Monday, June 27, 2022

Ben Jonson*

Ben Jonson (1572—1637) is a British playwright and poet who spent time in prison on several occasions, both for his actions and for what he had written. In 1597 he was imprisoned for alleged seditious content in the unfinished satire The Isle of Dogs which Jonson had been hired to complete — and in 1605 for the collaboration Eastward Ho! which included a joke at the king’s expense.

Early on he found popularity with such satirical plays as Every Man in His Humour (1598), and Bartholomew Fair (1614). He later became popular in the court of James I, becoming unofficial Poet Laureate in 1616; for several years after this he focused on writing masques for presentation at court.

His early poetry, like his plays, often create witty portraits exposing human follies and vices. To me, his most-engaging works for today’s readers are his rich devotional poems which express the depth of his personal faith.

Jonson admired, and was admired by, such contemporaries as John Donne, and William Shakespeare; he was also influential on the generation of younger poets that followed, including Robert Herrick, and Richard Lovelace. A large crowd of mourners attended his funeral; his body is buried at Westminster Abbey.

To Heaven

Good and great God, can I not think of thee
But it must straight my melancholy be?
Is it interpreted in me disease
That, laden with my sins, I seek for ease?
Oh be thou witness, that the reins dost know
And hearts of all, if I be sad for show,
And judge me after; if I dare pretend
To ought but grace or aim at other end.
As thou art all, so be thou all to me,
First, midst, and last, converted one, and three;
My faith, my hope, my love; and in this state
My judge, my witness, and my advocate.
Where have I been this while exiled from thee?
And whither rapt, now thou but stoop'st to me?
Dwell, dwell here still. O, being everywhere,
How can I doubt to find thee ever here?
I know my state, both full of shame and scorn,
Conceived in sin, and unto labour borne,
Standing with fear, and must with horror fall,
And destined unto judgment, after all.
I feel my griefs too, and there scarce is ground
Upon my flesh to inflict another wound.
Yet dare I not complain, or wish for death
With holy Paul, lest it be thought the breath
Of discontent; or that these prayers be
For weariness of life, not love of thee.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Ben Jonson: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Johan Nordahl Brun

Johan Nordahl Brun (1745—1816) is a poet, dramatist, and pastor. He was a Norwegian nationalist prior to Norway gaining independence from Denmark. In 1771 he wrote the song “For Norway, Birthplace of Heroes” which was banned by Danish authorities, and was considered Norway’s first unofficial national anthem. He also wrote two successful dramas, but his primary interest was to serve in the church.

As a theologian he opposed the narrow rationalism of the enlightenment. In 1804 he became bishop of Bergen. The portrait accompanying this post hangs in Bergen Cathedral.

In Heaven is Joy and Gladness

In heaven is joy and gladness,
But while I sojourn here,
So often, bowed in sadness,
I shed the bitter tear.
Here ills, always prevailing,
Distress the Saviour’s bride;
Here mirth is lost in wailing;
In heaven but joys abide.

I do not strive for pleasures
That fools pursue on earth,
I sow in tears for treasures
That have more lasting worth.
If, when my journey ends,
The sheaves I gather in,
The bliss the fool pretends
I do not yearn to win.

For I shall see my Jesus,
He is my Hope and Stay;
The cross that me oppresses
He then shall take away.
Then nothing more shall grieve me,
And no adversity
Shall of my joy bereave me;
Soon I shall Jesus see.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Li Hao

Li Hao is a Beijing poet born in 1984. He is the winner of the Yulong Poetry Prize (2008) and the Beijing University Weiming Lake Poetry Prize (2007). Eleanor Goodman wrote in Words Without Borders, “He must toe a line as a younger poet living in Beijing and working for an official literary publication, careful to keep his verse free of material that might be considered proselytizing. Nevertheless, his first [officially] published collection, The Tempest, was banned [in China] and pulled from shelves not long after its publication.”

His poetry, besides having been translated into English, has been translated in Polish and various Asian languages. He is the author of two collections Returning Home, and The Tempest, as well as a mixed collection of poetry and essays, You and I. He also self-published an earlier poetry book in 2007, The Ladder of Deconstruction.

