Monday, December 30, 2013

G.K. Chesterton*

G.K. Chesterton (1874—1936) is a prolific British writer who was very influential in many spheres. His output included fiction, biographies, poetry, drama, journalism, theology, and literary and art criticism. His essay collection What's Wrong with the World (1910) was very influential on Marshall McLuhan, and Chesterton's The Everlasting Man (1925), contributed to the conversion to Christianity of C.S. Lewis. G.K. Chesterton's first poetry collection, Greybeards At Play appeared in 1900.

In 1893 he went through a crisis of skepticism and began experimenting with the occult. He later renewed his Christian faith and married Frances Blogg, who was a stabilizing spiritual influence upon him. Another significant spiritual influence was his friend Hilaire Belloc.

He and George Bernard Shaw often engaged in rollicking debates, disagreeing at every turn, and yet in the end they express deep respect for one another, and were good friends. According to his autobiography, Chesterton and Shaw played cowboys in a silent film which was never released.

A Christmas Carol

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s breast
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world’s desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary’s knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about G.K. Chesterton: first post

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new 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, December 23, 2013

Ben Jonson

Ben Jonson (1572—1637) is less well known today than his contemporary, William Shakespeare, although in his own time Jonson was the more popular playwright. Shakespeare was one of the actors in the first production of Jonson's play Every Man in His Humour (1598).

That was also the year Jonson was imprisoned for killing a fellow actor in a duel. He claimed "benefit of clergy", a loophole which provided a lesser charge if he recited Psalm 51 and forfeited his possessions. While in prison Jonson converted to Catholicism. He remained a Catholic for twelve years before returning to the Church of England after King Henri IV of France, who was tolerant of Protestants, was assassinated by forces loyal to the Pope.

In the 1620s a group of younger poets, including Robert Herrick and Sir John Suckling, referred to themselves as "Sons of Ben" or the "Tribe of Ben" in honour of Ben Jonson.

A Hymn on the Nativity of My Saviour

I sing the birth was born tonight,
The Author both of life and light;
The angels so did sound it,
And like the ravished shepherds said,
Who saw the light, and were afraid,
Yet searched, and true they found it.

The Son of God, the eternal King,
That did us all salvation bring,
And freed the soul from danger;
He whom the whole world could not take,
The Word, which heaven and earth did make,
Was now laid in a manger.

The Father's wisdom willed it so,
The Son's obedience knew no "No,"
Both wills were in one stature;
And as that wisdom had decreed,
The Word was now made Flesh indeed,
And took on Him our nature.

What comfort by Him do we win?
Who made Himself the Prince of sin,
To make us heirs of glory?
To see this Babe, all innocence,
A Martyr born in our defense,
Can man forget this story?

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new 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, December 16, 2013

Donald Hall*

Donald Hall served in 2006-2007 as the Poet Laureate of the United States — a post recently held by such poets as Billy Collins, W.S. Merwin and Philip Levine. At a young age Hall decided that he would become a poet. He also decided to be an atheist, but he and his wife of twenty three years, the poet Jane Kenyon, experienced the life of faith through the community in New Hampshire where they settled.

After Jane's death from leukemia, Hall expressed his loss through his poetry book, Without (1998), as he continues to often do, right down to in his most recent collection The Back Chamber (2011). In a 2005 article "The Third Thing" in Poetry Magazine he speaks insightfully of their life together, and briefly of the significance of the South Danby Christian Church in their lives. Although his perspectives may not always seem consistent with a life of discipleship, Donald Hall's poems arise from deep reflection and honesty.

This first poem comes from his newest collection, The Back Chamber. The second one is from his earlier collection, Old and New Poems.

Advent

When I see the cradle rocking
What is it I see?
I see a rood on the hilltop
--------Of Calvary.

When I hear the cattle lowing
What is it that they say?
They say that shadows feasted
--------At Tenebrae.

When I know that the grave is empty,
Absence eviscerates me,
And I dwell in a cavernous, constant
--------Horror vacui.

A Grace

God, I know nothing, my sense is all nonsense,
And fear of You begins intelligence:
Does it end there? For sexual love, for food,
For books and birch trees I claim gratitude,
But when I grieve over the unripe dead
My grief festers, corrupted into dread,
And I know nothing. Give us our daily bread.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Donald Hall: first post

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new 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, December 9, 2013

Eric Pankey

Eric Pankey’s first book of poems For The New Year (Atheneum) was selected by Mark Strand to receive the 1984 Walt Whitman Award. Since then he has authored eight more poetry collections, the most-recent of which is Trace (Milkweed Editions). Formerly he was on the faculty of Washington University in St. Louis, and is now professor of English at George Mason University in Washington.

In the poem "Prayer" from his new collection, he compares faith to a "hardwood forest which burns and grows again". In a recent interview, available on the Milkweed website, Pankey said, "I always imagined that one day my faith would be solid and certain, a kind of bedrock upon which one might build a sturdy foundation. But an 'ebb and flow' has been my experience of faith...One does not believe or have faith, but one is on a faith journey...I find myself free to be full of questions, full of doubt. The doubt, I hope, is part of the way toward faith."

The following poem is from his book Apocrypha. (Knopf, 1991)

On Christmas
The Reason


To clarify and allow
For abundance, for revery.

To be permitted clemency,
A first, if not a second chance,

A taste, a glimpse, the sleight-of-hand
Of miracles and the obvious.

To see sky, gray and pearl, the jay
Blue in the copper beech, milkweed

Seed stalled in the haze, the wooden
Stairs cracked and sagging, and below

A zinc pail tipped over and spilling
A round pool that reflects the sky.

To take what is closest at hand
And set a story in motion.

Not to make something from nothing,
But, as at Cana, to be moved,

Even unwillingly, by need.

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new 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, December 2, 2013

Ephrem of Edessa

Ephrem of Edessa (circa 306—373) is a poet and church teacher who lived in the Syrian city of Edessa, which is close to Damascus. In 325 Ephrem accompanied Bishop James of Nisibis to the council of Nicea, in present-day Turkey. This was when the Nicene Creed was adopted by the first ecumenical council, which declares acceptance of the common doctrine of Christ's divinity.

Ephrem often wrote in support of Nicene doctrine, and in opposition to Gnosticism and other heresies. He is credited as the founder of the School of Nisibis, which became a centre of learning in the Syriac Orthodox Church. He is known as "the Harp of the Holy Spirit" because of his use of music for teaching doctrine.

(The following was translated by John Howard Rhys, and adapted for the Episcopal hymnbook by F. Bland Tucker.)

From God Christ's Deity Came Forth

From God Christ's deity came forth,
his manhood from humanity;
his priesthood from Melchizedek,
his royalty from David's tree:
praised be his Oneness.

