Monday, December 27, 2010

Charles Williams

Charles Williams (1886–1945) worked all his adult life for Oxford University Press, and lived in London. He belonged to the famous informal literary group, the Inklings, which included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. His most celebrated poetry, found in the volumes, Taliessin Through Logres and The Region of the Summer Stars, concerns Arthurian Legend.

Besides poetry, Williams wrote plays, theology, biography, criticism and novels, but did not achieve the success of Lewis and Tolkien. Today he is best known for his seven novels, including The Place Of The Lion and All Hallows Eve, which may be called magic realism, or as T.S. Eliot described them, “supernatural thrillers”.

In his poem, “On The Curcuit”, W.H. Auden describes how individual places he visited in the United States were unmemorable unless he experienced a “blessed encounter, full of joy” meeting “here, an addict of Tolkien, / There, a Charles Williams fan.” Auden would have considered himself to be both.

Although comfortable with continual questioning, Charles Williams was all his life dedicated to his Anglican Christian faith.

Christmas

He who knows all things knows not now
Whither He came, or why, or how.

He who sees all things can but see
A dim and clear Maternity:

Whose mortal mouth alone can teach
Omniloquence its human speech.

But, as from those soft wandering hands,
A universal grace expands.

His blood, in motion regular,
Decrees the course of sun and star.

Creation, leaning o'er the Child,
Beholds its image undefiled.

And His fine breath, in sweet recall,
Draws all things to the heart of all.

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

Monday, December 20, 2010

Charles Wesley

Charles Wesley (1707–1788) together with his brother John, were central figures in the Methodist movement, which spread throughout Britain and led to the Great Awakening in America. Charles was the most famous hymn writer of his day, and considered by many to be the greatest of all English hymn writers. Originally the movement was intended to bring revival to the Church of England, but the Methodists were not accepted and forced to begin a separate church. Charles, however, remained in the Church of England throughout his life.

He was such a prolific writer that he composed 6,500 hymns — which would be equivalent to writing more than two hymns a week for fifty years! It is said that Charles Wesley’s writing was deeply influenced by such poets as: Shakespeare, Herbert, Milton, and Dryden. Some of Wesley’s most famous hymns — which are sung widely in various denominations — include: “And Can It Be”, “O, For a Thousand Tongues to Sing”, “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”, Christ the Lord is Risen Today”, the Christmas carol “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing”, and the following Advent hymn:

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

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

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sarah Klassen

Sarah Klassen was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she still makes her home — although she has spent time teaching in both Lithuania and Ukraine. She is the author of six collections of poetry, including A Curious Beatitude (2006) which won the Canadian Authors Association Award for poetry — an award which has honoured many of Canada’s finest poets, including Margaret Avison.

She is best known for her poetry, which speaks, among other things, of her faith, and the Germanic heritage of her Mennonite upbringing. She has also started to publish fiction, including her short-story collection The Peony Season, and her recent novel A Feast of Longing.

The following comes from a piece called Poems for Advent, which begins with an Emily Dickinson quote — “There’s a certain slant of light...” ; since I am just including the first section (which is quite independent of the others), I will simply call it:

Poem for Advent

He comes at last, the long-expected painter
in working clothes, carrying ladders, paint-
splattered dropsheets. He’ll cover everything
and scan each wall for cracks
--------------------caused by the building shifting,
plaster and scrape, making rough places plain.
If he’s inclined he’ll hum
--------------------Lo how a rose ere blooming
while I remove from every room all hindrances:
the vining ivy, ornaments, those matched lamps
that might get in the way of things. Myself.

When everything is ready he’ll begin.

(Posted with permission of the poet)

Read my Canadian Mennonite review of Sarah Klassen's poetry collection A Curious Beatitude here

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

Monday, December 6, 2010

Barbara Colebrook Peace

Barbara Colebrook Peace was born in northern England, but now makes her home in Victoria, BC. She is the author of two poetry collections (both published by Sono Nis Press); her newest book Duet for Wings and Earth was a joint winner (with my own book Poiema) for a national poetry award from The Word Guild in 2009.

Duet for Wings and Earth is a beautiful Christmas collection consisting of poems which were, year-after-year, written for the Christmas concert at St. George the Martyr Church in Cadboro Bay. The poems are written from the points-of-view of various characters from the Christmas story, such as: Mary, Joseph, God, the sheep, the donkey, or — as in the following case — the moon.

Song of the Moon

In my beginning, when I was nought,
you called my name
as if I were already there
-------------------------------------Let there be Moon!

And I was...Moon?

-------------------------Moon.

I have counted the years as I spin around the earth around the sun
as a tree also counts its life in circles, laying down the rings.
And the years have been long enough only to begin
the study of my craft, the art you gave me at birth:
how to bless the earth with moonlight

Now, on this night of your birth,
we meet for the first time face to face, Moon and human,
and I (entering above the half-door of the stable,
praising the hollow of Mary’s arm, the pool of shadows
round the manger, and touching
lightly your head)
now render back to you, as you begin from nought,
and lay down at your feet
your gift to me of moonlight.

(Posted with permission of the poet)

Read my review of Barbara Colebrook Peace's poetry collection
Duet for Wings and Earth here

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