Monday, December 10, 2018

John Heath-Stubbs

John Heath-Stubbs (1918—2006) is an English poet, who was almost completely blind right from childhood. He didn’t see this as a hindrance, but once said, “As a poet, I have found that blindness actually tends to stimulate the imagination.”

He was one of the editors (and one of the eight poets) of Eight Oxford Poets (1941) which helped establish his career. Later, he taught at various universities, including Leeds and Merton College, Oxford. Among his accomplishments are translations of poetry from Latin, Greek, Persian, Italian and French — and significant awards, including the Queen’s Gold Medal for poetry in 1973, and an OBE in 1989.

Heath-Stubbs often explored his Christian faith within his poems — and expressed his interest in “the reaffirmation of orthodox religious themes in the poetry of T.S. Eliot and Charles Williams and others.”

The following poem was set to music in 1966 by composer Peter Dickinson.

For The Nativity

Shepherds, I sing you, this winter’s night
Our Hope new-planted, the womb’d, the buried Seed:
For a strange Star has fallen, to blossom from a tomb,
And infinite Godhead circumscribed, hangs helpless at the breast.

Now the cold airs are musical, and all the ways of the sky
Vivid with moving fires, above the hills where tread
The feet—how beautiful!—of them that publish peace.

The sacrifice, which is not made for them,
The angels comprehend, and bend to earth
Their worshipping way. Material kind Earth
Gives Him a Mother’s breast, and needful food.

A Love, shepherds, most poor,
And yet most royal, kings,
Begins this winter’s night;
But oh, cast forth, and with no proper place,
Out in the cold He lies!

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Eugene H. Peterson*

Eugene H. Peterson (1932—2018) is the author of more than thirty books, including A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, and his vernacular Bible translation The Message. Before retiring in 2006, he served as Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver.

In early October Eugene Peterson was hospitalized after “a sudden and dramatic turn in his health caused by an infection.” The hope at that time was that he might live for a few more months; he passed away on October 22nd.

He has greatly influenced millions through his books — most-famously the rock singer Bono of U2 who describes Peterson’s book about the prophet Jeremiah, Run With The Horses, as “a powerful manual for me.” Bono visited the Petersons at their isolated home in Flathead Lake, Montana in 2015, as documented in a video (produced by Fuller Theological Seminary) where he and Eugene discuss their common love of the Psalms.

I included one of Peterson's poems in the anthology The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry. He generously wrote an endorsement for my subsequent anthology Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse (both of which are available here).

The following poem is from Peterson’s poetry collection Holy Luck (2013, Eerdmans).

Cradle

She gave birth to her first-born son
And wrapped him in swaddling clothes,
And laid him in a manger. — Luke 2:7


For us who have only known approximate fathers
And mothers manqué, this child is a surprise:
A sudden coming true of all we hoped
Might happen. Hoarded hopes fed by prophecies,

Old sermons and song fragments now cry
Coo and gurgle in the cradle, a babbling
Proto-language which as soon as it gets
A tongue (and we, of course, grow open ears)

Will say the big nouns: joy, glory, peace;
And live the best verbs: love, forgive, save.
Along with the swaddling clothes the words are washed

Of every soiling sentiment, scrubbed clean
Of all failed promises, then hung in the world’s
Backyard dazzling white, billowing gospel.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Eugene Peterson: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Francis Thompson*

Francis Thompson (1859—1907) was uninspired as a medical student, and neglected his studies. During an illness he became addicted to opium, and started living on the streets of London. At this time he applied to Oxford University, but was turned down due to his addiction. His fortunes began to turn for the better, however, when his first poems appeared in the periodical Merrie England. That’s when Robert Browning took notice of them. At the Premonstratensian Monastery in Storrington, Sussex, he was able to become free of opium.

In 1893 his book Poems was highly praised by Coventry Patmore in the Fortnightly Review. Much of Thompson’s best work relates to his Christian faith, particularly his best known poem, “The Hound of Heaven.”

To A Snowflake

What heart could have thought you? —
Past our devisal
(O filigree petal!)
Fashioned so purely,
Fragilely, surely,
From what Paradisal
Imagineless metal,
Too costly for cost?
Who hammered you, wrought you,
From argentine vapor? —
"God was my shaper.
Passing surmisal,
He hammered, He wrought me,
From curled silver vapor,
To lust of His mind —
Thou could'st not have thought me!
So purely, so palely,
Tinily, surely,
Mightily, frailly,
Insculped and embossed,
With His hammer of wind,
And His graver of frost."

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Francis Thompson: first post

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Kathleen Norris*

Kathleen Norris is the author of several New York Times bestselling memoirs, including: The Cloister Walk, Acedia & Me, and Dakota: A Spiritual Geography. She is also the author of seven poetry collections, including: Journey: New and Selected Poems.

