Monday, April 24, 2017

Wendell Berry*

Wendell Berry was born in Kentucky in 1934. Other than for occasional stints — such as when a 1961 Guggenheim Fellowship took him to Italy and France, or when he taught at New York University — he has lived there all his life. He and his wife Tanya — whom he married 60 years ago — bought a farm in 1965 in Henry County, Kentucky where they continue to farm. He has written more than 40 books, including poetry, fiction and essays.

Many of his recent poems are an extension of his tradition of what he calls Sabbath poems. The flyleaf of Berry's 2005 collection Given says, "Over the past twenty-five years Mr. Berry has been at work on a long sequence of poems that has resulted from his Sunday morning walks of meditation and observation..." One of his newest poetry collections is A Small Porch, which is primarily made up of his Sabbath poems from 2014 and 2015.

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.

Berry is known for his opposition to corporate agriculture, and as an outspoken advocate of Christian pacifism, environmental stewardship and of living an agrarian lifestyle. A year ago a documentary film, The Seer: A Portrait of Wendell Berry, appeared. The following is from The Country of Marriage (1973).

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Wendell Berry: 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 17, 2017

Robert Lowry

Robert Lowry (1826—1899) is particularly remembered as a hymn writer. He was appreciated for his preaching too, and would have preferred this to have been his lasting legacy, as he was the pastor of Baptist churches in New York City, Brooklyn, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He served as a professor of literature at the University of Lewisburg (now Bucknell University) and later as its chancellor.

He co-wrote hymns with both Annie Hawks, and Fanny J. Crosby, and was also a music editor for the Biglow & Main Publishing Company. In this role he brought to light hundreds of other gospel songs. One of the books he edited, Pure Gold, sold more than a million copies. Some of his best known hymns include: "Shall We Gather at the River?" and "What Shall Wash Away My Sin?" The popularity of gospel hymns drew many Christian poets of the nineteenth century into this genre.

The following hymn I always associate with Easter, particularly from singing it as a child on Easter Sunday mornings at my grandparents' church in London, Ontario.

Christ Arose

Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior,
waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!

Up from the grave he arose;
with a mighty triumph o'er his foes;
he arose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Vainly they watch his bed, Jesus my Savior,
vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!

Up from the grave he arose;
with a mighty triumph o'er his foes;
he arose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Savior;
he tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!

Up from the grave he arose;
with a mighty triumph o'er his foes;
he arose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

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 10, 2017

G.A. Studdert Kennedy

G.A. Studdert Kennedy (1883—1929) is an Anglican priest and poet who was born and raised in Leeds. He served as an army chaplain on the Western Front during WWI. He had a reputation for going out during battles, into no-man's-land under the fire of the enemy, to comfort wounded soldiers. In 1917 he was awarded the Military Cross.

After the war he was drawn towards pacifism and socialism. His books include Rough Rhymes of a Padre (1918), and The Unutterable Beauty: the Collected Poetry by G.A. Studdert Kennedy (1927). His proposed burial at Westminster Abbey was refused due to his socialist beliefs.

Indifference

When Jesus came to Golgotha
They hanged Him on a tree,
They drave great nails through hands and feet,
And made a Calvary.
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns;
Red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days,
And human flesh was cheap.

When Jesus came to Birmingham,
They simply passed Him by;
They never hurt a hair of Him,
They only let Him die.
For men had grown more tender,
And they would not give Him pain;
They only just passed down the street,
And left Him in the rain.

Still Jesus cried, “Forgive them,
For they know not what they do.”
And still it rained the winter rain
That drenched Him through and through.
The crowds went home and left the streets
Without a soul to see;
And Jesus crouched against a wall
And cried for Calvary.

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 3, 2017

Boris Pasternak

Boris Pasternak (1890—1960) is a Russian poet and novelist. He is famous in the rest of the world for his novel Doctor Zhivago for which he was awarded the 1958 Nobel Prize. It had been rejected for publication in the USSR, but had been smuggled out and published in Milan. The Communist Party pressured Pasternak to refuse the Nobel Prize, which his son later accepted on his behalf in 1989.

In Russia he is better known for his poetry and his translations of Shakespeare, where he is considered by some to be the best Russian poet of the 20th Century. He was born to Jewish Ukrainian parents who had converted to Orthodox Christianity before he was born. His father Leonid Pasternak, a post-impressionistic painter, was friends with Leo Tolstoy, and illustrated his novels War and Peace and Resurrection.

In Chapter 12 of Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak encourages all Jews to "Come to your senses," and to become Christians.

Bad Days

When Passion week started and Jesus
Came down to the city, that day
Hosannahs burst out at his entry
And palm leaves were strewn in his way.

But days grow more stern and more stormy.
No love can men's hardness unbend;
Their brows are contemptuously frowning,
And now comes the postscript, the end.

Grey, leaden and heavy, the heavens
Were pressing on treetops and roofs.
The Pharisees, fawning like foxes,
Were secretly searching for proofs.

The lords of the Temple let scoundrels
Pass judgement, and those who at first
Had fervently followed and hailed him,
Now all just as zealously cursed.

The crowd on the neighbouring sector
Was looking inside through the gate.
They jostled, intent on the outcome,
Bewildered and willing to wait.

And whispers and rumours were creeping,
Repeating the dominant theme.
The flight into Egypt, his childhood
Already seemed faint as a dream.

And Jesus remembered the desert,
The days in the wilderness spent,
The tempting with power by Satan,
That lofty, majestic descent.

He thought of the wedding at Cana,
The feast and the miracles; and
How once he had walked on the waters
Through mist to a boat, as on land;

The beggarly crowd in a hovel,
The cellar to which he was led;
How, started, the candle-flame guttered,
When Lazarus rose from the dead…

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, March 27, 2017

Gerard Manley Hopkins*

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844—1889) was not a popular poet in his own lifetime, perhaps because his idiosyncratic style was not like that of his contemporaries. None of his now-famous poems were even published until well after his death. He was raised in a family that valued both faith and artistic expression. In 1867 when he became a Catholic priest, he burned all of the poetry he had written to date, saying he would not write unless it was by the wish of church authorities. It wasn't until 1875, with the encouragement of his superior, when the German ship "Deutschland" was wrecked in a storm, that he began writing again.

Hopkins' poems finally appeared in book form in 1918, but did not begin selling well until after the second edition appeared in 1930. He became a major influence on the development of poetry in the twentieth century, including upon such poets as T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden and Dylan Thomas.

Spring

Nothing is so beautiful as Spring —
----When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
----Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
----The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
----The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
----A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. – Have, get, before it cloy,
----Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
----Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Gerard Manley Hopkins: first post second 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, March 20, 2017

Sweeney Astray

Buile Suibhne is an ancient Irish tale of a king, often referred to as Mad Sweeney, who is driven insane by the curse of St. Ronan. Suibhne's name appears as early as the ninth century, and the tale is believed to have taken on its current form by the twelfth. It represents the conflict between paganism and the rise of Christianity. Seamus Heaney entitled his English translation Sweeney Astray. Sweeney is also the central character in T.S. Eliot's incomplete verse drama Sweeney Agonistes.

In the legend, Suibhne, trying to prevent the building of a church in his territory, threw Ronan's Psalter into the lake, and tried to drag him away. At the Battle of Mag Rath (637 A.D.) Suibhne speared to death one of the saint's psalmists who was blessing the troops with holy water. Ronan cursed him, saying he would wander like a bird and die by a spear.

Heaney says in his introduction, "For example, insofar as Sweeney is also a figure of the artist, displaced, guilty, assuaging himself by his utterance, it is possible to read the work as an aspect of the quarrel between free creative imagination and the constraints of religious, political, and domestic obligation..."

At the end of Heaney's translation St. Moling speaks the following words:

from Sweeney Astray

I am standing beside Sweeney's grave
remembering him. Wherever he
loved and nested and removed to
will always be dear to me.

Because Sweeney loved Glen Bolcain,
I learned to love it, too. He'll miss
all the fresh streams tumbling down,
all the beds of watercress.

He would drink his sup of water from
the well beyond that we have called
The Madman's Well; and now his name
keeps brimming in its sandy cold.

I waited long but knew he'd come.
I welcomed, sped him as a guest.
With holy viaticum
I limed him for the Holy Ghost.