He joined with guests at wedding feast,
yet in the wilderness did fast;
he taught within the temple's gates;
his people saw him die at last:
praised be his teaching.

The dissolute he did not scorn,
nor turn from those who were in sin;
he for the righteous did rejoice
but bade the fallen to come in:
praised be his mercy.

He did not disregard the sick;
to simple ones his word was given;
and he descended to the earth
and, his work done, went up to heaven:
praised be his coming.

Who then, my Lord, compares to you?
The Watcher slept, the Great was small,
the Pure baptized, the Life who died,
the King abased to honor all:
praised be your glory.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new 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, November 25, 2013

Ruth Pitter

Ruth Pitter (1897—1992) is a British poet, who published a total of eighteen poetry collections. For her book, First Poems (1920), she received help and encouragement from Hilaire Belloc. A Trophy of Arms earned her the 1937 Hawthornden Prize, and in 1955 she received the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry. After WWII she was a frequent guest on BBC Radio, and in the late fifties was a regular on the early television talk show The Brains Trust.

In a letter, she once wrote:
------"As to my faith, I owe it to C. S. Lewis. For much of my
------life I lived more or less as a Bohemian, but when the
------second war broke out, Lewis broadcast several times,
------and also published some little books (notably The
------Screwtape Letters
), and I was fairly hooked. I came to
------know him personally, and he came here several times.
------Lewis's stories, so very entertaining but always about
------the war between good and evil, became a permanent part
------of my mental and spiritual equipment."
She and C.S. Lewis became close friends, and he became a great admirer of her poetry.

O Come Out of the Lily

O come out of the lily to me,
Come out of the morning-glory's bell,
Out of the rose and the peony,
You that made them, made so well
Leaf and flower and the spiral shell,
And the weed that waves in coves of the sea.

O look out of the ermine's eye,
And look down with the eye of the bird,
And ride the air with the butterfly
Whose wings are written with many a word,
Read and beloved but never heard,
The secret message, the silent cry.

O leap out of another's mind,
Come from the toils of the terrible brain:
Sleep no longer, nor lurk behind
Hate and anger and woeful pain:
As once in the garden, walk again,
Centre and spirit of human kind.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new 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, November 18, 2013

C.S. Lewis*

C.S. Lewis (1898—1963) is one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century. Because of the way his mind worked, forming analogies to explain the complex ideas he was presenting, his fiction often had much more going on than what was merely on the surface. He is well-known for such creations as The Screwtape Letters (1942) written from the point-of-view of a senior demon dispensing advice to an underling on how to undermine the spiritual progress of a human subject — or The Great Divorce (1946) which tells of an imagined bus tour of heaven for those who dwell in hell.

I have chosen to mark the fiftieth anniversary of his death by releasing my poetry collection Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis (Cascade Books), which further interacts with Lewis's fascinating way of looking at things.

He will also be honoured at Westminster Abbey on November 22nd — the anniversary of his death — when a memorial stone will be ceremoniously unveiled in Poets' Corner. Other poets honoured in the South Transept include Geoffrey Chaucer, William Blake, W.H. Auden, and former Lewis student John Betjeman.

Prayer

Master they say that when I seem
To be in speech with you,
Since you make no replies, it’s all a dream
— One talker aping two.

They are half right, but not as they
Imagine; rather, I
Seek in myself the things I meant to say,
And lo! The well’s are dry.

Then, seeing me empty, you forsake
The Listener’s role, and through
My dead lips breathe and into utterance wake
The thoughts I never knew.

And thus you neither need reply
Nor can; thus while we seem
Two talking, thou art One forever, and I
No dreamer, but thy dream.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about C.S. Lewis: first post

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new 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, November 11, 2013

Jeremy Clarke

Jeremy Clarke is a contemporary British poet whose words "and I am here in a place beyond desire or fear", from the poem "Praise", can be read just outside the entrance to St. Pancras Old Church, carved in stone by the sculptor Emily Young; many of his poems can also be found framed inside. He was described by the Daily Telegraph as "the pious poet of St Pancras". He told the Church Times, however, "I have a rather simplistic way of walking through the world as a Christian. I rarely attend formal church services. I will go into a church when it is empty..."

His poems often seek to capture a place and the people in it, rather than reflect upon spiritual practice, even though the titles of some of his work — such as the pamphlet Common Prayer — would seem to suggest otherwise. He lives in London and usually writes of urban scenes, however his poetry collection, Devon Hymns (2010), was inspired by a sojourn in farm country.

In the aforementioned interview he said, "If we walked through the world...paying...close attention, it would change everything, make us more worshipful, appreciative, more acknowledging of each other, and of God."

He is now Poet in Residence at Eton College. The following poem is from Devon Hymns.

Evening

The sun rides the downhill sky
and the day's routines rewind.
Cows return to fields from milking
and machine noise begins to die.

The day working its way back
to a half-light and a birdsong chorus—
the prologue and epilogue to every day.

The songburst will thin out
back to a single voice,
then all will be quiet and still
except the non-stop stream,
a pilot light of sound.

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new 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, November 4, 2013

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918—2008) is a Russian writer, most famous for such novels as Cancer Ward (1968) and August 1914 (1971). He is also a poet and an historian. He spoke out boldly against the USSR's totalitarian government. In 1945 he was arrested and given an eight-year sentence in a detention camp for writing "anti-Soviet propaganda". During his imprisonment he abandoned belief in Marxism, and began gradually turning towards Christian faith.

In 1970 he received the Nobel Prize for Literature. He was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1974, and deprived of his citizenship. In 1975 he and his family moved to Vermont, where he spoke more boldly about the importance of Christianity in his world view. He was able to return to Russia in 1992, after the Soviet Union dissolved.

The following poem was written in 1972, which was about the time he began to be very serious about faith in Christ.

How easy it is to live with You, O Lord.

How easy it is to live with You, O Lord.
How easy to believe in You.
When my spirit is overwhelmed within me,
When even the keenest see no further than the night,
And know not what to do tomorrow,
You bestow on me the certitude
That You exist and are mindful of me,
That all the paths of righteousness are not barred.
As I ascend in to the hill of earthly glory,
I turn back and gaze, astonished, on the road
That led me here beyond despair,
Where I too may reflect Your radiance upon mankind.
All that I may reflect, You shall accord me,
And appoint others where I shall fail.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new 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, October 28, 2013

Luci Shaw*

Luci Shaw is the author of ten previous books of poetry. She was selected to be the 2013 recipient of the Denise Levertov Award; the award is given annually "to an artist or creative writer whose work exemplifies a serious and sustained engagement with the Judeo-Christian tradition." Luci Shaw's poetry so obviously does this. Since 1988 she has been the Writer in Residence at Regent College in Vancouver. She has also been poetry editor for both Crux (a Regent journal) and Radix (of Berkeley, California) for many years.