The following poem, translated by Eleanor Goodman, first appeared in Unfamiliar Riverbank: Contemporary Chinese Verse. It was described as “A poem about suffering and the Divine”.

I Want to Walk Toward the Altar of the Lord

The clamor of the dead on the wall
spin in the lobes of my lungs

the vault of heaven’s many
gears: corpulent

Leviathan of my soul,
covered in knifepoints, making the heavens

rain down iron nails. Eternal light
strikes upon the earth’s altars.

Lord, I am foolish,
I am suffering, and my body,

like a spoon, here on this earth, sweetly scoops out
my brain.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Emily Dickinson*

Emily Dickinson (1830—1886) is one of America’s best-loved poets. She was never one for simple explanations, but always a questioner — observing nature and working out her understanding of scripture in the light of all she saw and heard.

She made little effort to have her poems published, or even to be read beyond those she corresponded with. Her idiosyncratic rhythms, half-rhymes, punctuation, and capitalization — as well as how tightly her poems are edited down to their barest essence — often make them difficult for readers to quickly inhabit. Perhaps it is their uniqueness, though, that has enabled her work to reach beyond the more conventional verse of her day.

She also seems to have had no concern for how others may have viewed her — including as to whether she was a Christian or not. Although often outspoken in her questionings, she was never afraid to be seen as taking them directly to the one she calls “Our Lord.”

Savior! I’ve no one else to tell

Savior! I’ve no one else to tell —
And so I trouble thee.
I am the one forgot thee so —
Dost thou remember me?
Nor, for myself, I came so far —
That were the little load —
I brought thee the imperial Heart
I had not strength to hold —
The Heart I carried in my own —
Till mine too heavy grew —
Yet — strangest — heavier since it went —
Is it too large for you?

The Test of Love — is Death

The Test of Love — is Death —
Our Lord — "so loved" — it saith —
What Largest Lover — hath
Another — doth —

If smaller Patience — be —
Through less Infinity —
If Bravo, sometimes swerve —
Through fainter Nerve —

Accept it's Most —
And overlook — the Dust —
Last — Least —
The Cross' — Request —

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Emily Dickinson: first post, second post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Eugene Warren

Eugene Warren (1941―2015) is a poet, and former chair of English and Technical Communication at Missouri S&T, where he taught for 42 years. He served as Poetry Editor for Christianity and Literature, and authored seven poetry collections, including: Christographia, Geometries of Light, and Fishing at Easter. His fascination with World Literature manifest itself in his teaching, in his promotion of many non-western poetic forms ― particularly the ghazal ― and in his own poetry.

Eugene Warren is the name he was known by until 1988 ― Warren being his adoptive father’s family name. After this he took on his birth father’s surname and became known as Gene Doty. To delightfully confuse matters further he used the pseudonym, “gino peregrini” for some of his publishing and editing activities.

Victoria Emily Jones, who blogs frequently and informatively at Art & Theology, reports that Eugene Warren’s Christographia is ― “a chapbook of thirty-two numbered poems that ‘attempt to express personal views of, & perspectives on, Christ.’ The book’s title comes from a series of sermons by the Puritan poet and preacher Edward Taylor.” The above link brings you to a poem, which Jones featured, from Christographia.

Christographia XXIV

now I come back
now I press on
now I descend
now I rise
-------------remaining
--------at the center
----------of the lovely abyss
hearing the pocket watch
tick itself mad

now I am silent
now I shout
now I sleep
now I wake
-------------spelling
--------a sentence
----------longer than time
forming words
----------that vanish into ink

the diagrams we invent
or discover,
at the mind’s edge
or core
-----------that what is inner
-----------is the form of what is outer,
-----------dream & world keys
-----------to the same lock

the charts
of word, color, number
tone
that graph precisely
the contours of mind
which are the shapes
of life
-----------its tensions, desires
-----------its silence & absence

-----------as when the stars turn
-----------at once
--------------on two axes

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Sydney Lea*

Sydney Lea served as Poet Laureate of Vermont from 2011 to 2015, and won the 2021 Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts from the Vermont Arts Council. His poetry collections include: To the Bone which was co-winner of the Poets' Prize in 1998, and Six Sundays Toward a Seventh (2012) the inaugural collection in the Poiema Poetry Series.

