise.

7
He wounds with ecstasy. All
the wounds are his own.
He wears the martyr’s crown.
He is the Lord of Misrule.
He is the Master of the Leaping Figures,
the motley factions.
Revelling in auguries
he is the Weeper of the Valedictions.

8
Music survives, composing her own sphere,
Angel of Tones, Medusa, Queen of the Air,
and when we would accost her with real cries
silver on silver thrills itself to ice.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Geoffrey Hill: 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, July 11, 2016

Diane Glancy

Diane Glancy is a Christian writer with a joint Cherokee and English/German family heritage. She is professor emerita at Macalester College. She has received many honours, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas, and the 2016 Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book. Her Christian faith and native heritage intersect within her writing.

In her book The Cloister Walk, Kathleen Norris says:
-----"I once had the great pleasure of hearing the poet Diane Glancy
-----astound a group of clergy...by saying that she loved Christianity
-----because it was a blood religion. People gasped in shock; I was
-----overjoyed, thinking, Hit 'em, Diane; hit 'em where they live...
-----Diane told the clergy that she appreciated the relation of the
-----Christian religion to words. "The creation came into being when
-----God spoke," she said, reminding us of Paul's belief that "faith
-----comes through hearing." Diane saw this regard for words as
-----connected not only to writing but to living. "You build a world
-----in what you say," she said. "Words — as I speak or write them —
-----make a path on which I walk."

Some of Glancy's recent publications include three novels from Wipf & Stock — Uprising of the Goats, One of Us and Ironic Witness — and her most-recent poetry collection Report to the Department of the Interior (2015, University of New Mexico Press).

How to Explain Christ to the Unsaved

An awkward cousin who could not get a date, and you didn't know anyone who would go out with him. Too dark and ruddy. Too swarthy and crazy in the eye. He had a slow walk you could out-pace. He was someone you thought you could outrun. But he could stop you dead with something he said. Or his voice could break into thunder. He was? Concerned. Preoccupied. You remember Crazy Horse with his eye on the next world. His horse with a mission too. Not just holy but knowing how to get down to it of late. No one else would come by or call, but this cowboy who rode a donkey and would end up wearing a briar or thorns, would hang around. Who was this prophet, this traveling man, this nomad born with animals who never seemed to connect? He was jovial as a penitentiary. He became a grandfather spirit, and his believers, Black Elks who saw into the sky. He was too tall, too lanky. He was not always at the table for his cabbage and rabbit. He was a loner. Atonement was never a group act but for the sheep and bullocks and rams, I suppose, over the burnt alters of old encampments. But he was self-possessed. A mean Jesus and the soldiers nailed him to a cross. He was in hell three days and brought out everyone who wanted to take a salt bath in his seas and peel off their mind and squeal to enter his kingdom he had just named, heaven. Now he sleeps, they taunt, but it may be the sleep Adam slept when a rib was taken for you know who, and if Christ sleeps, it is the sleep while the cross is taken from him, called, rib bone for a bride.

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, July 4, 2016

John Berryman*

John Berryman (1914—1972) is a major figure in late 20th century American poetry, and is particularly significant within the confessional school. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his collection 77 Dream Songs in 1964. Even after his conversion to Christian faith, he suffered from alcoholism and depression, which led to his suicide in 1972.

According to Paul Mariani, whose biography Dream Song: The Life of John Berryman appeared in 1990, Berryman experienced "a sudden and radical shift from a belief in a transcendent God ... to a belief in a God who cared for the individual fates of human beings and who even interceded for them."

Dwight Cramer has said about Berryman's first posthumous collection Delusions, Etc., which had been edited for publication prior to his death, "A religious faith never entirely defined accompanies Berryman's despair. It is a faith that invokes God as a protector but does not explore the Divine nature. It revolves less around God than around the poet's personal need for Him." This can be seen in the following poem, in how Berryman chooses what he wants to believe, and what he doesn't, and his emphasis on happiness, as opposed to a life of sacrifice and service.

The Facts & Issues

I really believe He’s here all over this room
in a motor hotel in Wallace Stevens’ town.
I admit it’s weird; and could–or could it?–not be so;
but frankly I don’t think there’s a molecular chance of that.
It doesn’t seem hypothesis. Thank heavens
millions agree with me, or mostly do,
and have done ages of our human time,
among whom were & still are some very sharp cookies.
I don’t exactly feel missionary about it,
though it’s very true I wonder if I should.
I regard the boys who don’t buy this as deluded.
Of course they regard me no doubt as deluded.
Okay with me! And not the hell with them
at all–no!–I feel dubious on Hell–
it’s here, all right, but elsewhere, after? Screw that,
I feel pretty sure that evil simply ends
for the doer (having wiped him out,
but the way, usually) where good goes on,
or good may drop dead too: I don’t think so:
I can’t say I have hopes in that department
myself, I lack ambition just just there,
I know that Presence says it’s mild, and it’s mild,
but being what I am I wouldn’t care
to dare go nearer. Happy to be here
and to have been here, with such lovely ones
so infinitely better, but to me
even in their suffering infinitely kind
& blessing. I am a greedy man, of course,
but I wouldn’t want that kind of luck continued,–
or even increased (for Christ’s sake), & forever?
Let me be clear about this. It is plain to me
Christ underwent man & treachery & socks
& lashes, thirst, exhaustion, the bit, for my pathetic & disgusting vices,
to make this filthy fact of particular, long-after,
faraway, five-foot-ten & moribund
human being happy. Well, he has!
I am so happy I could scream!
It’s enough! I can’t BEAR ANY MORE.
Let this be it. I’ve had it. I can’t wait.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about John Berryman: 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, June 27, 2016

Thomas Ken

Thomas Ken (1637—1711) is an English poet, best known for his hymns. He grew up in the home of his sister and her husband — the poet Izaak Walton — and was ordained an Anglican priest in 1662.