Robert Cording has said in praise of her new collection, Scape: "As Luci Shaw knows, in the 'many dimensions' of the world we move through, the radiance we receive as a gift is balanced against the cost of mortality and loss. Her poems have a Buddhist acceptance of the conditions of life and a Christian faith in the 'dislodgings,' 'realignments' and 'reintegrations' that are part of the self’s being made perpetually new, even as we age..."

This post is to celebrate the publication of her newest volume of poetry, Scape. I am pleased to say that it is one of the latest books in the Poiema Poetry Series from Cascade Books, of which I am the editor. It was a pleasure to work with Luci on this collection. The following poem is from Scape.

Sparrow

This undistinguished, indistinguishable bird--
this prototype of insignificance—
this very moment’s sparrow at
our porch feeder—makes of her compactness
a virtue. From between the wires
she pecks the black sunflower seeds, neat head bobbing,
purposeful, economical, precise.
Watchful—peck and peek, peck and check.

I have seen scarlet tanagers, purple finches,
grosbeaks, red-footed gulls, even the arrogant
displays of peacocks. In her anonymity,
this diminutive bird is who she is, her suit
brown-grey as damp dust, eyes bright as beads.
This simple-ness, this pure unselfconsciousness,
this understated…this….Oh, the adjectives multiply,
but they are too large for this small one,
who humbles my own mud-brown heart.

She poises her nimble self to flick away, quick
as scissors—at a cat, a squirrel,
my movement at the glass door.

I tilt my head for a better angle, and she’s gone,
to the safety of the cedars.

Sometimes in my timidity I overcompensate
and try to sound large until I know
such falsehood betrays him who humbled himself,
who values a sparrow.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Luci Shaw: first post; second post

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new 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, October 21, 2013

A.J.M. Smith

A.J.M. Smith (1902—1980) is a Canadian poet whose first collection News of the Phoenix (1943) won the Governor General's Award for poetry. For more than 35 years he taught at what is now Michigan State University, and spent his summers in Quebec's Eastern Townships.

When he was still a grad student, in Montreal in 1925, together with F.R. Scott he founded and edited the McGill Fortnightly Review — the first Canadian periodical to publish modernist poetry. His PhD thesis was on "the Metaphysical Poets of the Anglican Church in the 17th Century". In 1936, along with Scott, and Leo Kennedy, he edited the anthology New Provinces — which was also significant in the promotion of modernist poetry in Canada.

Beside One Dead

This is the sheath,
---the sword drawn,
These are the lips,
---the word spoken.
This is Calvary
---toward dawn;
And this is the
---third-day token —
The opened tomb
---and the Lord gone:
Something whole
---that was broken.

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, October 14, 2013

Paul Willis*

Paul Willis is a writer of fiction, essays and poetry, who has just had his third poetry collection, Say This Prayer Into The Past (Cascade Books), appear. He has taught as a professor of English at Westmount College, in Santa Barbara, California since 1988. He has also recently completed his two-year term as Santa Barbara's Poet Laureate.

His poems and essays have been selected for such influential anthologies as: The Best American Poetry 1996 (Scribner's), The Best Spiritual Writing 1999 (Harper, San Francisco), The Best American Spiritual Writing 2004 (Houghton Mifflin), and The Best Christian Writing 2006 (Jossey Bass). It is my pleasure to have worked with Paul as the editor for his new collection, Say This Prayer Into The Past, which is part of the Poiema Poetry Series.

He and his family lost their home, including his library, in November 2008 to the Montecito Tea Fire that swept through Montecito and Santa Barbara — destroying 210 homes. I suspect the following poem, which appears in his new book, was written with that experience in mind.

Burn Victims

The oak trees by the creek are sweating blood.
There where the fire passed through, pressed by the wind,
their barks are blackened, and oozing through the singe,
red beads of sap drip sorrowingly down
to ashes. If we knew Gethsemane
were not a garden anymore and wept
itself, the knotty foreheads of each burl
contracted in one brow of woe, our prayer
would not be for life’s cup but merely that
our hearts might burn within us. Seared and scarred,
we’d bleed in hope of olives buried deep
among the roots, where what remains may rise.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Paul Willis: first post third post

Posted with permission of the poet.

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, October 7, 2013

Hilaire Belloc

Hilaire Belloc (1870—1953) is a writer of light verse who, although he was born in France and served briefly in the French military, spent his life in Britain. His family moved to England when he was just two years old, he attended Balliol College in Oxford, and by 1906 was elected to the British House of Commons.

He was a prolific writer of fiction, history, biography, and religion, but is best known today for his poetry. Although he wrote humorous rhymes, there was often a seriousness to be found within, such as in the following brief poem.

A Trinity

Of three in One and One in three
My narrow mind would doubting be
Till Beauty, Grace and Kindness met
And all at once were Juliet.

Belloc is author of two books of poetry, Verses and Sonnets, and A Bad Child's Book of Beasts, both published in 1896 — the latter of which satirized moralistic poetry for children. He was a very devout Catholic and influenced his good friend G.K. Chesterton to convert.

Courtesy

Of Courtesy, it is much less
Than Courage of Heart or Holiness,
Yet in my Walks it seems to me
That the Grace of God is in Courtesy.

On Monks I did in Storrington fall,
They took me straight into their Hall;
I saw Three Pictures on a wall,
And Courtesy was in them all.

The first the Annunciation;
The second the Visitation;
The third the Consolation,
Of God that was Our Lady's Son.

The first was of St. Gabriel;
On Wings a-flame from Heaven he fell;
And as he went upon one knee
He shone with Heavenly Courtesy.

Our Lady out of Nazareth rode —
It was Her month of heavy load;
Yet was her face both great and kind,
For Courtesy was in Her Mind.

The third it was our Little Lord,
Whom all the Kings in arms adored;
He was so small you could not see
His large intent of Courtesy.

Our Lord, that was Our Lady's Son,
Go bless you, People, one by one;
My Rhyme is written, my work is done.

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, September 30, 2013

Susanna Childress

Susanna Childress lives in Michigan, where she is on the faculty of Hope College. She is the author of two books: Jagged With Love (Wisconsin) which won the Britttingham Prize, and Entering the House of Awe (New Issues Press) which won the prize in poetry from the Society of Midland Authors.

Billy Collins praised her first book by saying, "Susanna Childress writes at the cutting edge of the long tradition of love poetry. Her poems often involve tense negotiations between a sharp cultural intelligence and a body that craves fulfillment..." Her poems dwell, often without rational connections, in the spaces where emotion is what really makes sense. They deal with yearning, pain, anxiety and joy, in a way that doesn't try to explain what can only be experienced."

