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, fourth 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: