Monday, June 29, 2015

Kenneth Leslie

Kenneth Leslie (1892—1974) is a Canadian poet, clergyman and political activist. In the 1920s he was part of a literary society in Halifax called The Song Fishermen which included Charles G.D. Roberts and Bliss Carmen. After this he, and his first wife, moved to New York. His first collection, Windward Rock (Macmillan, 1934), received positive attention on both sides of the Atlantic, and his fourth book, By Stubborn Stars (Ryerson,1938) won him the Governor General's Award.

Although he was not a communist, he was given the nickname "God's Red Poet" due to his political activism. In the late 1930s he worked steadily against fascism and anti-semitism. He founded the influential journal The Protestant Digest, which earned him many friends and many enemies. The magazine's editorial advisers eventually included Paul Tillich and Reinhold Niebuhr. Rather than face the House Un-American Activities Committee, Kenneth Leslie returned home to the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia.

In 2010, The Porcupine's Quill published The Essential Kenneth Leslie.

The Preacher

for Albert Cohoe

Constrained to call and cry the wares of God,
you stumble in the pulpit, troubled, dumb,
suddenly striken, silent as a clod,
no whispered word, not even a breath will come.
What strange antagonist takes strangle hold
upon your spirit's tendons till they bend
to breaking, and yet leaves your spirit bold
to claim a victor's blessing at the end?
There! He has gone, and going swings a gate
for swift release. Your throat, a golden flume,
the flowing torrent of a soul in spate,
mad with hwyl of spirit, fills the room.
Now we can guess the pain, the silent cry,
and whose hand struck the hollow of your thigh.

Jesus Thought Long

Jesus thought long
on an oar thinned to breaking.
It was flesh in His hands
of hard toil partaking.
Jesus found beauty
in the curl of a shaving
And truth in a yoke
worn out and past saving.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest 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.