Because Mad Sweeney was a pilgrim
to the lip of every well
and every green-banked, cress-topped stream,
their water's his memorial.

Now, if it is the will of God,
rise, Sweeney, take this guiding hand
that has to lay you in the sod
and draw the dark blinds of the ground.

I ask a blessing, by Sweeney's grave.
His memory rises in my breast.
His soul roosts in the tree of love.
His body sinks in its clay nest.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

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, March 13, 2017

Marjorie Stelmach

Marjorie Stelmach is the winner of Beloit Poetry Journal's 24th annual Chad Walsh Prize, for a poem of hers which was selected as the best published in the journal in 2016. Her fifth poetry collection Falter, has just appeared as part of the Poiema Poetry Series from Cascade Books.

I am honoured to have contributed as the editor for this collection, and to have Marjorie Stelmach as one of the poets featured in my new anthology The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry, and in my forthcoming second anthology Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

She was a high school English teacher for 30 years, and has served as visiting poet at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, and as director of the Howard Nemerov Writing Scholars Program at Washington University.

The following poem is from Falter.

On Departure

------El Shaddai, Elohim, and Adonai . . .

A profligate bird I can’t yet name ripples at intervals
outside the window I’ve raised to the rain.

Soon the heater clicks itself on against April’s chill,
------a comforting drone and a warmth we’ll pay for

on departure, along with the firewood we’ll likely consume,
------the local phone, any damages done to the furnishings—

all such accounting deferred by Laura, who late last evening
------welcomed us to Santa Maria and now returns to explain

the rules: first, she asks us not to burn the furniture
------or the cats; second, to help ourselves to the garden.

And it seems that’s it. When we ask about last night’s
------late-night laughter, first night with all of us back together,

our voices rising toward a keening hilarity, her smile widens:
------“Make a joyful noise,” she says, “Rule Three,”

and flings out her arms with such abandon my own arms lift
------as if to follow, wanting more than I’d known for a joyful noise

to rise in me, unconsidered as the sheer of nesting swallows
------planing into the rain; nameless as that profligate bird,

its melody catching over and over in its own throat, an echo of
------the Passage Song we’d lifted through similar catches

beside my brother’s deathbed weeks ago, voicing all the names
------of God we knew, a litany gathered over ages: names

for the going, for what it is we go into; names we hoped
------might also serve for his welcoming song in ceremonies

we can’t attend, or envision, or begin to name. A joy
------in the syllables, even then, even in the rasp

of his laboring breaths, nested within our circled chants, even
------in the first hard silence after, a caesura that began our long

release into the world he’d left, an unaccountably joyful noise
------I’m only beginning to understand, but, at any price,

will gladly pay for on departure.

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, March 6, 2017

Charles Péguy

Charles Péguy (1873—1914) is a French poet and philosopher. He championed socialism and nationalism, and lived much of his life in an uneasy relationship with the Catholic Church. A priest at the end of Graham Greene's novel Brighton Rock, speaking of a Frenchman who never took the sacraments but is considered by some to be a saint—is a reference to Péguy.

"Truth's pedagogue" is what Geoffrey Hill calls Péguy in his long poem "The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy" (1983).

Péguy ran a bookstore, and in 1900 began publishing the influential journal Cahiers de la Quinzaine. He volunteered for military service in World War I, and was one of its earliest casualties, as the Battle of the Marne was about to commence. Interestingly, he had written:

------Blessèd are those whom a great battle leaves
------Stretched out on the ground in front of God's face,
------Blessèd the lives that just wars erase,
------Blessèd the ripe wheat, the wheat gathered in sheaves.

The following selection is from the collection God Speaks which was translated by Julian Green.

from Innocence And Experience

God Speaks:
It is innocence that is full and experience that is empty.
It is innocence that wins and experience that loses.
It is innocence that is young and experience that is old.
It is innocence that grows and experience that wanes.

It is innocence that is born and experience that dies.
It is innocence that knows and experience that does not know.
It is the child who is full and the man who is empty,
Empty as an empty gourd and as an empty barrel:

That is what I do with that experience of yours.

