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, fourth 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.