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