Monday, January 27, 2014

Wilmer Mills

Wilmer Mills (1969—2011) is an American poet and painter, influenced by the formal techniques of such poets as Robert Frost and Richard Wilbur. He grew up, first in Brazil—as the son of Presbyterian missionaries—and later in his home state of Louisiana. For several years, he and his young family lived in a bungalow in Sewanee, Tennessee which he had built himself. His poems have appeared in many journals, and in the Penguin Anthology of Contemporary Younger Poets. He died at age 41, less than three months after being diagnosed with liver cancer.

He only had one full-length book of poems published in his lifetime, Light for the Orphans (2002). Fortunately, the University of Evansville Press has just published his Selected Poems, which also includes newer poems and some from his earlier chapbook, Right as Rain (1999).

The following poem first appeared in First Things.

Near Starbucks

A homeless woman sleeps outside the door.
She smells of urine so the customers
Who eat brioche and talk about the poor
Step wide of her in winter and in summer.
But she has noticed them in their retreat
Of tea and café latte ambiance.
Oh, yes, she sees their pious nonchalance.
They give her quarters on the holidays
And she would give them stories with her gaze:
A childhood served on white enamel plates;
A father's drunk abuse; teen runaway;
The search for something—love, or merely dates—;
A candy-wrapper life in lingerie.
But eye contact is precious on the street.
She takes their pocket change and falls asleep.

And I'm no better in my arrogance
And its complacent little cubicle.
If I could be like Jesus, just for once,
I'd wake her up and make her beautiful.

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, January 20, 2014

Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh (1554—1618) is a British explorer, soldier and poet. As a patron of the arts, he supported Edmund Spenser as he was writing The Faerie Queen. Much of Raleigh's own poetic output, though, was destroyed.

In 1578 he sailed to America, and by 1585 sponsored the first English colony there. He is credited with bringing both potatoes and tobacco back to Britain, and establishing the fashion for smoking at court. He was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, who knighted him, and had him appointed captain of the Queen's Guard. In 1592, however, she discovered he had secretly married one of her ladies in waiting. She had them both imprisoned, for a time, in the Tower of London.

Of his own life he said, "I have lived a sinful life, in all sinful callings; for I have been a soldier, a captain, a sea-captain, and a courtier, which are all places of wickedness and vice." He also expressed, "we have all remained in the shadow of death till it pleased Christ to climb the tree of the cross for our enlightening and redemption."

During the reign of James I, he was charged with treason, and was incarcerated in the Tower of London for another twelve years. By 1616 he was released. The next time Raleigh was imprisoned, however, the king had him beheaded. The following poem is said to have been written by Raleigh the night before his execution, and in anticipation of it.

Epitaph

Even such is Time, which takes in trust
Our youth, our joys, and all we have,
And pays us but with age and dust,
Who in the dark and silent grave,
When we have wandered all our ways,
Shuts up the story of our days.
But from which earth and grave and dust
The Lord shall raise me up, I trust.

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, January 13, 2014

Tania Runyan*

Tania Runyan is the poetry editor for the literary journal, Relief. She has just had her third full-length collection, Second Sky, appear as part of the Poiema Poetry Series from Cascade Books. She has had poems appear in such fine journals as Poetry, The Christian Century, Image, and Southern Poetry Review. Like her previous collections, Second Sky interacts closely with scripture. In this case the poems connect with incidents in the life of Paul the Apostle, or with things he wrote in his letters.

In talking about how the poems in Second Sky gloss scripture, Jeanne Murray Walker wrote, "There are layers and layers here to uncover. I will discover them slowly, but meanwhile, I love the fierce brio of these poems. I love their intelligence and urgency."

In an interview with David Harrity of Antler, Tania explained how her interactions with scripture can turn into poetry. "[W]hen I come across a passage, even a word or phrase that moves me, I allow it to shine on a few different areas in my life, like memories, struggles, and meaningful images, and I journal about those. Soon a poem starts to take shape—and the scripture becomes more solidified in my mind as a result of those personal associations."

The following poem is from Second Sky. I am pleased to have been able to assist Tania Runyan as the editor for this fine collection.

The Greatest of These
—1 Corinthians 13

Embraces the woman whose child screams
on the floor of the cereal aisle.
Enters the friend's new mansion,
lifts eyes to the skylights, gives thanks.
Yields the last word on the Facebook fight.
Looks the frowning barista in the eye.
Takes a breath and thanks God
there is even a zipper to get stuck.
Sends a gift to the wall-punching uncle.
Glances away from the handcuffed boys
on the side of the road and prays.
Smiles and listens to the grandmother complain
about her knees, rubs the knees,
ladles another bowl of soup.
Believes there is a reason that slumped man
in the alley was born. Trusts he'll believe it.
Endures the quiet, thankless song of work.
Echoes long after the cymbals have died.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Tania Runyan: first 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, January 6, 2014

William Blake*

William Blake (1759—1827) is one of the most influential poets of the English language. At the time of his death, however, he was little known as an artist, and even less known as a poet. Besides producing engravings for his own poetry, he also made illustrations for such works as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Milton's Paradise Lost, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, the Book of Job, and Dante's Divine Comedy.

According to The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Blake said "all he knew was in the Bible", which he called "the Great Code of Art." He was not a very orthodox thinker, preferring to write in figurative ways such "prophetic" books as The Four Zoas, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, and Jerusalem. The following is from his Songs of Innocence and of Experience.

On Anothers Sorrow

Can I see anothers woe,
And not be in sorrow too.
Can I see anothers grief,
And not seek for kind relief.

Can I see a falling tear,
And not feel my sorrows share,
Can a father see his child,
Weep, nor be with sorrow fill'd.

Can a mother sit and hear,
An infant groan an infant fear—
No no never can it be.
Never never can it be.

And can he who smiles on all
Hear the wren with sorrows small,
Hear the small birds grief & care
Hear the woes that infants bear—

And not sit beside the nest
Pouring pity in their breast,
And not sit the cradle near
Weeping tear on infants tear.

And not sit both night & day,
Wiping all our tears away.
O! no never can it be.
Never never can it be.

He doth give his joy to all.
He becomes an infant small.
He becomes a man of woe
He doth feel the sorrow too.

Think not, thou canst sigh a sigh,
And thy maker is not by.
Think not thou canst weep a tear,
And thy maker is not near.

O! he gives to us his joy,
That our grief he may destroy
Till our grief is fled & gone
He doth sit by us and moan

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about William Blake: 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.