Now then, children, go to school.
And you men, go to the school of life.
Go and learn
How to unlearn.
................................................
Nothing is so beautiful as a child going to sleep
while he is saying his prayers, says God.
I tell you nothing is so beautiful in the world.—
And yet I have seen beautiful sights in the world.
And I know something about it. My creation is
overflowing with beauty.
My creation overflows with marvels.
There are so many that you don't know where to put them.
I have seen millions and millions of stars rolling
under my feet like the sands of the sea.
I have seen days as scorching as flames,
Summer days of June and July and August.
I have seen winter evenings spread out like a cloak....

Thanks to Burl Horniachek for suggesting this, and many other 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, February 27, 2017

Marilyn Nelson*

Marilyn Nelson is the author of more than twenty books, including such poetry collections as Magnificat (1994) and Faster Than Light: New and Selected Poems (2012). Her newest poetry collection is The Meeting House (2016, Antrim House). It is the history of the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, Connecticut — but is more than that, for it does not shy away from concerns of slavery and racism within this historic Christian community.

She has written books for young adults, and for young children, and has translated poetry, including the nonsense rhymes of Danish poet Halfdan Rasmussen. In 2012 she won the Poetry Society of America's Robert Frost Medal. She is the Poet-in-Residence of the Poets Corner at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, and served as Poet Laureate of Connecticut from 2001—2006.

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) and through Amazon.

The following poem is from Carver: A Life in Poems (2001)

Watkins Laundry and Apothecary

Mariah Watkins, Neosho, Missuri

Imagine a child at your door,
offering to do your wash,
clean your house, cook,
to weed your kitchen garden
or paint you a bunch of flowers
in exchange for a meal.
A spindly ten-year-old, alone
and a stranger in town, here to go
to our school for colored children.
His high peep brought tears:
sleeping in a barn and all that,
nary mama nor kin,
but only white folks
he left with their blessing,
his earthly belongings
in a handkerchief tied to a stick.

I've brought a houseful of children
into this world, concentrating on
that needle's eye into eternity.
But ain't none of them children mine.
Well, of course I moved him on in.
He helped me with my washings,
brought me roots from the woods
that bleached them white folks' sheets
brighter than sunshine. He could fill
a canning jar with leaves and petals
so when you lifted the lid
a fine perfume flooded your senses.
White bodices and pantalettes danced
around George on my line.

He was sweet with the neighbor children.
Taught the girls to crochet.
Showed the boys
a seed he said held a worm
cupped hands warmed so it wriggled and set
the seed to twitching.
Gave them skills and wonders.
Knelt with me at bedtime.

He was the child the good Lord gave
and took away before I got more
than the twinkle of a glimpse
at the man he was going to be.
It happened one Saturday afternoon.
George was holding a black-eyed Susan,
talking about how the seed
this flower grew from
carried a message from a flower
that bloomed a million years ago,
and how this flower
would send the message on
to a flower that was going to bloom
in a million more years.
Praise Jesus, I'll never forget it.

He left to find a teach that knew
more than he knew.
I give him my Bible.
I keep his letters
in the bureau, tied with a bow.
He always sends a dried flower.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Marilyn Nelson: first post

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 20, 2017

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811—1896) is famous for her anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852). Her father was a Congregationalist minister in Litchfield, Connecticut. The family moved to Cincinnati in 1832, when her father was appointed president of Lane Theological Seminary. Across the Ohio River in Kentucky, she could witness the horrors of slavery in action. In 1836 she married Calvin Ellis Stowe, a professor of Biblical literature at Lane. After their son died in 1849, her views on Christian faith shifted from the Calvinism she had been raised in.

Stowe wrote her novel in an attempt to encourage abolition through a literary representation of slavery based in part on the life of Josiah Henson. After the Civil War began, she travelled to Washington to visit with President Abraham Lincoln.

The following poem first appeared in The Independent in 1858.

The Mystery of Life

Life's mystery — deep, restless as the ocean —
Hath surged and wailed for ages to and fro;
Earth's generations watch its ceaseless motion,
As in and out its hollow moanings flow.
Shivering and yearning by that unknown sea,
Let my soul calm itself, O Christ, in thee!

Life's sorrows, with inexorable power,
Sweep desolation o'er this mortal plain;
And human loves and hopes fly as the chaff
Borne by the whirlwind from the ripened grain.
Ah! when before that blast my hopes all flee,
Let my soul calm itself, O Christ, in thee!