Over the past seven years, Susanna's husband, Joshua Banner, has been setting some of her poems to music. The result is The Necessary Dark. The CD will be released in November, 2013, although videos can now be seen on her web site.

The following poem is from Entering the House of Awe.

From The Hyssop Tub------VI

Mary---Mary Countess---of Pembroke sister of the Queen's fallen
---------one---you
proffered this translation---this paraphrase---lines that perhaps
as you had---Laura---speak through---------Petrarch------you give this
---------woman
something---of her own------(the male Black-Throated Green Warbler
has been known to sing---466 songs---in one hour---to call a mate) for
it is not---let the bones you have crushed---rejoice but---that bruised
---------bones---may
dance away---their sadness
---It is after all---to lepers God has been
assigned------------their purging---part cedar wood---part crimson
---------yarn---pair
of doves---------------hyssop------------Rabbinic commentary offers You
---------were proud
like the cedar and the Holy One---Blessed be He---humbled you
like---------this hyssop that---is crushed---by everyone
------At the
---------crucifixion
I lifted------------a sponge of vinegared wine on a branch of
---------hyssop---------So
who's up for being ground---like mint or white sage------What's---the
---------chance
you take---------to give------------only and not---only------then---we
---------dance

Posted with permission of the poet.

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, September 23, 2013

R.S. Thomas*

R.S. Thomas (1913—2000) was born in Cardiff in Wales and studied classics, and then theology. For most of his life he served in rural parishes as an Anglican priest. His first book, The Stones of the Field, appeared in 1946. John Betjeman wrote a glowing introduction for his fourth collection, Song at the Year's Turning; it was brought out by a major publisher in 1955, and initiated the growth in Thomas's reputation. In 1964 he won the Queen's Gold Medal for poetry.

According to Colin Meir (British Poetry since 1970: A Critical Survey), R.S. Thomas believes that "one of the important functions of poetry is to embody religious truth, and since for him as poet that truth is not easily won, his poems record the struggle with marked honesty and integrity, thereby providing the context for the necessarily infrequent moments of faith and vision which are expressed with a clarity and gravity rarely matched by any of his contemporaries."

The Chapel

A little aside from the main road,
becalmed in a last-century greyness,
there is the chapel, ugly, without the appeal
to the tourist to stop his car
and visit it. The traffic goes by,
and the river goes by, and quick shadows
of clouds, too, and the chapel settles
a little deeper into the grass.

But here once on an evening like this,
in the darkness that was about
his hearers, a preacher caught fire
and burned steadily before them
with a strange light, so that they saw
the splendour of the barren mountains
about them and sang their amens
fiercely, narrow but saved
in a way that men are not now.

Kneeling

Moments of great calm,
Kneeling before an altar
Of wood in a stone church
In summer, waiting for the God
To speak; the air a staircase
For silence; the sun’s light
Ringing me, as though I acted
A great role. And the audiences
Still; all that close throng
Of spirits waiting, as I,
For the message.
---------------------Prompt me, God;
But not yet. When I speak,
Though it be you who speak
Through me, something is lost.
The meaning is in the waiting.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about R.S. Thomas: first post

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, September 16, 2013

Robert Cording*

Robert Cording is a Connecticut poet who has now published seven poetry books. Since he was previously featured at Kingdom Poets, he has published two further poetry collections. The first is Walking With Ruskin (2011, CavanKerry Press) and his new collection is A Word In My Mouth – the newest book in the Poiema Poetry Series from Cascade Books.

The poet Baron Wormser has celebrated Cording’s poetic achievement by saying , “The wonder of Cording’s work is how off-hand it seems...The humility at work here is genuine yet the dark questions about our time on earth remains...To look human failing in the eyes and not blink is an achievement, to join praise in the same breath is very special.”

I am honoured to have been able to assist as editor for Robert Cording’s new collection. A Word In My Mouth primarily consists of poems selected from his six earlier books, particularly focusing on his spiritual musings.

Last Things

I am always thinking about death—
my own mostly, but this morning

Augustine’s, he who asked to be left alone
at the end, his only company

the six large-lettered penitential psalms
he tacked to his cell walls, a map

even a saint needs, I guess, on the journey
toward death the self keeps trying

to prepare itself for. So often I have prayed,
Teach me the way I should go, and O Lord,

heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror,
as if, in the repetition of those words,

each larval stage of my life might be let go.
But just as often I have been distracted

by dust on the windowsill dimpling with rain
or the yellow shine of afternoon sun

on the grass, by the rush and babble
of voices talking all at once in the next room,

or even a dog’s barking—as Augustine
may have been, looking up now and again

from his prayer, arrested by an ordinary cloud
passing across the face of the sun

and the new shadows pooling on the floor,
the next thing still happening, still arriving

and being replaced, still restless, all of it
part of a world so hard to finish loving.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Robert Cording: first post

Posted with permission of the poet.

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, September 9, 2013

Novalis

Novalis (1772—1801) whose real name is Frederich Leopold Freiherr, Baron von Hardenberg (or Georg Philipp Friedrich von Hardenberg) is a German poet, writer and philosopher. He was raised within a pietist Lutheran family. In March 1797 his fiancee Sophie, who was only fifteen, died. This significant event sent him into a period of mourning which led to the writing of his Hymns to the Night (1800).

In his 1799 essay "Christendom or Europe", he called for a universal Christian church to restore the medieval cultural, intellectual and social unity of Europe, which existed prior to the Reformation and the Enlightenment.

George MacDonald translated Novalis's Spiritual Songs, in 1851, and gave copies to friends at Christmas. Eventually he also translated Hymns to the Night. The following exerpt is from the George MacDonald translation.

from Hymns to the Night #5

Uplifted is the stone
And all mankind arisen!
We are thy very own,
We are no more in prison!
What bitterest grief can stay
Beside thy golden cup,
When earth and life give way
And with our Lord we sup!

Lost, lost are all our losses!
Love is for ever free!
The full life heaves and tosses
Like an unbounded sea!
One live, eternal story!
One poem high and broad!
And sun of all our glory
The countenance of God!

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, September 2, 2013

Seamus Heaney*

Seamus Heaney (1939—2013) is recognized as Ireland's greatest poet since W.B. Yeats. A few days ago, on Friday August 30th, he died in a Dublin hospital. I wrote here, two years ago, in celebration of his most recent poetry collection, Human Chain (2010), particularly of his masterful capturing and preservation of a vanishing way of life. He is the recipient of many awards, including the T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry for District and Circle (2006).

Heaney was raised a Catholic, in County Londonderry, in predominantly Protestant Northern Ireland. In 1972 he resigned from his position at Queen's University in Belfast, and moved to the south. The rural landscapes of his childhood — and of the cottage he and his wife first rented, then owned, in County Wicklow — feature strongly in his poetry.

