Monday, April 27, 2015

Aleksey Khomyakov

Aleksey Khomyakov (1804—1860) is a Moscow poet, Orthodox theologian, philosopher and political theorist. He founded the Slavophile movement which believed Russia should not look to the West as a model for modernization. His theological writings were particularly influential on the thinking of such writers as Fyodor Dostoevsky and Vladimir Solovyov. His poetry also inspired music by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov.

He was a member of the landed gentry. After serving with distinction in the Russio-Turkish War (1828–9), he sought to improve the living conditions for serfs, and eventually advocated for the abolition of serfdom.

The following poem was translated by Dmitry Shatalov.

Dawn

A timeless borderline you are
That God twixt night and day put down;
He clothed you in a scarlet gown,
He gave you a companion in the morning star.
When in the heavenly azure
You give off light and calmly fade,
I look at you and ruminate:
We are like you, the Dawn of day—
A mix of blazing flames and cold,
Of heaven and the underworld,
A blend of light and shadows grey.

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, April 20, 2015

Anne Porter*

Anne Porter (1911—2011) has left us two collections of her poetry. When her first book, An Altogether Different Language, was honoured as a finalist for the National Book Award, she was 83 years old. Her second book, Living Things (2006), is her collected poems, so includes the first book in its entirety.

Although she wrote poetry all her life, she rarely found time — being married to accomplished painter Fairfield Porter, and raising their five children. She can often be seen as a model in her husband's paintings, although she saw herself more as an object in the scene than as the subject. Other than entertaining friends — such as painter Jackson Pollack, and poet Frank O'Hara — her social life centred on the local Methodist church. After her husband died in 1975 she moved on from what she had taken as her vocation to another — beginning to write poetry more seriously.

David Shapiro, in his introduction to An Altogether Different Language, describes her as: "...an ecstatic exception, an American religious poet of stature who reminds us that the idea of the holy is still possible for us." He writes, "For Anne Porter, the holy is found in a commitment to Christ the Mediator and his triumph in suffering for a suffering world."

She died in 2011, just a month shy of her 100th birthday.

Listening To The Crows

Infant in a pinewood
Lying in a basket
Not owning anything
Not knowing
A single word

I listened to the shiny
Crows outside my window
As they spoke with one another
In a strange tribal language

And even now
When I wake up early
And overhear the crows
Calling to one another
In the cool floods of the air

The deeps of infancy
Open within me
Their wonder washes me
And instantly

My heart grows light
As light as if the world
Had never fallen.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Anne Porter: 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, April 13, 2015

John Greenleaf Whittier

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807—1892) is a Quaker poet who advocated for the abolition of slavery. He was particularly influenced by the poetry of Robert Burns. Whittier's first poem was published in 1826 when his sister sent it to The Newburyport Free Press without his permission.

He became a newspaper editor and rose quickly to the influential New England Weekly Review where he became an outspoken critic of President Andrew Jackson. He had been interested in a career in politics, but his outspoken 1833 abolitionist pamphlet Justice and Expediency marginalized him from the mainstream. In 1857 he was one of the founding contributors to The Atlantic Monthly.

Up until the end of the Civil War, Whittier's writing focussed on bringing an end to slavery. Once that was accomplished he turned his attention to poems expressing faith, love of nature, and the experience of rural life. The publication of his long poem Snow-Bound in 1866 made him a household name and brought him a comfortable income.

Forgiveness

My heart was heavy, for its trust had been
Abused, its kindness answered with foul wrong;
So, turning gloomily from my fellow-men,
One summer Sabbath day I strolled among
The green mounds of the village burial-place;
Where, pondering how all human love and hate
Find one sad level; and how, soon or late,
Wronged and wrongdoer, each with meekened face,
And cold hands folded over a still heart,
Pass the green threshold of our common grave,
Whither all footsteps tend, whence none depart,
Awed for myself, and pitying my race,
Our common sorrow, like a mighty wave,
Swept all my pride away, and trembling I forgave!

By Their Works

Call him not heretic whose works attest
His faith in goodness by no creed confessed.
Whatever in love's name is truly done
To free the bound and lift the fallen one
Is done to Christ. Whoso in deed and word
Is not against Him labours for our Lord.
When he, who, sad and weary, longing sore
For love's sweet service sought the sisters' door
One saw the heavenly, one the human guest
But who shall say which loved the master best?

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, April 6, 2015

John Updike

John Updike (1932—2009) is an American novelist, poet, critic and short story writer. He was best known for his "Rabbit" novels, for which he twice won the Pulitzer Prize — for Rabbit Is Rich in 1982, and for Rabbit at Rest in 1991. Although Christian theology is a frequent focus in his novels, they are also preoccupied with expressing sex in explicit detail. The New York Times pointed out in an extended obituary that:

---------"Mr. Updike never abandoned short stories, of which
---------he turned out several hundred, most of them first
---------appearing in The New Yorker. It was here that
---------he exercised his exquisitely sharp eye for the minutiae
---------of domestic routine and the conflicts that animated it
---------for him — between present satisfaction and future
---------possibility, between sex and spirituality, and between
---------the beauty of creation and the looming threat of death..."

He published a total of eight poetry collections in his lifetime.

Seven Stanzas at Easter

Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the
Eleven apostles;
It was as His flesh; ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That—pierced—died, withered, paused, and then regathered
Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.

And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in
The dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
By the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance.

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.