Between the mysteries of death and life
Thou standest, loving, guiding, not explaining;
We ask, and thou art silent; yet we gaze,
And our charmed hearts forget their drear complaining.
No crushing fate, no stony destiny,
O Lamb that hast been slain, we find in thee!

The many waves of thought, the mighty tides,
The ground-swell that rolls up from other lands,
From far-off worlds, from dim, eternal shores,
Whose echo dashes on life's wave-worn strands,
This vague, dark tumult of the inner sea
Grows calm, grows bright, O risen Lord, in thee!

Thy piercèd hand guides the mysterious wheels;
Thy thorn-crowned brow now wears the crown of power;
And when the dread enigma presseth sore,
Thy patient voice saith, "Watch with me one hour."
As sinks the moaning river in the sea
In silver peace, so sinks my soul in thee!

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 13, 2017

John Henry Newman

John Henry Newman (1801—1890) is an English churchman and scholar who began his career in the Anglican Church, but then converted to Catholicism in 1845. Prior to this he was a significant figure in the Oxford Movement. He founded The Catholic University of Ireland, which has since become University College Dublin. In 1879 he became a cardinal.

Newman wrote poetry, fiction, history, hymns, sermons and works of philosophy and theology. Gerard Manley Hopkins held Newman's prose writing in high esteem.

He was beautified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. The version of Newman that is portrayed by the Pope, however, seems quite different from the one that history has recorded. Newman had lost his position with the Catholic magazine, The Rambler, for writing articles critical of the papacy; now he is being held up as one opposed to dissent.

Lead, Kindly Light (The Pillar of Cloud)

Lead, Kindly Light, amidst the encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
Shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on.
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!

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 6, 2017

Richard Jones

Richard Jones is a professor of English at Chicago's DePaul University, where he directs the Creative Writing Program. His poetry books include The Blessing: New & Selected Poems (2000) which won the Society of Midland Authors Award for Poetry, and Apropos of Nothing (2006) both published by Copper Canyon Press. For more than 30 years, he has served as editor for the literary journal Poetry East. His poetry has appeared in anthologies edited by Billy Collins (Poetry 180) and Garrison Keillor (Good Poems).

When asked about his teaching, Richard Jones says,
------“Writing poetry can be a hard and humbling discipline—an art
------that demands great erudition and mastery, and which tests the
------will and the imagination. The poet Rainer Maria Rilke framed
------the challenge of poetry: 'You must change your life.' And so
------poetry assaults complacency, insensitivity, and arrogance.
------Ordinary wisdom tells us to hurry blindly through our day;
------poetry asks that we slow down, listen, and regard all that
------which is marvelous, both the insignificant as well as the divine.”

The following poem first appeared in Image and is from his book The Correct Spelling & The Exact Meaning (Copper Canyon, 2010)

Normal

------Tent Revival, 1957

When things get back to normal
God will put on black robes
and ascend to the mercy seat
to judge the world, the ruined
cities, the devastated hills,
the living and the risen dead.
When things get back to normal,
He’ll open the Book of Life
and read what each man has done,
said, and written, reciting our words
and deeds to the angels to see
if there is any forgiveness
like honey on our tongues.
When things get back to normal
all will stand before God
and be burned like dead branches
or blessed with the incomprehensible fire
of mercy. When things get back to normal,
we will be standing on the threshold of heaven,
a kingdom of singing where at last we will learn
the meaning and purpose
of poetry.

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, January 30, 2017

Novica Tadić

Novica Tadić (1949—2011) is a Serbian poet who was born in Montenegro, and spent most of his life in Belgrade. Charles Simic translated his poetry for the book Night Mail: Selected Poems (1992). Throughout his career, Tadić has steadily won every major award that Yugoslavia, and later Serbia, had to offer — although he is still relatively unknown in the West.

His poems often are horror-filled, in reaction to the inhuman treatment he and others received at the hands of Yugoslavia’s communists — such as in “Biography,” where the speaker has been randomly beaten by authorities, which actually reflects his own experience. In his early poetry he used symbolism from Bogomilism (a heretical medieval cult that existed in the area). In his more recent work, Tadić becomes increasingly orthodox in the expression of his own Christian faith.