Seamus Heaney will long be remembered as one of the greatest poets of our time. The following poem is the first from his 1996 collection The Spirit Level, published shortly after he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The Rain Stick

for Beth and Rand

Upend the rain stick and what happens next
Is a music that you never would have known
To listen for. In a cactus stalk

Downpour, sluice–rush, spillage and backwash
Come flowing through. You stand there like a pipe
Being played by water, you shake it again lightly

And diminuendo runs through all its scales
Like a gutter stopping trickling. And now here comes
A sprinkle of drops out of the freshened leaves,

Then subtle little wets off grass and daisies;
Then glitter–drizzle, almost breaths of air.
Upend the stick again. What happens next

Is undiminished for having happened once,
Twice, ten, a thousand times before.
Who cares if all the music that transpires

Is the fall of grit or dry seeds through a cactus?
You are like a rich man entering heaven
Through the ear of a raindrop. Listen now again.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Seamus Heaney: first post; second post

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, August 26, 2013

Li-Young Lee

Li-Young Lee was born in Jakarta, Indonesia to Chinese parents; as political refugees they eventually made it to the United States in 1964, where they settled. His debut poetry collection, Rose (1986), won the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Poetry Award from New York University. In 2006 Breaking the Alabaster Jar, a collection of interviews, was published.

Many of Li-Young's poems are flavoured with memories of being:
-----"a child at mid-century
-----following your parents from burning
-----village to cities on fire to a country at war
-----with itself and anyone
-----who looks like you..."
----------("After the Pyre")
and those of his father, a Presbyterian minister,
-----"In the room with the shut curtains, of course.
-----He's talking to God again, who plays
-----hide and seek among His names..."
----------("God Seeks a Destiny")

In 2012, I attended an interview with Li-Young Lee at the Festival of Faith & Writing at Calvin College. He said, that his real desire is not to be a poet, but to make contact with the divine. His poems "need a word from God [but] sometimes they are just me talking." Lee also described speech as the "out-going breath", and said, "life is in the in-going breath". "A poem," he said, "is a musical score for the dying breath." The following poem is from his fourth poetry book, Behind My Eyes (Norton, 2008), as are the poems referenced above.

Descended from Dreamers

And what did I learn, a child, on the Sabbath?
A father is bound to kill his favorite son,
and to his father's cherishing
the beloved answers Yes.

The rest of the week, I hid from my father,
grateful I was not prized. But how deserted
he looked, with no son who pleased him.

And what else did I learn?
That light is born of dark to usurp its ancient rank.
And when a pharaoh dreams of ears of wheat
or grazing cows, it means
he's seen the shapes of the oncoming years.

The rest of my life I wondered: Are there dreams
that help us to understand the past? Or

is any looking back a waste of time,
the whole of it a too finely woven
net of innumerable conditions,
causes, effects, countereffects, impossible
to read? Like rain on the surface of a pond.

Where's Joseph when you need him?
Did Jacob, his father, understand
the dream of the ladder? Or did his enduring
its mystery make him richer?

**

Why are you crying? my father asked
in my dream, in a which we faced each other,
knees touching, seated in a moving train.

He had recently died,
and I was wondering if my life would ever begin.

Looking out the window,
one of us witnessed what kept vanishing,
while the other watched what continually emerged.

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, August 19, 2013

Maura Eichner

Maura Eichner (1915—2009) grew up in New York City where she was educated by the School Sisters of Notre Dame, whose order she joined at age eighteen. From 1943 to 1993 she taught in the English department of Notre Dame of Maryland University in Baltimore. After her death the many tributes to Sister Maura painted her equally as being a beloved teacher, as well as a talented poet.

The first of the eight poetry collections she published in her lifetime, Initiate the Heart, appeared in 1946. In 2011, her selected poems After Silence became available.

Sister Maura Eichner once said in a New York Times interview, that a poet needs to write "with the humility of a craftsman and the ardor of a saint" and to be "flaming with the good tidings of the Incarnation."

What My Teachers Taught Me
I Try To Teach My Students


A bird in the hand
is not to be desired.
In writing, nothing
is too much trouble.
Culture is nourished, not
by fact, but by myth.
Continually think of those
who were truly great
who in their lives fought
for life, who wore
at their hearts, the fire’s
center. Feel the meanings
the words hide. Make routine
a stimulus. Remember
it can cease. Forge
hosannahs from doubt.
Hammer on doors with the heart.
All occasions invite God’s
mercies and all times
are his seasons.

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, August 12, 2013

William Cowper

William Cowper (1731—1800) is celebrated as a poet and hymn writer. Samuel Taylor Coleridge called him "the best modern poet". Even though he was a significant influence on the romantics, and the author of many well-loved hymns, his life was troubled. When he was six years old his mother died, and he was sent away to a boarding school where he was neglected and bullied. Cowper struggled with mental illness throughout his life — both before and after he embraced Evangelicalism — experiencing four extreme bouts of depression during which he unsuccessfully attempted to take his own life.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning expresses well the paradox of Cowper's melancholy in her poem "Cowper's Grave", which begins, as follows, with struggle but concludes with a vision of hope.

---It is a place where poets crowned may feel
--------the heart's decaying —
---It is a place where happy saints may weep
--------amid their praying;
---Yet let the grief and humbleness as low as
--------silence languish!
---Earth surely now may give her calm to whom
--------she gave her anguish

---O poets! from a maniac's tongue was poured
--------the deathless singing!
---O Christians! at your cross of hope a hopeless
--------hand was clinging...


One of the most important friendships in his life was with John Newton — the former slave ship captain and writer of "Amazing Grace". Newton encouraged Cowper in his faith, and in the writing of hymns. In 1779 the two published Olney Hymns, which included many famous songs. Cowper experienced what he called his "fatal dream" which caused him to feel, during his darkest days, that the truth he believed in God's plan of salvation applied to everyone but himself.

In 1782 his first poetry collection — Poems by William Cowper, of the Inner Temple — was published and very well received. Read John Piper's excellent reflection on the tragic life of William Cowper, here

God Moves In A Mysterious Way

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs
And works his sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purpose will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
the bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain:
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.

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, August 5, 2013

John Terpstra*

John Terpstra — poet, writer and cabinet maker — is the author of nine volumes of poetry, including Disarmament (which was short-listed for the Governor General's Award for poetry in 2004) and Two or Three Guitars, his selected poems. His newest collection, Brilliant Falls, has just appeared from Gaspereau Press — the publisher behind Terpstra's poetry and prose books since 2000.