Norris explained in a recent interview why she writes across different Christian traditions:
-----“...when I first encountered the Benedictine monks, I was on
-----a religious search...I wasn’t sure if I was even a Christian...
-----It’s one of God’s gifts to me that I found this tradition of
-----communal prayer — the Psalm readings, you know, and monastic
-----spirituality. A lot of what I’m talking about is included in
-----Benedictine material, but it comes from a time when there
-----weren’t any divisions in the church. There was no Roman Catholic
-----Church versus Eastern Orthodox versus Protestant. It all stems
-----from the original taproot of the religions, so it’s really
-----accessible to anyone, and that’s how I’ve always felt as a
-----Protestant. The monastic tradition is mine, too.”

Her husband, the poet David Dwyer, died in 2003. She now divides her time between South Dakota and Hawaii, where she was raised. She is the nonfiction editor for Saint Katherine Review. In 2017 she served as chaplain for Image journal’s Glen workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Answered Prayer

I came to your door
with soup and bread.
I didn’t know you
but you were a neighbor
in pain: and a little soup and bread,
I reasoned, never hurt anyone.

I shouldn’t reason.
I appeared the day
your divorce was final:
a woman, flushed with cooking
and talk, and you watched,
fascinated,
coiled like a spring.

You seemed so brave and lonely
I wanted to comfort you like a child.
I couldn’t of course.
You wanted to ask me too far in.

It was then I knew
it had to be like prayer.
We can’t ask
for what we know we want:
we have to ask to be led
someplace we never dreamed of going,
a place we don’t want to be.

We’ll find ourselves there
one morning,
opened like leaves,
and it will be all right.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Kathleen Norris: first post

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Daniel Klawitter

Daniel Klawitter lives in Denver, Colorado, where he is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church. He has published several poetry collections — most recently Quiet Insurrections (2018, White Violet Press).

His light touch, and delight in rhyme, makes his verse quite accessible. He has said, “…[A]ll my poems are driven primarily by an obsession with musicality and rhythm. It’s the cadence of a line of writing that haunts me first in my head and usually leads to a full-fledged poem.” His children’s poetry chapbook Put On Your Silly Pants received an honourable mention in the 2017 Dragonfly Book Awards for Children’s Poetry.

His poem “The Misuse of Scripture” demonstrates the playfulness often present in his poetry. It has recently appeared in Poems For Ephesians, a new poetry web-journal edited by D.S. Martin on the McMaster Divinity College website.

The following poem is from his chapbook An Epistemology of Flesh.

A Mystery

It’s true that old age
has its own bouquet:
the remembered, fermented
wine of childhood
now uncorked,
left to breathe
in the dark cellar
of skin, bone and memory.

For some the past
is a mausoleum.
For others, a museum
full of curiosities.

Yet the greatest mystery
is not the history of Eden
but what lies ahead:

that second childhood
where we cross our hearts,
bow our heads
and hope to die
to live again.

The last trumpet
And the last laugh is yours:
New wine will be poured
In new wineskins.

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Guillaume de Salluste du Bartas

Guillaume de Salluste du Bartas (1544—1590) is a French Huguenot, who served in the court of Henri IV, from well before he came to the French throne.

Du Bartas’ divine poetry was appreciated across Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. At the turn of that century he was still the most esteemed poet in France, although literary fashions changed later in the 1600s. Because of his Protestant views, his influence was felt much longer in England — where he had made a significant impression on Philip Sydney, Edmund Spenser, and John Milton. James VI of Scotland’s enthusiasm for du Bartas’ verse also spread the poet’s fame.

He also made an impact on the Metaphysical poets. C.S. Lewis wrote in English Literature in the 16th Century, “…no one can point to a moment at which poetry began to be Metaphysical nor to a poet who made it so; but of all poets perhaps Guillaume de Salluste du Bartas… comes nearest to that position.”

The following is from Josuah Sylvester's translation, which appeared in editions from 1608 to 1641, and is part of the first poem from The Divine Weeks (Part 1—Building The World)

from The First Day

No sooner said He, “Be there light,” but lo!
The formless lump to perfect form ‘gan grow,
And all illustred with light’s radiant shine,
Doffed mourning weeds and decked it passing fine.
All hail, pure lamp, bright, sacred and excelling;
Sorrow and care, darkness and dread repelling;
The world’s great taper, wicked men’s just terror,
Mother of truth, true beauty’s only mirror—
God’s eldest daughter! O, how thou art full
Of grace and goodness! O, how beautiful!
Since thy great Parent’s all-discerning eye
Doth judge thee so, and since His Majesty—
Thy glorious Maker—in His sacred lays
Can do no less than sing thy modest praise.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Shane McCrae

Shane McCrae is Assistant Professor of Writing at Columbia University in New York City. His most-recent book is Language of My Captor (2017, Wesleyan University Press), and his new poetry collection The Gilded Auction Block will appear from Farrar, Straus & Giroux in February. He is the new Poetry Editor for the journal Image. He has received the Lannan Literary Award, and a Whiting Writers Award.

The following poem first appeared in West Branch and is from his collection The Animal Too Big To Kill (2015, Persea Books).

