Monday, March 31, 2014

John Leax*

John Leax, the author of six poetry collections, served as professor of English and poet-in-residence at Houghton College in New York State from 1968 until his retirement in 2009. He has also written several books of nonfiction, such as Grace Is Where I Live (2000), and the novel Nightwatch (1989).

His two most recent poetry books have appeared since he was last profiled at Kingdom Poets, and they could hardly be more different from each other. His 2012 collection, Recluse Freedom (WordFarm), follows the familiar path of the outdoorsman—the gardener, hiker, fisherman, bird-watcher—written within Jack's well-crafted free verse style. Read my Ruminate review.

As much as I like that collection, I'm much more excited about his new book. He approached me about it, even as his last was being launched. Remembering Jesus: Sonnets and Songs (Cascade), not only follows traditional poetic structures, but is written entirely from the perspective of the people who encountered Jesus in the gospels. Most of the poems are traditional sonnets, however there are a number of other poems interspersed throughout, called "Resurrection Songs" .

The following poem is from John Leax's new collection, Remembering Jesus: Sonnets and Songs, which is the tenth book I've edited for the Poiema Poetry Series.

Fisherman’s Dream

John 6: 1–21

A boy, eager for excitement, I chased
The crowd along the shore. Disaster surely
Awaited—shipwreck, bodies, bones, the waste
Of life. But not that. A man, lovely
Of voice netted me with stories. I stayed.
The sea was still and quiet. The sun spoke
On the hillside. We lingered. The voice played
The hours short. Then sudden hunger broke
The calm.
---------------------I love this hour of shadows flung
Shoreward by light behind my boat. I heed
Once more the work-rough hand on my arm, the one
Who took my fish and took my bread to feed
The host. Some nights I sail out on the lake
And dream he follows walking in the wake.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about John Leax: 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, March 24, 2014

Phillis Wheatley

Phillis Wheatley (circa 1753—1784) is the author of Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773) which was the first book of poetry published by an African-American. At about age seven, she was taken from her home in West Africa to be a slave. She was raised in the household of John Wheatley, a prominent Boston tailor, where she learned to read and write. Along with the family's children she studied the Bible, astronomy, geography, classical literature, and such British authors as John Milton and Alexander Pope. In 1767 the Newport Mercury published her first poem, which was about two men in a storm at sea and their faith in God. Her elegy for evangelist George Whitefield, brought her the valuable attention which led to her book.

Phillis Wheatley travelled to London, where her book was published. She was celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic, and was held up as an example of the potential of black people. Her career was over-shadowed by the American Revolution, and she had trouble finding a publisher for a second collection. She married John Peters, a free black man, and had three children, but they all died in infancy. They experienced financial troubles, and Peters abandoned her. She was forced to hire herself out as a servant. She died at age 31.

On Being Brought from Africa to America

'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
"Their colour is a diabolic die."
Remember, Christians, Negro's, black as Cain,
May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.

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, March 17, 2014

Jill Peláez Baumgaertner*

Jill Peláez Baumgaertner is a Chicago poet, whose newest book What Cannot Be Fixed (2014) has just been published by Cascade Books as part of the Poiema Poetry Series. She has previously published three poetry chapbooks, and one full-length collection. In collaboration with composer Carl Schalk, she is librettist for two pieces (each a series of six motets) with sheet music published by Augsburg Fortress; Schalk has also recently composed an accompaniment to Baumgaertner's Advent meditation, "The Great O Antiphons", the text for which appears as part of What Cannot Be Fixed. A new revised edition of her study Flannery O'Connor: A Proper Scaring has appeared in 2013 through Wipf & Stock.

She is Professor of English and Dean of Humanities and Theological Studies at Wheaton College. The following poem is from her new collection, which I'm pleased to have edited for publication.

Faith

It can be too careful,
a ledge-balancing
tiny slide of the foot
over slick surfaces.

When it finally happens,
---------------------it should be more like a hurdle
----------------------------------------------------into sudden air

off a cliff

faced with
-----------ragged signs
of the earth’s upheaval,

or the rushed snatch of a demon
ferris wheel
that refuses to secure you
-----------with belt or rail
---------------------and seizes you
up in its mechanical hands
to whisk
you
-----------higher,
-------------------------------higher.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Jill Peláez Baumgaertner: 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, March 10, 2014

Javier Sicilia

Javier Sicilia is a Mexican poet, novelist, journalist and activist. He has published six novels, and ten poetry collections, including Trinity (1992), Resurrection (1995,) and Desert Triptych (2009)—which won the Premio de Poesía Aguascalientes, one of Mexico's most prestigious literary prizes. At the time of the award, according to the New York Times, he said his focus as a writer is "the mystery of God in a broken world." His most significant literary influences include the mystic poets Teresa of Ávila and John of the Cross. He is a professor at Universidad La Salle.

On March 28, 2011, his 24-year-old son was murdered, along with six friends, by members of a drug gang. Since then, Sicilia has become renowned for his protests against the drug war, and against the Mexican government's inability to stop it. "I've given up poetry after Juan Francisco's murder because language no longer consoles me, and in lieu of poetry I now depend on that depth of faith that can't be uttered or verbalized." He now pours his energy into the new movement against violence.

“Mi último poema” is the Spanish title of the following poem, which is dedicated to Sicilia’s son, Juan Francisco.

My Last Poem

The world is not worthy of words
they have been suffocated from the inside
as they suffocated you, as they tore apart your lungs…
the pain does not leave me
all that remains is a world
through the silence of the righteous,
only through your silence and my silence, Juanelo.

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, March 3, 2014

János Pilinszky

János Pilinszky (1921—1981) is a Hungarian poet who lived in Budapest. He served with the Hungarian army during WWII; as a prisoner of war he witnessed the horrors of prison camps, including Ravensbrűck. These experiences are reflected upon in many of his poems. He received the Baumgaerten Prize in 1947 for his first poetry collection Trapeze and Bars. His next book, On The Third Day, was delayed from publication until 1959 by communist censors who considered it to be both too Christian and too pessimistic. This collection includes Pilinszky's celebrated poem "Apocrypha".

Pilinszky has been very influential for post-war Hungarian poetry. In English he is known because of the translation by Ted Hughes and János Csokits, from which the following comes.

Complaint

Buried alive under the stars
in the mud of nights
do you hear my dumbness?
as if a skyful of birds were approaching.

I keep up this wordless appeal.
Will you ever unearth me
from the perpetual silence
under your foreign skies?

Does my complaint reach you?
Is my siege futile?
All around me glitter
reefs of fear.

Only let me count on you. God.
I want your nearness so much,
shivering
makes the love of loves even fierier.

Bury me in your embrace.
Do not leave me to the frost.
Even if my air is used up
my calling will not tire.

Be the bliss of my trembling
like a tree’s leaves:
give a name, give a beautiful name
a pillow to this disintegration.

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.