Don McKay has said, “John Terpstra’s meditations have the soundness and snug fit of consummate carpentry, measure in language and in thought showing ‘the ultimate patience involved / in all things made.’ His writing is religious writing from the ground up, negotiating the difficult moral terrain between wildness and ‘development’ with an imaginative grasp reminiscent of Dennis Lee’s Civil Elegies. His are important books, with the toughness of maple, and the compassion of cedar.”

The following poem is from his new book — Brilliant Falls (2013).

Topographies of Easter

We are walking in the mild mid-winter
snow and thin ice, up Coldwater Creek,
its many tributaries, their steep ravines
tracing the blue and brown lines that wind
dizzily over the unfolded whiteness of our new
map, like staves for the crazy earth song we've been
sight-reading with our feet. We are singing the impossible
pitch of these slopes and cliffs, losing our place
in a landscape that lives to improvise, and the map
helps, but nothing written is in stone,
and it's always a revelation, stopping to
compare what's on paper with being there.

Because I did not for a moment doubt in childhood
the story of this rising, shall I, now
I am wiser? The world still has no
boundary. The lines still shiver and wave;
the impossible takes place; people are kind.
And these woods are still as real and magic
as when I first chased and followed any path
that found me, and just as fearful, and brown death
still haunts the green, discolouring all
in brilliant falls ground to sodden mulch,
from which, in deepest regions of the wood,
the bright stem still rises, witnessed by
those few who run like children home to tell us.

I'll say this: whom she supposed to be
the gardener sings and dances the contour lines
that are his body; this body that is broken
for us to wonder at the source, broken
into beauty that lures our present rambling
and leads us to the edge of this escarpment,
where the waters fall, where all our many streams
cascade and plunge, in curtain and ribbon, over
terrace and washboard
--------------------------(our terms for the living text:
earth's open veins)
----------------------and where we meet her,
who has run and sung and danced these trails
since the day she first saw
the massive rock dislodged
from the cliff-face
----------------------of any reasonable expectation.
And all these years removed from childhood
we still leap aboard, to feel if it shifts
of moves us, trusting and not trusting,
not willing and willing
--------------------------the rock to roll on.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about John Terpstra: first post

Posted with permission of the poet.

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, July 29, 2013

Vernon Watkins

Vernon Watkins (1906—1967) is a Welsh Poet who grew up in Swansea, and is associated with his close friend Dylan Thomas. He also knew William Butler Yeats, T.S. Eliot, and Philip Larkin. His parents were nonconformists, but Watkins' education, including his time at Cambridge University, influenced him to join the Church of England. At the time of his death he had published seven collections of his own poetry with Faber & Faber — including The Lady with the Unicorn (1948) and The Death Bell (1954) — and had selected the poems for his eighth. Several subsequent books also gradually appeared from his previously unpublished work. His Collected Poems (1986) includes more than 500 poems.

Watkins was devoted in his friendship to Dylan Thomas, even though his friend was unreliable. Thomas, who was supposed to be the best man at Watkins' wedding, never showed up. Unsurprisingly, only one half of their extensive correspondence survives — the half received by Watkins.

Watkins had suffered a breakdown in 1927, as he sought to come to terms with the direction of his life. According to Jane L. McCormick, this was when "...he began the long-avoided struggle with God that is the mystic's first step toward spiritual rebirth; and from then till the day of his death, love of God was foremost in his life."

Since his death the poetry of Vernon Watkins has slipped from public attention. Rowan Williams argues that Watkins' is a significant twentieth century voice, worthy of our attention.

Infant Noah

Calm the boy sleeps, though death is in the clouds.
Smiling he sleeps, and dreams of that tall ship
Moored near the dead stars and the moon in shrouds,
Built out of light, whose faith his hands equip.
It was imagined when remorse of making
Winged the bent, brooding brows of God in doubt.
All distances were narrowed to his waking:
"I built his city, then I cast him out."
Time's great tide falls; under that tide the sands
Turn, and the world is shown there thousand-hilled
To the opening, ageless eyes. On eyelids, hands,
Falls a dove's shade, God's cloud, a velvet leaf.
And his shut eyes hold heaven in their dark sheaf,
In whom the rainbow's covenant is fulfilled.

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, July 22, 2013

John Keble

John Keble (1792—1866) is an English poet and churchman who held the chair as Oxford Professor of Poetry from 1831 to 1841. He was a significant influence on such poets as Thomas Hardy, Christina Rossetti and Matthew Arnold. His 1827 book, The Christian Year, may have been the best-selling volume of verse in the nineteenth century. He was also influential as part of the Oxford Movement: a group of Anglicans who sought to revive fading High Church traditions. In 1870 Keble College, Oxford, was named in his honour.

Although changes in literary fashion have undermined Keble’s popularity today — Malcolm Guite, in the introduction to his 2012 sonnet collection Sounding the Seasons, acknowledges his debt to The Christian Year.

Blest Are the Pure In Heart

Blest are the pure in heart,
For they shall see our God;
The secret of the Lord is theirs;
Their soul is Christ’s abode.

The Lord, Who left the heavens
Our life and peace to bring,
To dwell in lowliness with men
Their Pattern and their King.

Still to the lowly soul
He doth Himself impart;
And for His dwelling and His throne
Chooseth the pure in heart.

Lord, we Thy presence seek;
May ours this blessing be;
Give us a pure and lowly heart,
A temple meet for Thee.

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, July 15, 2013

Marilyn Chandler McEntyre

Marilyn Chandler McEntyre has taken her ekphrastic poetry to a unique level. She is the author of three poetry collections (all published by Eerdmans) which individually take on the paintings of three different Dutch painters. In Quiet Light (2000) shows us Vermeer’s paintings of women, Drawn to the Light (2006) highlights Rembrandt’s religious paintings, and The Color of Light (2007) is about Van Gogh’s late paintings. In these collections each poem accompanies a colour reproduction of the painting which inspired it.

McEntyre has taught at Westmount College, and at the University of California. She has also reflected deeply on the value of language in her study Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies. The following poem came to me through poet Richard Osler, who in turn came upon it propped up within a bookcase belonging to Dana Gioia. The latter poem, of course is from Drawn to the Light.

The Purposes of Poetry

To find a way of putting what can’t be said
To startle us into seeing
To train words to dance
To rescue worthy words from slow death
To reassert the power of whim
To combat mind erosion
To make us feel what we think
And visa versa
To resuscitate the media-impaired
To remind us that truth is round
With holes and corners
To notice what will never happen
Just that way again
To make us consider how our light is spent
Or that the world is too much with us
Or petals on a black bough

The Raising of Lazarus

I wonder how often Jesus surprised
even himself. In Rembrandt's Lazarus
he looks amazed.
The enormity of what he has
set in motion stops him cold.
Hand raised like a lightning rod,
the life force passes through him.
The once dead man struggles to sit up,
gripping the edge of the tomb, wrenched
from a place he might rather have stayed,
called out of darkness into this
questionable light.
It's not at all clear
that this return will give him
reason to rejoice.
Breath comes back to him
with a sigh too deep for tears.
Martha, who insisted,
badgered, accused—"If you had been here
my brother would not have died!"—
holds out her hand, not yet to touch him,
but as if to shield herself
from what she sees.
She didn't know what she asked.
Harsh light falls full on her face.
She is not wreathed in smiles.
Over her head the carpenter's muscled arm
still points toward heaven, raised
in submission to the power that courses
through those veins. A shadow falls
across his face, something almost like fear
fixes his gaze on the miracle from which
there is no turning back.