Thomas Ken served as royal chaplain to Charles II, and earned the king's respect by refusing to let the king's mistress stay in the chaplain's residence. This eventually led to his being appointed Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1685. In this role he wrote the book Prayers for the Use of All Persons who Come to the Baths for Cure (1692).

Along with several other bishops, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1688 for refusing to sign the "Declaration of Indulgence" which James II, the next monarch, presented in support of Catholicism.

Thomas Ken's collected poetical works were published in four volumes in 1721, and the book — Bishop Ken's Christian Year: Or Hymns and Poems for the Holy Days and Festivals of the Church — appeared in 1868. His best known lyric comes at the end of the following hymn, sung around the world as "The Doxology."

Glory to Thee, My God This Night

Glory to thee, my God, this night
For all the blessings of the light;
Keep me, O keep me, King of kings,
Beneath thy own almighty wings.

Forgive me, Lord, for thy dear Son,
The ill that I this day have done,
That with the world, myself, and thee,
I, ere I sleep, at peace may be.

Teach me to live, that I may dread
The grave as little as my bed;
Teach me to die, that so I may
Rise glorious at the awful day.

O may my soul on thee repose,
And with sweet sleep mine eyelids close,
Sleep that may me more vigorous make
To serve my God when I awake.

When in the night I sleepless lie,
My soul with heavenly thoughts supply;
Let no ill dreams disturb my rest,
No powers of darkness me molest.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow,
Praise him, all creatures here below,
Praise him above, ye heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

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, June 20, 2016

Osip Mandelstam

Osip Mandelstam (1891—1938) is a Russian poet, described by Ilya Kaminsky as "Russian poetry's central figure in the twentieth century." In 1911 he converted to Lutheranism, some would argue because Jews were excluded from entering the University of Saint Petersburg. Translator Christian Wiman argues that it would have been far more advantageous for him to convert to Russian Orthodoxy, if his conversion had merely been a matter of convenience.

Mandelstam himself writes that:
-----"[Christian art] is an 'imitation of Christ' infinitely various in its
-----manifestations, an eternal return to the single creative act that
-----began our historical era. Christian art is free. It is, in the full
-----meaning of the phrase, 'Art for art's sake.' No necessity of any
-----kind, even the highest, clouds its bright inner freedom, for its
-----prototype, that which it imitates, is the very redemption of the
-----world by Christ. And so, not sacrifice, not redemption in art,
-----but the free and joyful imitation of Christ—that is the keystone
-----of Christian esthetics."

In the 1930s, he and his wife Nadezhda were arrested by Stalin's government and sent into internal exile. In 1938 he was arrested again, and sent into exile in Siberia, which led to his death.

The following poems are from Wiman's translations - Stolen Air: Selected Poems of Osip Mandelstam.

Cathedral, Empty

When light, failing,
Falling

Through stained glass,
Liquifies

The long grass
At the feet of christ,

I crawl diabolical
To the foot of the cross

To sip the infinite
Tenderness

Distilled
From destroyed

Hearts:
An air of thriving

Hopelessness
Like a lone cypress

Holding on
To some airless

Annihilating height.

Prayer

Help me, Lord, this night my life to save.
Hold me, Lord, your servant, your slave.
Hear me, O Lord, alive in Petersburg, my 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, June 13, 2016

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828—1882) is a painter and poet who was born in London to Italian expatriate parents. He is only one of the Rossettis to have left his mark: His father was renown as a Dante scholar, his brother William Michael Rossetti was an influential art critic, and his sister Christina Georgina Rossetti is one of the leading poets of the nineteenth century.

In 1848, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and some friends founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of British artists who valued "truth to nature" in painting through attention to minute details, and symbolic imagery.

In 1861 he achieved success with his book of translations The Early Italian Poets. When his young wife died in 1862, in his grief, he had the only complete manuscript of his own poetry buried with her. In 1869, they were retrieved from Highgate Cemetery

His Sonnet sequence, "The House of Life", from Ballads and Sonnets (1881) is considered by some to be his finest poetic achievement.

Sacramental Hymn

On a fair Sabbath day, when His banquet is spread,
It is pleasant to feast with my Lord:
His stewards stand robed at the foot and the head
Of the soul-filling, life-giving board.
All the guests here had burthens; but by the King's grant
We left them behind when we came;
The burthen of wealth and the burthen of want,
And even the burthen of shame.
And oh, when we take them again at the gate,
Though still we must bear them awhile,
Much smaller they'll seem in the lane that grows strait,
And much lighter to lift at the stile.
For that which is in us is life to the heart,
Is dew to the soles of the feet,
Fresh strength to the loins, giving ease from their smart,
Warmth in frost, and a breeze in the heat.
No feast where the belly alone hath its fill,—
He gives me His body and blood;
The blood and the body (I'll think of it still)
Of my Lord, which is Christ, which is God.

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.