The following poem is from Assembly; translated by Steven and Maja Teref

Candle

Black thought
(illthought)
coils around
my ankles,
lunges
at my throat,
descends
into my heart.
My guardian
angel grabs
the candle,
lights it
so gently
with holy
fire. My candle
burns upright
in my gloom.
I, the stumbling
man, now upright.

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, January 23, 2017

Paul Willis*

Paul Willis has just had his fourth poetry collection — Getting To Gardisky Lake — published by Stephen F. Austin State University Press. He is a professor of English at Westmount College, where he has taught for 25 years, and is the former poet laureate of Santa Barbara, California. His previous collection — Say This Prayer Into The Past — is part of the Poiema Poetry Series.

One of the poems in his new book first appeared on my blog The 55 Project. He is also 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. He also has poetry forthcoming in my anthology Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

In his recent interview in the Santa Barbara Independent, Willis responded to the question of where poetry and faith meet for him by saying, "I don’t know that I ever set out to write nature poetry...[or] spiritual poetry, either...But you are right; I’m not much of a proselytizer. Evangelicals like to talk about having Jesus in their hearts. If Jesus really is in my heart, he might peek out in some poems, but I don’t feel the need to preach."

The following poem is from Getting To Gardisky Lake and demonstrates the poet's ecological concerns.

Q & A

"Look there," he said, and pointed
out the window of the climbing plane.

"More swimming pools in Johannesburg
than you have got in Los Angeles."

And there were many. Little strings of aqua
jewels that necklaced every neighborhood.

The man was on his way to finance
gold mines on the shores of Lake Victoria.

They would leach the gold from piles
of ore with cyanide, a cunning way.

"Do you worry about the water?"
I asked. "The groundwater?"

He closed his eyes. "Just look," he said.
"Look at all the swimming pools."

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Paul Willis: first post second post

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, January 16, 2017

Giuseppe Ungaretti

Giuseppe Ungaretti (1888—1970) is an Italian poet, born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt. In 1912 he moved to France to attend the University of Paris. There he became friends with poets including Paul Valéry, and painters such as Pablo Picasso, and became greatly influenced by the French symbolist poetry of Stéphane Mallarmé. Ungaretti enlisted in the Italian army when WWI broke out. It was on the battlefield where he wrote his first poetry collection.

After a religious upbringing, he abandoned his faith, but returned to Catholicism in 1928. He was and is controversial in Italy for his support of the Italian fascists, though by the '40s he was denouncing them for joining up with the Nazis and instituting race laws. He appears to have genuinely regretted his early support for them.

From 1936 to 1942 he taught Italian literature at the University of São Paulo, Brazil. When his nine-year-old son died, he expressed his agony — as well as his sorrow over what was happening in Europe — in his poetry. He taught at the University of Rome from 1942 to 1957.

The following poem is from Ungaretti's collection Grief, and from the section "Rome Occupied: 1943—1944." This translation is by Diego Bastianutti.

You Too Are My River

1.

Fateful Tiber, you too are my river,
Now that night already troubled flows;
Now that, persistent,
Like grief gushing from stone,
A groan of lambs radiates
Lost through the stunned streets.
That the dread of unremitting evil
The worst of evils,
That the dread of an unforeseeable evil
Encumbers the soul and footsteps;
That unending sobs, gasping at length
Freeze the homes and dangerous dens;
Now that night already torn apart flows,
That every moment suddenly disappears,
Or fear the offense of many signals
Joined to shine almost divinely
Through the ascent of human millennia.

Now that night already devastated flows,
And I learn how much a man suffers;
Now now, while the enslaved world
Suffers from the abysmal pain;
Now that the unendurable torment
Is let loose between brothers in mortal rage;
Now that my blasphemous lips
Dare say:
“Christ, thoughtful and moving,
Why is Your goodness
So far from us?”

2.

Now that bewildered sheep scatter
With the lambs through streets
That were once urban, desolate.
Now that after the strain of emigration,
After the wicked injustice
Of deportations,
A people suffers;
Now that in the graves
Man tears himself apart
With twisted fantasies
And shameless hands
And pity contracts into a scream from stone;
Now that innocence
Groaning, demands at least an echo
Even from the hardened heart;
Now I see clearly in the dark night.

