Monday, February 23, 2015

Denise Levertov*

Denise Levertov (1923—1997) was born in England. Her father was raised a Hasidic Jew, but had become a Christian and an Anglican parson. She, herself, became an agnostic. Her first book, The Double Image, appeared in 1946. She married an American and moved with him to New York City after WWII.

The process of Levertov coming to Christian faith was a long one, and so it should not be surprising to find glimpses of that process coming through in her earlier books. The following poem is from her 1964 collection, O Taste and See. This poem was selected by Mark Jarman, for his list of "Original and unorthodox poems about theology", for Poetry Magazine.

The Secret

Two girls discover
the secret of life
in a sudden line of
poetry.

I who don’t know the
secret wrote
the line. They
told me

(through a third person)
they had found it
but not what it was
not even

what line it was. No doubt
by now, more than a week
later, they have forgotten
the secret,

the line, the name of
the poem. I love them
for finding what
I can’t find,

and for loving me
for the line I wrote,
and for forgetting it
so that

a thousand times, till death
finds them, they may
discover it again, in other
lines

in other
happenings. And for
wanting to know it,
for

assuming there is
such a secret, yes,
for that
most of all.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Denise Levertov: first post

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.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Margo Swiss

Margo Swiss is a Toronto poet who has published two collections, Crossword: A Woman's Narrative, and her new book The Hatching of the Heart (Poiema Poetry Series/Cascade Books). It has been my privilege to work with Margo in bringing this book to publication. She is also the editor of the anthology Poetry As Liturgy (2007). She and her husband, David Kent, founded the St. Thomas Poetry Series in 1996—an important imprint for the growth of Canadian Christian poetry.

She has published essays on John Donne and John Milton, and teaches Humanities and Creative Writing at York University.

Living Water
(John 4:10)

Light rain—
soft, light rain rains.
Living water reigns.

Water
whether wanted
in storm

or warmed
still we are
watered

drenched
sometimes drowse
as roots

earthbound
feed, so we
night-long long

to rise,
to rain
to fall as

light rain—
soft, light rain rains.
Living water reigns.

Posted with permission of the poet.

Margo Swiss also contributed a poem to my blog The 55 Project, which consists of poems inspired by the 55th chapter of Isaiah.

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.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Pavel Kolmačka

Pavel Kolmačka is a Catholic poet originally from Prague, Czech Republic. He has published two books of poetry, A ridiculous tailcoat fluttered behind me, and You saw that you are. His novel, Footprints leading beyond the horizon, appeared in 2006. He lives in the village of Chrudichromy with his wife and two sons. His poetry, according to Alexandra Bϋchler (who translated the following poem), "is about the presence of God in everyday things."

This poem comes from his poetry collection You saw that you are. This translation comes from the book Six Czech Poets (Arc Publications, 2008).

Still midday air

Still midday air,
the breeze asleep
in the nest of a tree.
Before long God will give us a sign
or trip us up in one of his traps.

On the village green a freckled boy
falls off his father’s bike.
In tears, nursing a grazed knee,
he’s dragging his feet home.

A drop of blood dries in the dust.
High up above the trees
the billowing blue of the sky,
the white rock of a cloud.

Posted with permission of the poet.

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.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Jae Newman

Jae Newman of Rochester, New York, is the author of the new poetry collection Collage of Seoul from the Poiema Poetry Series (Cascade Books). I am honoured to have been able to help bring this book to publication.

He was born in South Korea and adopted into an American family. The poems in Collage of Seoul, in part, deal with his struggles for identity, including returning to Seoul to meet his birth mother, who hadn't named him. He teaches writing courses at Monroe Community College and Roberts Wesleyan College, and has had poetry appear in such journals as The Bellingham Review, The Cresset, The Korean Quarterly, Rock & Sling, and Ruminate.

Blue Periods

-------1.
There was a time when everything Pablo painted
was in blues.

Poor, desolate, warring with father,

his bearded self-portrait said something.
He was cold.

Out of exile, I heard my name. Not

the one the world knows, but a hushed whisper
traveling across

a no man’s land of self-indulgence. Indulging
in women, Pablo

painted them, his lovers, as monsters,

ghostly souls incarcerated in skin and
dark hair.

I call on the Lord, ask

to be hidden in the shadows of trees. Digging
my way through the earth, I find

my fingers are blunt, metal objects

that move through rock, through clay,
through lie and Juche. Slight of build,

I don’t care. I’ve got your divine mandate
right here.

-------2.
How shall I spread the Word

when the Word is love and needs translation?
How does one break a cycle?

Slash and burn?

Elijah called upon the Lord, said,
“Let this boy’s life return”

and of course it did. Of course

I could say
I’ve felt like a puppet, a boy bound by string,

arms, legs, and mouth moving

almost like a real boy.
A real boy is something I can’t quite fathom,

can’t quite reach.

It is how a man feels when he thinks of Eden,
thinks of the Tree,

thinks of the Lord’s breath

hovering the darkened seas. Let there be light,
a whisper said.

Can I do that?

Can I learn to whisper?
Learn to be present in the absence of action?

-------3.
If Adam and Eve had the will to forsake Eden,
to open a box,

then why can’t someone return to close it?
For me, all blackness is the same.

If I come from a man, as biology says,
then prove it.

If I come from sperm and egg, prove it.

Show me the hand that charmed a cheek.
Show me that love exists and that sex

isn’t just another way unity won't work.
Angel, I am waiting.

Histories conceal our perfect lies.
How can I attack a hermetic pride?

Slash and burn?

Mighty is the Lord whose hands
hold an infinite number of bombs,

little sneezes bursting in palms. He,
who holds my sorrow in the wind. He,

who loves the hungry, the farmer,
the fisherman eating his ration of rice.

-------4.
There was a time when everything Pablo painted
was in blues. Fishermen standing,

marveling at the blue shore.

I cannot say that this blue is the same.
Sadness is personal, a fleeting stone whose ripples

do not flow evenly.

To change the face of his art, Pablo removed
his heart,

wrapped it in newspaper,
tucked his shame in the shallowness of ego.

How could one man love himself so?

Who can accept the joylessness of children?
Brilliant or not,

art is not enough. It never has been.
Creation bored the lovers

who walked with God through morning

into this dawn where we exist, we think,
in a sort of litmus test.

I don’t care what the poem wants.

I want to take the children of North Korea
food shopping.

Let them each have a cart,

open boxes of chocolates,
eat grapes right out of the bags,

let them try every kind of cookie.

Grace unites me to you and him to us.
It isn’t my law: forgiveness.

It is not my way.

My father says I hold on to grudges.
That is true.

But what’s a grudge but love denied?

And what’s love denied but love saved
for eternity,

for one woman, for all time?

Posted with permission of the poet.

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.