Poet Jane Hirshfield said of his thirteenth poetry collection ― Here (2019, Four Ways Books) ― “Sydney Lea has always been a poet equally eloquent and wide-eyed before reality. This self-aware book of experience, stock-taking, and memory finds him just now, just here, a person still hopeful in the face of it all, a poet at the height of his powers.”

The following poem first appeared in AGNI and is from the collection No Doubt the Nameless (2016, Four Ways Books).

Milton’s Satan

Diabolical heat for this time of year.
There’s the whir and hiss of my fan.
A digital clock blinks on its table.
Self-will is pulsing:
I ache to fly off and find the last of our children,
gone too far away to college.
The nest is empty. It’s burned. The ceiling

of her room still shows her poster for Some Like It Hot.
It’s shriveling after long years
when Monroe looked down on a herd of plush deer
and other mild creatures
now ragged with age. I imagine imagination
might cool my soul: I wrestle to mind
a gentle meadow dotted with flowers,

the checkered shade of a hardwood stand in fall,
a small brook’s ice-jeweled pools,
and last, an unmarred quilt of snow
on our cellar bulkhead.
Such willful visions won’t hold. The meadow is scorched
and tunneled by rodents, parasites thrive
in the trees, mosquitoes will hatch from the streambed.

The snow looks pure. Mercury laces its flakes.
Her absence is bodily ache.
It throbs. It scalds. There are reasons to think of Satan,
his imperious will,
its ruinous conflagrations. Which way I fly,
the poet’s devil claims, is hell.
Satan says, Myself am hell.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Sydney Lea: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Marjorie Stelmach*

Marjorie Stelmach is the former director of the Howard Nemerov Writing Scholars Program at Washington University in St. Louis. Her seventh collection The Angel of Absolute Zero has just appeared from Cascade Books’ Poiema Poetry Series. This is the second of her books from that series, which is edited by (yours truly) D.S. Martin. Another recent book, Walking the Mist appeared from the Ashland Poetry Press.

Poet Jane O. Wayne says of Stelmach’s new book: “In The Angel of Absolute Zero, Marjorie Stelmach leads us into a quiet realm arising out of both personal experience and reading. Whether she ponders a loon’s call or the secret origins of the cobalt blue in Chartres Cathedral’s windows, her discoveries and wise observations enrich the poems. Every image apt, every word in place, Stelmach’s beautiful book gives us the pure pleasure of her music and insights.”

Every one of these poems has previously found a home in such literary journals as, Beloit Poetry Review, The Cresset, Hudson Review, and Prairie Schooner.

The following poem first appeared in Terrene and is also from The Angel of Absolute Zero.

The Psalm of the Luna Moth

-----After a Luna moth egg hatches, the caterpillar moves
-----through five instars, eating constantly, then weaves
-----a cocoon from which it emerges mouthless. As an adult,
-----it flies only at night, and lives only long enough to mate―
-----a few days at most.


Those innumerable feet
seemed so useful
in my youth,

but looking back, I see
it was a life spent crawling,
chewing.

Then, you called me.

-----Here am I.

You freed me, first, from hunger
and the sorrow of my plodding,
and now,

in fields of luminous dusk,
beneath a silken beckoning
of stars,

you have given me wings

and coupled my heart
to the moon.

Lord of Light, I have felt
my wings beset
by the forces

of your suddenness,
your swerves and lifts, your
sheer drops.

And now,
having come into the fullness
of my longing, once again

I hear your voice.

-----Here am I.

Eagerly, I spread my wings
and all my previous lives
before you

to ask what you,
in the sweep of your reckless love,
will make of me next.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Marjorie Stelmach: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.