Now I see clearly in the dark night, I learn,
I know that Hell has come to Earth
To such a degree that
Man, lunatic, dodges
The purity of Your passion.

3.

The burden of pain,
That man spreads across the earth,
Plagues Your heart;
Your heart is the zealous seat
Of a love not vain.

Christ, thoughtful and moving
An incarnate star among the darkness of humanity,
Brother who ceaselessly
Sacrifices graciously
To rebuild man.

Saint, Saint, how you suffer
Teacher and brother and God, how you know us, the weak
Saint, Saint, how you suffer
To free the dead from death
And support those of us who live in misery.
I cry no more from tears that are only mine,
Here, I call You, Saint,
Saint, Saint, how you suffer.

Thanks to Burl Horniachek for suggesting this, and many other 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, January 9, 2017

Adam Zagajewski

Adam Zagajewski is a Polish poet, essayist and translator. He divides his time between Krakow and Chicago, where he teaches at the University of Chicago. His awards include the 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize Lifetime Recognition Award.

His poem "Try to Praise the Mutilated World" appeared on the back cover of The New Yorker shortly after the September 11th attacks, and received a lot of attention. His books include Without End: New and Selected Poems (FSG, 2003) and most-recently, Unseen Hand (FSG, 2011).

In acknowledgement of Czeslaw Milosz's question of the Pope, "[H]ow in the 20th century can one write religious poetry differently?” Zagajewski has said, “I think poets have to be able to find fresh metaphors for old metaphysical objects and longings. I’m a Christian, a sometimes doubting one (but this is almost a definition of a Christian: to doubt also). In my writing I have to be radically different from a priest. My language must have the sheen of a certain discovery.”

The following poem is from Without End.

Presence

I was born in a city of wild cherries
and hard-seeded sunflowers (common wisdom
had it halfway from the West
to the East). Globes stained by verdigris
kept careless vigil.

Might only the absence of presence be perfect?
Presence, after all, infected with the original
sin of existence, is excessive, savage,
Oriental, superb, while beauty, like a fruit knife,
snips its bit of plenitude off.
Life accumulates through generations
as in a pond; it does not vanish
with its moment but turns
airy and dry. I think
of a half-conscious prayer, the chapped lips
of a boy at his first confession,
the wooden step creaking
under his knees.
At night, autumn arrives
for the harvest, yellow, ripe for flame.
There are, I know, not one
but at least four realities,
intersecting
like the Gospels.
I know I'm alone, but linked
firmly to you, painfully, gladly.
I know only the mysteries are immortal.

Thanks to Burl Horniachek for suggesting this, and many other 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, January 2, 2017

George Mackay Brown*

George Mackay Brown (1921—1996) is a Scottish poet and writer who was born in Stromness, Orkney, and lived there most of his life. Edwin Muir was a significant encourager of his poetry, writing an introduction to his first collection The Storm (1954), and helping him to get his second collection Loaves and Fishes (1959) published.

He received an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in 1974. Brown's 1994 novel Beside the Ocean of Time was nominated for the Booker Prize, and was judged to be the Scottish Book of the Year by the Saltire Society. His Collected Poems appeared in 2005.

A Child's Calendar

No visitors in January
A snowman smokes a cold pipe in the yard.

They stand about like ancient women,
The February hills.
They have seen many a coming and going, the hills.

In March, Moorfea is littered
With knocked-kneed lambs.

Daffodils at the door in April,
Three shawled Marys.
A lark splurges in galilees of sky.

And in May
Peatmen strike the bog with spades,
Summoning black fire,

The June bee
Bumps in the pane with a heavy bag of plunder.

Strangers swarms in July
With cameras, binoculars, bird books.

He thumped the crag in August,
A blind blue whale.

September crofts get wrecked in blond surges.
They struggle, the harvesters,
They drag loaf and ale-kirn into winter.

In October the fishmonger
Argues, pleads, threatens at the shore.

Nothing in November
But tinkers at the door, keening with cans.

Some December midnight
Christ, lord, lie warm in our byre.
Here are stars, an ox, poverty enough.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about George Mackay Brown: 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.