Posted with permission of the poet.

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, July 8, 2013

Teresa of Avila

Teresa of Avila (1515—1582) is a mystic who was born in Spain, and entered a Carmelite convent at age eighteen. Her important writings include The Interior Castle, and The Way of Perfection. She was an influential reformer of the Carmelite Order, and is considered —along with John of the Cross— to have founded the Discalced Carmelites. She promoted strict rules including ceremonial flagellation and nuns remaining barefoot. She established several monasteries which promoted vows of poverty. Teresa is said to have at times, beyond her own control, levitated about a foot and a half off the ground as she was going through her raptures.

You are Christ's Hands

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
------no hands but yours,
------no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which to look out
------Christ's compassion to the world
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about
------doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.

God Alone is Enough

Let nothing upset you,
let nothing startle you.
All things pass;
God does not change.
Patience wins
all it seeks.
Whoever has God
lacks nothing:
God alone is enough.

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, July 1, 2013

Barbara Crooker

Barbara Crooker lives in Pennsylvania, and is the author of four poetry books; her most recent collection, Gold (2013), is the fifth book in the Poiema Poetry Series from Cascade Books. She has also published ten poetry chapbooks. Her poems have appeared widely in such publications as Beloit Poetry Journal and The Christian Century — have received awards such as the 2009 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence for her second collection, Line Dance — and have been heard on BBC Radio and on Garrison Keillor’s The Writers Almanac.

Important subjects in Crooker’s verse include reflections on the natural world, and ekphrastic poems inspired by visual artists, including Georgia O’Keefe, and Arshile Gorky. Many poems in Gold are drawn from Crooker’s experience with her mother’s decline and eventual death.

The following poem is from her new collection, Gold, which I had the privilege to edit for publication.

Late Prayer

It’s not that I’m not trying
to love the world and everything
in it, but look, that includes people
who shoot up schools, not just the blue
bird in his coat of sky, his red & white vest,
or the starry asters speckling the field—
It has to include talk show hosts
and all their blather, men with closed
minds and hard hearts, not only this sky,
full of clouds as a field of sheep,
or this wind, pregnant with rain. Don’t
I have enough in my life; what is this
wild longing? Is there more to this world
than the shining surfaces? Will I be strong
enough to row across the ocean of loss
when my turn comes to take the oars?

Posted with permission of the poet.

This is the first Kingdom Poets post about Barbara Crooker: second post

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, June 24, 2013

Allen Tate

Allen Tate (1899—1979) is an important poet of the southern school. He was one of the founding editors of The Fugitive, which helped promote formalist techniques in poetry, and agrarian values. Tate is best known for his poem "Ode to the Confederate Dead". He was influenced first by John Crowe Ransom, and then by T.S. Eliot. Tate, in turn, influenced such poets as Robert Lowell and John Berryman. He was also influential as a critic. In his complicated poems, the poet himself remains a distant figure.

According to The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry Tate has said that all of his poems are "about the suffering that comes from disbelief". In 1950 Tate officially converted to Catholicism, although he had been attracted to it for years.

Homily

If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out

If your tired unspeaking head
Rivet the dark with linear sight,
Crazed by a warlock with his curse
Dreamed up in some loquacious bed,
And if the stage-dark head rehearse
The fifth act of the closing night,

Why, cut it off, piece after piece,
And throw the tough cortex away,
And when you've marvelled on the wars
That wove their interior smoke its way,
Tear out the close vermiculate crease
Where death crawled angrily at bay.

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, June 17, 2013

Julie L. Moore

Julie L. Moore is an Ohio poet with two full-length collections to her credit — Slipping Out of Bloom (2010) and Particular Scandals (2013) which is part of The Poiema Poetry Series from Cascade Books. Her poems have appeared in over 100 publications, and she is the recipient of many awards, including the Paul Mariani Scholarship for Excellence in Poetry from Image’s Glen Workshop. She is the Writing Center Director and an Associate Professor of English at Cedarville University in Ohio.

Jeanne Murray Walker said of Julie L. Moore’s earlier collection: “Her poetry refrains from overstatement and extravagant gesture. It delineates many subtle colors on the palette of human suffering and faithfully documents nuances of joy.” This same strength was clear to me when I received the manuscript for Particular Scandals. I was immediately drawn in, poem after poem, and knew I wanted to include it in the Poiema Poetry Series.

The following poem is from Particular Scandals, and was the 2008 winner of the Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize from Ruminate, as selected by Luci Shaw.

Confession

----Mark 5:24-34

And in the twelfth year, there was still
--------blood. And so many difficult degrees

of separation. Everything, at this point,
--------burned. The once-soft skin of her labia.

The pathetic pulp of her womb.
--------And the mass of hard questions.

Pressing on her like the crowds
--------bearing down on him.

She knew the rules: Keep your hands
--------to yourself. Whatever you touch you foul.

But she reached for him anyway.
--------Fastened her un-

clean fingers, tipped
--------with outrageous nerve,

onto the lip of his cloak.
--------While he sensed the tug

of the siphon, the precious liquid of his power
--------tapped, she felt her river of red

drain, the fierce spear of her pain
--------withdraw.

He wanted to know who grasped
--------such scandalous and particular

faith. Never again would she soil
--------a place where she lay. So she fell

at his feet. Confessed.

Posted with permission of the poet.

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, June 10, 2013

Emily Dickinson*

Emily Dickinson (1830—1886) is known for her spiritual struggles which eventually isolated her from the citizens of Amherst, Massachusetts. Perhaps her biggest obstacle was the expectation, at her local Congregational church, that she should agree with them on doctrine. She couldn’t even agree with herself! Often she wrestled in doubt over something she’d once stated boldly, or declared as truth what she’d previously questioned. It seems she distrusted the attempt to nail truth down in direct words — more of a 21st century attitude than one of the 19th.

For years she had attended church regularly, had written enthusiastically about many sermons, and had travelled to hear some of the influential preachers of her day. Eventually, however, she was keeping more and more to herself. Her father asked their pastor, Rev. Jonathan Jenkins, to visit and assess her spiritual health. He declared it, “Sound”.

