Monday, March 26, 2012

Robert Herrick

Robert Herrick (1591―1674) is the author of Hesperides (1648), a collection of more than 1200 short poems ranging in theme from English country life, to love, to Christian faith. He never married, and it is believed that many of the women mentioned in his poems were fictitious. He was part of the group known as the “Sons of Ben” who greatly admired the work of Ben Jonson. Herrick almost seems to be two poets – one secular and one sacred. The tension between these two sides can be seen in “His Prayer For Absolution” (below).

In 1621 Herrick became vicar of Dean Prior in Devonshire. He maintained this post for a total of 31 years, although he was temporarily removed from this position because of his royalist leanings during the Civil War; he regained his place after Charles II was restored to the throne.

To The Virgins, To Make Much Of Time

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
----Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
----Tomorrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
----The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
----And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
----When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
----Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
----And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
----You may forever tarry.

His Prayer For Absolution

For those my unbaptized rhymes,
Writ in my wild unhallowed times,
For every sentence, clause, and word,
That's not inlaid with thee, my Lord,
Forgive me, God, and blot each line
Out of my book, that is not Thine.
But if, 'mongst all, thou find'st here one
Worthy thy benediction,
That one of all the rest shall be
The glory of my work, and me.

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, March 19, 2012

Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver is one of the most popular of all contemporary American poets. She is known and loved for her accessible style, her positive outlook, and her portrayals of nature. When she was 17, she made a pilgrimage to visit the home of the deceased poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay. She became friends with the poet's sister, Norma, and virtually lived on the 800 acre property with her for the next six years. She published her first collection of poetry when she was 28, but didn't receive much attention until her fifth collection, American Primitive (1983), won the Pulitzer Prize.

She disliked public attention — rarely granting interviews or making appearances. Even so, her poetry continued to gain notice, such as when her 1992 collection won the National Book Award. Her troubled childhood probably contributed to this desire for isolation. In a recent rare interview she expressed that she was sexually abused as a child, and feels damaged as a result. She also said in the same interview, “I try to praise. If I have any lasting worth, it will be because I have tried to make people remember what the earth is meant to look like.”

Although she is reluctant to identify herself too closely with organized religion, the faith she has expressed in such recent books as Thirst (2006), Red Bird (2008) and Evidence (2009), reveals a spirituality grounded not only in the natural world, but also in Christ. The Booklist review of Thirst says, “Spirituality has always been an element in Oliver's work, but as she writes of her grief after losing her longtime companion [Molly Malone Cook], her poems gradually become overtly Christian.” This is evident in such poems as “Coming to God: First Days”, “The Vast Ocean Begins Just Outside Our Church: The Eucharist” and “Six Recognitions of the Lord”. All from that book.

Praying

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Spring

Faith
is the instructor.
We need no other.

Guess what I am,
he says in his
incomparably lovely

young-man voice.
Because I love the world
I think of grass,

I think of leaves
and the bold sun,
I think of the rushes

in the black marshes
just coming back
from under the pure white

and now finally melting
stubs of snow.
Whatever we know or don’t know

leads us to say;
Teacher, what do you mean?
But faith is still there, and silent.

Then he who owns
the incomparable voice
suddenly flows upward

and out of the room
and I follow,
obedient and happy.

Of course I am thinking
the Lord was once young
and will never in fact be old.

And who else could this be, who goes off
down the green path,
carrying his sandals, and singing?

Read my Ruminate review of Mary Oliver's poetry collection
Red Bird here, and my review for The Cresset of her boook Evidence, 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, March 12, 2012

Columba of Iona

Columba of Iona (521—597) was a Celtic monk from Ireland who founded a number of monasteries including one on the Scottish island of Iona. He is credited with leading the Picts of northern Scotland to Christ, and establishing a missionary school which further contributed to the spread of the gospel. Columba — the name he’s best known by — means dove; the Irish called him Columcille, which means dove of the church.

In 540, his master Finnian brought the first copy of Jerome’s Vulgate to Ireland. The young Columba surreptitiously in the night made a copy of the Psalter for himself. The Irish king, Diarmaid, made the following copyright ruling: "To every cow her calf, and to every book its son-book. Therefore the copy you made, O Colum Cille, belongs to Finnian."

Details of his life come to us from Adomnan — who was Abbott of Iona, and wrote almost a century after Columba’s death — and later from Bede. Their writings were based on the oral traditions of the monastery, and earlier writings which have not survived.

Columcille's Poem

Delightful to me to be on an island hill, on the crest of a rock,
that I might often watch the quiet sea;

That I might watch the heavy waves above the bright water,
as they chant music to their Father everlastingly.

That I might watch its smooth, bright-bordered shore, no gloomy
--------pastime,
that I might hear the cry of the strange birds, a pleasing sound;

That I might hear the murmur of the long waves against the rocks,
that I might hear the sound of the sea, like mourning beside a
--------grave;

That I might watch the splendid flocks of birds over the
--------well-watered sea,
that I might see its mighty whales, the greatest wonder.

That I might watch its ebb and flood in their course,
that my name should be — it is a secret that I tell — "he who
--------turned his back upon Ireland;"

That I might have a contrite heart as I watch,
that I might repent my many sins, hard to tell;

That I might bless the Lord who rules all things,
heaven with its splendid host, earth, ebb, and flood...

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, March 5, 2012

C.H. Sisson

C.H. Sisson (1914—2003) is a poet and translator, who also wrote novels and essays. He was not well-known until he reached his sixties. He disliked much of the popular poetry of his day, considering its attitudes towards the poor to be sentimental and inaccurate.

Although raised a Methodist, he became dedicated to his adopted Anglicanism. He early became passionate about the writings of 17th century Anglicans, including the poets John Donne, George Herbert and Henry Vaughan. He worked in the British civil service, including in the Ministry of Labour; he was outspoken in favour of traditional structures in both political and ecclesiastical government. He was a close friend with the poet, critic and anthologist Donald Davie.

In 1993 he received a Companion of Honour for his achievement as a poet.

The Media

1
The world is fabricated by
A gang of entertainers who
Have replaced God Almighty.

The universe, made in six days,
Is re-made every day by those
Who hear all that the newsman says,
For whom fact is replaced by gloze.

2
The air is full of noise,
The screen of caper:
Reality enjoys
No inch of paper.

The most expensive lies
Flourish in every home:
Great gulps of froth and foam
Win the first prize.

Go to the quiet wood
To hear the beating heart:
Leaf fall and breaking bud
Will play their part.

And so the truth is out
Which only quiet tells,
And as it does, its voice
Sounds like a peal of bells.

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