Monday, September 27, 2010

Madeleine L’Engle

Madeleine L’Engle (1918–2007) is best known for her novels for teens — particularly for A Wrinkle in Time and it’s sequels. Although these books may most logically be classified as science-fiction, they really have more in common with fantasy novels; they seem less concerned with the technical side (although they certainly cover that) than with the human and spiritual story. In 1963 A Wrinkle in Time won the prestigious Newbery Award. Her novel A Ring of Endless Light (the title comes from a Henry Vaughan poem) was selected as a Newbery Honor Book for 1980. My favourite L’Engle fiction is the Wrinkle sequel Many Waters (1986), which takes twentieth century twins back to the time of the flood. The depth of these books is not limited by the youth of her protagonists.

In Walking on Water, her book of reflections on faith and art, she put the role of all writers and artists in perspective when she writes: “the artist is truly the servant of the work”.

In her poetry Madeleine L’Engle primarily uses traditional rhyming and rhythmic structures. She often writes on spiritual themes — sometimes taking on the persona of a biblical character — and about her relationship with her husband, Hugh Franklin who died in 1986.

She co-authored three books with her good friend, the poet Luci Shaw; their Advent and Christmas poetry and reflections were gathered in the 1996 book Wintersong, which I return to every year. Her new and collected poems — The Ordering of Love — was published in 2005. The following poem reflects her interest in both science and faith.

Sonnet, Trinity 18

Peace is the center of the Atom, the core
Of quiet within the storm. It is not
A cessation, a nothingness; more
The lightning in reverse is what
Reveals the light. It is the law that binds
The atom’s structure, ordering the dance
Of proton and electron, and that finds
Within the midst of flame and wind, the glance
In the still eye of the vast hurricane.
Peace is not placidity; peace is
The power to endure the megatron of pain
With joy, the silent thunder of release,
The ordering of Love. Peace is the atom’s start,
The primal image: God within the heart.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca