Monday, January 28, 2013

George Matheson

George Matheson (1842—1906) is a Scottish preacher whose poems come to us in the form of hymns. Several of them were included in the extensive anthology One Hundred Modern Scottish Poets (1886). His most famous contribution is “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go”.

Matheson studied philosophy and theology at the University of Glasgow, and was an award-winning student, despite his failing eyesight. His fiancee broke off their engagement when she realized he was going blind. He never married.

He wrote extensively on theology, church history, and current issues — with the help of his eldest sister, through a secretary, through eventually learning braille, and finally through the use of a typewriter. He served as a pastor for many years, eventurally moving to Edinburgh, where the University gave him an honorary doctorate.

Although he became blind, his poems often paint vivid visual images. He was able to discern light and shadow, which is worth considering when reading the following hymn.

They That Wait Upon The Lord

Lord, at Thy feet my prostrate heart is lying,
Worn with the burden weary of the way,
The world's proud sunshine on the hills is dying,
And morning's promise fades with parting day;

Yet in Thy light another morn is breaking,
Of fairer promise, and with pledge more true;
And in Thy life a dawn of youth is waking
Whose bounding pulses shall this heart renew.

Oh, to go back across the years long vanished,
To have the words unsaid, the deeds undone,
The errors cancelled, the deep shadows banished,
In the glad sense of a new world begun!

To be a little child, whose page of story
Is yet undimmed, unblotted by a stain,
And in the sunrise of primeval glory
To know that life has had its start again.

I may go back across the years long vanished,
I may resume my childhood, Lord, in Thee,
When in the shadow of Thy cross are banished
All other shadows that encompass me:

And o'er the road that now is dark and dreary
This soul, made buoyant by the strength of rest,
Shall walk untired, shall run, and not be weary,
To bear the blessing that has made it blest.

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, January 21, 2013

Ed Zahniser

Ed Zahniser is a West Virginia poet whose work has appeared in over 100 magazines. He has published three chapbooks, and three full-length collections, the most recent of which is Mall-hopping with the Great I AM (2006).

He is also intricately tied to the wilderness preservation movement as the son of Howard Zahniser, who was a founding member of the Wilderness Society and contributing writer for The Wilderness Act in the U.S. His father, according to Ed Zahniser, “was very much driven by a religious sense of life. He had inherited from his parents the feeling that we should leave the world a better place than we found it and that this is not merely a noble sentiment but a moral obligation.”

As part of this legacy, Zahniser’s poetry is frequently focused on nature and the natural world. He lives in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, where he is the editor of Good News Paper, which he co-founded in 1979.

Cormorants

Each year they show up in the bare tree by the river
---bridge
like dutiful grandparents making yearly pilgrimage
upstream. We never witness their return
that may well take an alternate route

noted elsewhere by others likewise amazed
at these dark birds’ faithfulness with keeping
their singular splice in the way things are
—dotting their bare tree like musical notation

side-turned heads flagged whole notes
in early summer’s long-awaited hymn of praise

Prayer for a Hope to Share

Forced so long to hope alone
can we find a hope to share
and unreservedly?
We’re out of time for throwing half a bone
each to each. Half to care is not to care
at all. The path ahead looms swervingly

what with the cross at our backs.
How odd to hope on a death
with a long, still longed-for promise of return.
Two thousand years following in tracks
as gossamer as, however holy, spirit breath.
All is vapor. Yet I cannot help but yearn

to turn and turn again; to put my face
to that persistent promise.
What fabric lasts without its knowing weaver
To restore these tatters to a former grace
however flawed? Yes, I would miss
the curious comforts of the true believer.

"Cormorants" first appeared at Terrain.org and "Prayer for a Hope to Share" first appeared in William Jolliff's The Rolling Coulter. These poems were posted with the poet’s permission.

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, January 14, 2013

Robert Siegel*

Robert Siegel (1939—2012) is the latest poet to have a volume published in the Poiema Poetry Series. His new book, Within This Tree of Bones is a career retrospective, which emphasizes the spiritual in his work. The four sections demonstrate: the human condition, the disclosure of God through nature, the revelation of God in scripture, and then culminates with celebration.

Dana Gioia wrote in Poetry that "Siegel's imagination is excited by the nonhuman world, and he writes about plants and animals with surprising immediacy...A compassionate observer...he looks at them as mysterious and wonderful signs of a greater order."

For 23 years he taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and has also taught at Dartmouth, Princeton, and at Goethe University in Frankfurt.

When I last spoke with Bob, on December 10, he entrusted to me the approving of the final proofs for his new book. He died ten days later. I am honoured to have worked with Robert Siegel to edit this excellent collection for publication. He had not mentioned his battle with cancer to me, until that final phone call. I am sad to know he never held it in his hands, but am pleased that I encouraged him to add many new poems to the collection. The following is the first poem in his new book, and is the source for its title.

Matins

It is morning. A finch startles
the maple leaves. Everything’s clear
in this first light before all thins
to a locust harping on the heat.
While day clutches at my pulse
to inject the usual anesthetic,
now, Christ, stimulate my heart,
transfuse your blood to fortify my own.
Let no light upon these sheets
diminish, Lord, before I feel you
burst inward like a finch
to nest and sing within this tree of bones.

"Matins" from Within This Tree of Bones: New and Selected Poems, Wipf & Stock, Publishers. Copyright 2012 by Robert Siegel. This poem was posted with the poet’s permission. The other titles in the Poiema Poetry Series are Six Sundays Toward a Seventh by Sydney Lea, and Epitaphs for the Journey by Paul Mariani — both published in 2012.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Robert Siegel.

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, January 7, 2013

Chad Walsh

Chad Walsh (1914—1991) is the author of more than twenty books, and taught for over thirty years at Beloit College in Wisconsin, where he was professor of English, and where he helped found The Beloit Poetry Journal in 1950. He established himself as the American authority on C.S. Lewis with the publication of C.S. Lewis: Apostle to the Skeptics in 1949. Lewis had been a transforming influence on his life, in that Walsh came to Christianity from agnosticism partly through reading Lewis’ books. Walsh also became an Episcopal priest.

The following poem comes from the Chad Walsh collection, The Psalm of Christ: Forty Poems on the Twenty-Second Psalm (1982). It also appeared in the anthology A Widening Light, which was edited by Luci Shaw.

“Why hast thou forsaken me?”

Psalm 22:1

Perhaps the Socrates he had never read,
The Socrates that Socrates poorly understood,
Had the answer. From opposites, opposites
Are generated. Cold to heat, heat to cold,
Life to death, and death to life. Perhaps the grave's
Obscenity is the womb, the only one
For the glorified body. It may be
Darkness alone, darkness, black and mute,

Void of God and a human smile, filled
With hateful laughter, dirty jokes, rattling dice,
Can empty the living room of all color
So that the chromatic slide of salvation
Fully possesses the bright screen of vision.

Or perhaps, being man, it was simply
He must first go wherever man had been,
To whatever caves of loneliness, whatever
Caverns of no light, deep damp darkness,
Dripping walls of the spirit, man has known.

I have called to God and heard no answer,
I have seen the thick curtain drop, and sunlight die;
My voice has echoed back, a foolish voice,
The prayer restored intact to its silly source.
I have walked in darkness, he hung in it.
In all of my mines of night, he was there first;
In whatever dead tunnel I am lost, he finds me.
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
From his perfect darkness a voice says, I have not.

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