Tell All The Truth

Tell all the truth but tell it slant,
Success in circuit lies,
Too bright for our infirm delight
The truth's superb surprise;

As lightning to the children eased
With explanation kind,
The truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind.

Given in Marriage unto Thee

Given in Marriage unto Thee
Oh thou Celestial Host—
Bride of the Father and the Son
Bride of the Holy Ghost.

Other Betrothal shall dissolve—
Wedlock of Will, decay—
Only the Keeper of this Ring
Conquer Mortality—

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

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, June 3, 2013

Kathleen Norris

Kathleen Norris is an essayist and poet. She is well-known for her bestselling non-fiction books, which bring Christian spirituality and everyday life together — the most recent of which is Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life (2008). She has also written seven volumes of poetry, including Journey: New and Selected Poems (2001).

She grew up in Hawaii, and attended Bennington College in Vermont, where she continued her drift from the faith of her childhood. In 1971 her first book of poetry, Falling Off, won the Big Table Younger Poets Award. Three years later, she and her husband inherited her grandparents’ South Dakota farm; they moved there and decided to become part of the community by attending the local Presbyterian church. This changed her life, and inspired her first non-fiction book, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography (1993), which became a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

In 1986 she also became an oblate of a Benedictine monastery in North Dakota, which led to her book The Cloister Walk (1996). Her husband of more than 25 years, the poet David Dwyer, died in 2003.

The following poem first appeared in Cross Currents.

Luke 14, a Commentary

He is there like Clouseau
at the odd moment,
just right: when he climbs
out of the fish pond
into which he has spectacularly
fallen, and says condescendingly
to his hosts, the owners
of the estate: "I fail
where others succeed." You know
this is truth. You know
he'll solve the mystery.
Unprepossessing
as he is, the last
of the great detectives.
He'll blend again into the scenery, and
more than once he'll be taken
for the gardener.
"Come now," he says, taking us
for all we're worth, "Sit
in the low place."
Why not? We ask. So easy
to fall for a man
who makes us laugh. "Invite those
you do not want to have, people
you'd hardly notice." He puts
us on, we put him on; another
of his jokes. "There's
room," he says. The meal is
good, absurdly
salty, but delicious.
Charlie Chaplin put it this way: "I want to play
the role of Jesus. I look the part.
I'm a Jew.
And I'm a comedian."

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, May 27, 2013

Vachel Lindsay

Vachel Lindsay (1879—1931) devoted his life to preaching what he called the “Gospel of Beauty”. In 1904 he began to experience mystical visions, whose images surface in many of his poems. After trying pre-med studies, and then art school in Chicago and New York, in 1906 Lindsay tramped from Florida to Kentucky by foot, idealistically seeking to exchange his poetry booklet The Tree of Laughing Bells for a meal and a night’s lodging along the way. Such tramping and travel became his life.

His breakthrough came with the poem “General William Booth Enters into Heaven”, a tribute to the founder of the Salvation Army, which appeared as the lead piece in Poetry in January 1913. His brief romance with poet Sara Teasdale ended when she refused to marry him, in favour of a wealthy shoe manufacturer in 1914.

Although Lindsay was one of the best-known poets in the United States during the last twenty years of his life, he had long struggled with financial troubles and with physical and mental health issues. He could not support his family without heading out on reading tours. On December 5, 1931, a disheartened Vachel Lindsay committed suicide by drinking a bottle of lye.

In performance, Lindsay would sing or chant his poems; he championed musical qualities in poetry, which became less popular with the rise of modernism after his death.

Heart of God

O great heart of God,
Once vague and lost to me,
Why do I throb with your throb tonight,
In this land, eternity?

O little heart of God,
Sweet intruding stranger,
You are laughing in my human breast,
A Christ-child in a manger.

Heart, dear heart of God,
Beside you now I kneel,
Strong heart of faith. O heart not mine,
Where God has set His seal.

Wild thundering heart of God
Out of my doubt I come,
And my foolish feet with prophets' feet,
March with the prophets' drum.

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, May 20, 2013

Philip C. Kolin

Philip C. Kolin is the author of five books of poetry. His most recent collection is Reading God's Handwriting (Kaufmann Publishing, 2012). He has taught in the English Department of the University of Southern Mississippi since 1974, and was recently made the Distinguished Professor in the College of Arts and Letters. Kolin is a Shakespeare scholar, is a significant authority on Tennessee Williams, and has written extensively about modern American playwrights. He has published more than forty books.

In a recent interview he said, "In many ways, my poetry marks my own spiritual autobiography, my encounters with God on the peaks, the plateaus, and the deep valleys." He is the founding editor of the Christian poetry journal Vineyards.

Read my review for Ruminate of Reading God's Handwriting here.

Faith

It's the love affair
between your soul and God's will,

the unflickering oil in your lamp
waiting for the bridegroom

to arrive after so many dark midnights,
listening for his footsteps.

It's looking for pearls,
a missing drachma,

that stray sheep who's wandered off
beyond the pasture.

It's planting a mustard seed in the deep
valley that grows trees towering

over montains to provide
a sanctuary for doves.

It's the joyous breaking of
bread and finding a star inside

and the martyr's kiss
imprinted on the chalice.

It's sprinkling blood on your doorposts
with holy writing embedded in the frame.

It's God's spirit healing your withered flesh.
It's finding your name in His blazing
Book of Life.

Posted with permission of the poet.

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, May 13, 2013

Narayan Vaman Tilak

Narayan Vaman Tilak (1861—1919) is a Brahman poet of the Marathi language in India. While travelling by train in 1893 he met a Christian missionary who gave him a Bible. Tilak, who had felt dissatisfied with Hinduism’s ritualism and its caste system, felt very attracted to Christianity. He was particularly drawn to the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.

Because of the distance of father-figures and the closeness of mothers, in Indian culture, Tilak chose to describe Jesus from a more Indian perspective:
------"Tenderest Mother-Guru mine,
------Saviour, where is love like Thine?..."

Professor Richard Fox Young of Princeton Theological Seminary wrote that “to discover his real voice and to put a recognizably Indian face on Christianity, Tilak felt compelled to reject the worship forms in the American mission churches...In a famously subversive poem of protest, he complained that in those churches ‘we dance as puppets, while [missionaries] hold the strings.’ In Tilak’s heart, only Christ could strike the right chords.”

I Have Called You Friends

One who is all unfit to count
----As scholar in Thy school,
Thou of Thy love hast named a friend —
----O kindness wonderful!

So weak am I, O gracious Lord,
----So all unworthy Thee,
That e’en the dust upon Thy feet
----Outweighs me utterly.

Thou dwellest in unshadowed light,
----All sin and shame above —
That Thou shouldst bear our sin and shame
----How can I tell such love?

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