Monday, December 26, 2016

Pauline Johnson*

Pauline Johnson (1861—1914) also known as Tekahionwake, is a Canadian poet, daughter of an English mother and a Mohawk father. She is known for her poetry and performances that celebrated her aboriginal heritage. After a recital of one of her poems in 1892, she very rapidly became a sensation. Her work was championed by many in the Toronto Arts community, which led to wide-spread performances, and the publication of her first book, The White Wampum, in London in 1894.

The following poem is from that book, and also from her complete poems, known as Flint and Feather. My hardcover copy from 1931 is the Twenty-third Edition, and reveals that her poetry had appeared in both prestigious publications — such as Toronto Saturday Night and Harper's Weekly — but also more humble venture's such as The Boys' World, a weekly pulp Sunday School publication.

She died in Vancouver in 1914.

Christmastide

I may not go to-night to Bethlehem,
Nor follow star-directed ways, nor tread
The paths wherein the shepherds walked, that led
To Christ, and peace, and God’s good will to men.

I may not hear the Herald Angels’ song
Peal through the oriental skies, nor see
The wonder of that Heavenly company
Announce the King the world had waited long.

The manger throne I may not kneel before,
Or see how man to God is reconciled,
Through pure St. Mary’s purer, holier child;
The human Christ these eyes may not adore.

I may not carry frankincense and myrrh
With adoration to the Holy One;
Nor gold have I to give the Perfect Son,
To be with those wise kings a worshipper.

Not mine the joy that Heaven sent to them,
For ages since Time swung and locked his gates,
But I may kneel without—the star still waits,
To guide me on to holy Bethlehem.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Pauline Johnson: 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, December 19, 2016

Dana Gioia*

Dana Gioia has five poetry collections, including Interrogations at Noon—which won the 2002 American Book Award—and his latest, 99 Poems: New & Selected (Graywolf, 2016). He was the chair for the National Endowment for the Arts between 2003 and 2009. Gioia teaches at the University of Southern California.

He is one of the poets featured in my new anthology The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry, which came out in November — (available here) and through Amazon.

The following poem is from the December issue of First Things. More of his poems are available on the First Things website.

Tinsel, Frankincense, and Fir

Hanging old ornaments on a fresh cut tree,
I take each red glass bulb and tinfoil seraph
And blow away the dust. Anyone else
Would throw them out. They are so scratched and shabby.

My mother had so little joy to share
She kept it in a box to hide away.
But on the darkest winter nights—voilà—
She opened it resplendently to shine.

How carefully she hung each thread of tinsel,
Or touched each dime-store bauble with delight.
Blessed by the frankincense of fragrant fir,
Nothing was too little to be loved.

Why do the dead insist on bringing gifts
We can’t reciprocate? We wrap her hopes
Around the tree crowned with a fragile star.
No holiday is holy without ghosts.

Posted with permission from the poet

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Dana Gioia: 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, December 12, 2016

Sarah Klassen*

Sarah Klassen is a Manitoba poet and writer who has won several awards, including the Gerald Lampert Award for her debut collection Journey to Yalta (1988), and a National Magazine Gold Award for poetry (2000). She lives in Winnipeg where, in the 1990s, she edited the Mennonite women's magazine Sophia. Her seventh poetry book — which I consider to be her best yet — is Monstrance (2012, Turnstone Press). Her novel, The Wittenbergs, was published by Turnstone in 2013.

She is one of the poets featured in my new anthology The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry, which came out in November. (available here)

The following poem is from Monstrance.

Night sky at Deep Bay

Midnight, and the sky above the lake
ablaze with a zillion fires lit while I slept.
Each flame a declaration, each solemn planet bright.
I tilt my head way back, and there's The Milky Way,
there's Cassiopeia, Orion, Ursa Major the Pleiades,
a whole bright host.

Years ago while snow fell quietly on Latvia,
I entered the majestic Riga Dom.
From the balcony a choir sang, a capella,
from Schubert's Deutsche Messe,
the Sanctus.

The Baltic Sea slept
while the sanctuary's hushed, cold corners
overflowed with: Holy, Holy, Holy
and our eyes with tears.

On the beach tonight I shiver, not with cold,
but overcome—unwitting witness
to the firmament's explosion—with astonishment.
As if the host of Bethlehem's angels
and the celestial Latvian voices joined
to wake the midnight world
with radiant, resounding Glorias.

(When I am old or ill
will all the stars be there, still
burning, still untarnished,
declaring truth and beauty
are not dead, not even dormant?
And will that choir sing?)


Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Sarah Klassen: 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, December 5, 2016

Pamela S. Wynn

Pamela S. Wynn is an adjunct professor, teaching poetry and writing, at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in Minnesota. She grew up in North Carolina, but has lived in Minnesota for 34 years. Her husband is medieval historian Phillip Wynn. Her poetry collection Diamonds on the Back of a Snake appeared in 2004 from Laurel Poetry Collective. She has also edited the anthology Body of Evidence (2012) with Laurel.

She was commissioned by Northwestern University in Minnesota, to write the libretto for the opera “Ruth” with composer Barbara Rogers. It was performed in 2008.

The following poem is from the December issue of Sojourners. It is one of the annual Christmas poems she has written over the past ten years, which she sends out to friends on handmade bookmarks along with her Christmas cards. Here is a link to other Sojourners poetry.

Advent Candles

for St. Teresa of Avila

Lighting these candles—porous and buoyant—
Grounds us

Flames draw our eyes to heavens dotted white
With celestial thought

To look back in time through the stars
Hundreds of light-years away

To glimpse God standing
On the shore of God’s self

With outrageous visions and promises
Of hope that strain our belief

What can we do with such promises?
With tradition that grounds us in hope

In stars-----in candles-----in souls set alight?

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.