Monday, June 19, 2017

Elizabeth Jennings*

Elizabeth Jennings (1926—2001) is an Oxford poet, often associated with "The Movement" but always independent in her poetry. She was influenced by Herbert and Hopkins, remaining consistent in her tone without becoming repetitious.

Hester Jones wrote in The Church Times, "Like [her contemporary, Sylvia] Plath, Jennings suffered from mental illness in her adult life, but, as a Roman Catholic, she drew on the tradition of the 'dark night' of St John of the Cross to explore this suffering within the context of faith. Consequently, much of her poetry is marked by moments that contain both momentary glimpses of God's love and the experience of darkness, guilt, and God's absence."

She is one of the poets featured in my new anthology The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry(available here) and through Amazon.

Her Collected Poems 1953-1985 — which she had ruthlessly edited down to 213 pages of the "work she wishes to preserve" — received the W.H. Smith Literary Award. In 2001 she received an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Durham University.

The Lord's Prayer

"Give us this day." Give us this day and night.
Give us the bread, the sky. Give us the power
To bend and not be broken by your light.

And let us soothe and sway like the new flower
Which closes, opens to the night, the day,
Which stretches up and rides upon a power

More than its own, whose freedom is the play
Of light, for whom the earth and air are bread.
Give us the shorter night, the longer day.

In thirty years so many words were spread,
And miracles. An undefeated death
Has passed as Easter passed, but those words said

Finger our doubt and run along our breath.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Elizabeth Jennings: 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.