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.