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