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.