Monday, May 30, 2016

John Clare

John Clare (1793—1864) is known as the "Peasant Poet", because his parents were illiterate, and his father a farm labourer. He is known for poems praising the natural world and God as creator. His 1820 book, Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery, carried him from obscurity to the attention of London literary society. For a time his work even outsold that of his contemporary John Keats.

As may be sensed in the following poem, he suffered from depression and even delusions, which eventually confined him to an asylum for the final 26 years of his life.

His poetry soon slipped into obscurity; however in recent years, the admiration of poets such as Dylan Thomas, Ted Hughes, John Ashbery, and Seamus Heaney has helped to restore his reputation. He is now considered by many to be one of the most important poets of the 19th century.

I Am!

I am — yet what I am none cares or knows;
My friends forsake me like a memory lost:
I am the self-consumer of my woes —
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shadows in love’s frenzied stifled throes
And yet I am, and live — like vapours tossed

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life or joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;
Even the dearest that I loved the best
Are strange — nay, rather, stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man hath never trod
A place where woman never smiled or wept
There to abide with my Creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie
The grass below — above the vaulted sky.

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, May 23, 2016

Theophilus Kwek

Theophilus Kwek is a poet from Singapore who is currently a student at Merton College, Oxford, and served as the President of the Oxford University Poetry Society. Despite his youth, he has published three collections. The first two are: They Speak Only Our Mother Tongue (2011) and Circle Line (2013). He won the Martin Starkie Prize for poetry in 2014, and the Jane Martin Poetry Prize in 2015 from Girton College in Cambridge.

Many of the Bible stories he regularly heard as a child have found their way into his poetry. Kwek has participated in readings with other Christian poets in Singapore. His third book Giving Ground (2016) has just appeared from Ethos Books (Singapore). He also won the New Poets' Prize in 2016. This post was suggested to me by Singapore poet Aaron Lee.

Magdalene

For days afterwards late Spring took its course.
A north wind came through the window-slats
and plovers returned to walk on water.
In the shorter shadows the city’s groves
filled out with leaves, promised black olives
as clouds wept and bowed over the temple.
We broke bread on the roof. Said fumbling prayers
to keep the hours, returned to usual squares,
gathered each evening in our knit circles.
It was all we could do to live, despite
the wanting the waiting or the altered light
of that once-opened sky, blue as a miracle.
In time we grew acquainted with the weight
of wonder, thought less of the mystery of things,
thought them more believable. Some went back
to Galilee. Others made for other seas,
nets and fresh tackle. I watched them leave,
then stood alone in the tug of wild hyssop
at the city’s sleeve, strong as love or the facts
of being known: brief night, the lightness of stone.

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, May 16, 2016

Czeslaw Milosz*

Czeslaw Milosz (1911—2004) is a Polish poet who during WWII participated in the underground resistance in Warsaw against both the Nazis and the Soviets, writing and editing books. His faith was severely challenged in the face of all the horrors he witnessed, and yet remained strong. Once he'd escaped from the oppressive communist regime that gripped his homeland, he lived in the United States from 1960 until his death; he continued to write in Polish, and then participated in its translation into English. He received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1980.

Joseph Brodsky wrote, "I have no hesitation whatsoever in stating that Czeslaw Milosz is one of the greatest poets of our time, perhaps the greatest." The following poem is from Second Space — the last book he published before his death.

Hear Me

Hear me, Lord, for I am a sinner, which means I have nothing except
prayer.

Protect me from the day of dryness and impotence.

When neither a swallow’s flight nor peonies, daffodils and irises
in the flower market are a sign of Your glory.

When I will be surrounded by scoffers and unable, against their
arguments, to remember any miracle of Yours.

When I will seem to myself an impostor and swindler because I take
part in religious rites.

When I will accuse You of establishing the universal law of death.

When I am ready at last to bow down to nothingness and call life
on earth a devil’s vaudeville.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Czeslaw Milosz: 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, May 9, 2016

Lionel Johnson

Lionel Johnson (1867—1902) is a poet and literary critic, born in England to a family that thought of itself as Irish. He converted to Catholicism in 1891 after having graduated from Oxford the previous year.

He lived in London, and was a member of The Rhymers' Club. His close friend, William Butler Yeats, described the best of Johnson's poetry as "immortal". He struggled against alcoholism, and died of a stroke, after a fall in the street where he fractured his skull.

Johnson's Poetical Works were edited by Ezra Pound in 1915, and The Religious Poems of Lionel Johnson appeared in 1916.

The Darkness

Master of spirits! hear me: King of souls!
I kneel before Thine altar, the long night,
Besieging Thee with penetrable prayers;
And all I ask, light from the Face of God.
Thy darkness Thou hast given me enough,
The dark clouds of Thine angry majesty:
Now give me light! I cannot always walk
Surely beneath the full and starless night.
Lighten me, fallen down, I know not where,
Save, to the shadows and the fear of death.
Thy Saints in light see light, and sing for joy:
Safe from the dark, safe from the dark and cold.
But from my dark comes only doubt of light:
Disloyalty, that trembles to despair.
Now bring me out of night, and with the sun
Clothe me, and crown me with Thy seven stars,
Thy spirits in the hollow of Thine hand.
Thou from the still throne of Thy tabernacle
Wilt come to me in glory, O Lord God!
Thou wilt, I doubt Thee not: I worship Thee
Before Thine holy altar, the long night.
Else have I nothing in the world, but death:
Thine hounding winds rush by me day and night,
Thy seas roar in mine ears: I have no rest,
No peace, but am afflicted constantly,
Driven from wilderness to wilderness.
And yet Thou hast a perfect house of light,
Above the four great winds, an house of peace:
Its beauty of the crystal and the dew,
Guard Angels and Archangels, in their hands
The blade of a sword shaken. Thither bring
Thy servant: when the black night falls on me,
With bitter voices tempting in the gloom,
Send out Thine armies, flaming ministers,
And shine upon the night: for what I would,
I cannot, save these help me. O Lord God!
Now, when my prayers upon Thine altar lie,
When Thy dark anger is too hard for me:
Though vision of Thyself, through flying fire,
Have mercy, and give light, and stablish me!

Thanks to Burl Horniachek for suggesting Lionel Johnson for Kingdom Poets.

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, May 2, 2016

William Baer

William Baer is a poet of the new formalism, who has authored five collections of poetry. He received the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize for his book The Unfortunates (1997), and is the founding editor of The Formalist. His poetic form of choice is the sonnet, which can be seen from his own writing, and from his translation of seventy sonnets from the Portuguese for his book, Luís de Camões: Selected Sonnets (Chicago, 2005).

He is Professor Emeritus of Creative Writing at University of Evansville in Indiana, has had his plays produced in New York City and elsewhere, and has written the text Writing Metrical Poetry.

The following sonnet is from Psalter (2011).

Love (I Corinthians 13:13)

If I have not love, I’m but a hollow sound,
a tinkling cymbal destined to fade and fall,
and though my faith might move the mountains around,
still, without love, I’m nothing at all.
For love is patient, love is kind,
it’s never vain, ambitious, or uncouth,
it’s never coarse, it’s soft, refined,
for love rejoices in the truth.
Love thinks no evil, it thinks no wrong,
it hopes, believes, endures, prevails,
love envieth not, it suffereth long,
it never turns, it never fails.
Have love, have faith, have hope, again and again,
but love is the greatest of these. Amen.

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.