On the First Day of the Last Week of His Life
Jesus Overturns the Tables of the Money-Changers


For John Gallaher

I wrote to a friend yesterday and told him my new poems were
About or I was trying to say
Something about money to God

I think and I don't understand it why I think it Lord You don't
Understand money
but of course You do / And maybe even

Lord if You were You You on Earth used money maybe You
Didn't just overturn the tables of the money-changers
Maybe You sometimes ached to not

Lord have enough for even a few figs / Maybe You hated figs
-----and always had or always the
Conditioned always of Your time here
hated figs / And maybe figs were usually

The cheapest food available and still You sometimes didn't
-----have enough
Maybe You suffered in Your body first the suffering of in Your
-----body Lord
Inhabiting Your poverty

Maybe Your body Lord was shaped by foods You hated
Maybe You sometimes walking to the market / Felt everybody
-----even only
for a moment / Glancing at You

knew Lord You lived on figs
Lord and You hated figs and always had
And on the day You overturned the tables of the money-changers

You also cursed a fig tree never to produce / Fruit again
because You had come to it hungry Lord
and found it barren

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Paul Claudel

Paul Claudel (1868—1955) is a French dramatist and poet, who was nominated six times for the Nobel Prize. He was also a French diplomat, serving in the United States, China, Tokyo, Brazil, and in several European cities.

Although he had been an unbeliever in his teens, on Christmas Day when he was 18 years old he heard a choir singing Vespers in Notre Dame cathedral; he reported, "In an instant, my heart was touched, and I believed." He was a faithful Catholic for the rest of his life.

He is often criticized for his conservative beliefs, including the antisemitism common to the France of his day; he, however, was opposed to the views of Nazis as early as 1930, and in 1940 he actively interceded for the Jewish husband of a distant relative who had been arrested by the Vichy government.

W.H. Auden, whose political views differed from Claudel’s, wrote the following couplet:
-----"Time will pardon Paul Claudel,
-----Pardon him for writing well"
which speaks to the conundrum of admiring an artist who voices opinions quite different from your own. George Steiner paired Claudel with Brecht as the two greatest dramatists of the 20th century.

The following is from "Magnificat" which is the third of the Five Great Odes as translated by Edward Lucie-Smith.

from Magnificat

My soul doth magnify the Lord.

O those long bitter streets of years ago. And the time when I was
-----single and alone!
Walking through Paris, that long street which goes down to Notre
-----Dame!
I was like the young athlete going towards the Stadium, amidst
-----an eager group of friends and trainers,
One whispers in his ear, another, to strengthen the tendons,
-----bandages the arm given over to him.
It was thus that I walked amid the hurrying feet of my gods!
Fewer murmurs in the forest of St-Jean in summertime,
Less noise in Damascus when the sigh of the desert and the sound
-----of the plane-trees moving at evening in the ventilated air
Are joined to the speech of the waters that fall from the mountains
-----in tumult,
Than in this young heart filled with desires.
O Lord God a young man and the son of woman is more pleasing
-----to you than a young bull.
And, meeting you, I was like a wrestler who yields,
Not because he thinks himself weak, but because his opponent
-----is stronger.
You called me by my name
Like one who knew it, you chose me from among all those of my
-----generation.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Joseph Seamon Cotter

Joseph Seamon Cotter (1861—1949) is the author of six books of poetry, including A White Song and a Black One (1909). He is also among the first black American playwrights to have their work published. Although he had received little formal education prior to adulthood, he became a grammar school teacher and principal — serving in Louisville schools for over fifty years. He was a close friend of the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar.

Cotter and his wife had four children, including Joseph Seamon Cotter Jr. — a promising young poet, who died of tuberculosis at age 23.
Cotter’s Collected Poems appeared in 1938.

Sonnet To Negro Soldiers

They shall go down unto Life's Borderland,
Walk unafraid within that Living Hell,
Nor heed the driving rain of shot and shell
That 'round them falls; but with uplifted hand
Be one with mighty hosts, an arméd band
Against man's wrong to man—for such full well
They know. And from their trembling lips shall swell
A song of hope the world can understand.
All this to them shall be a glorious sign,
A glimmer of that resurrection morn,
When age-long Faith crowned with a grace benign
Shall rise and from their brows cast down the thorn
Of prejudice. E'en though through blood it be,
There breaks this day their dawn of Liberty.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Luis de León

Luis de León (1527—1591) is an Augustinian monk, and one of Spain’s greatest lyric poets. In 1560 he was appointed to the chair of theology at Salamanca. In 1546 the Council of Trent had declared the Latin translation known as the Vulgate to be the authentic text of the Bible. Because de León and others used Hebraic texts and the Septuagint, by 1572 he was arrested and accused of heresy by the Inquisition. Although he escaped punishment, he was hounded by them again in 1582, because of his views concerning predestination.

He wrote commentaries on the books of Job, Obadiah, Galatians, and Song of Songs. He also wrote translations of selections from Virgil, Horace and the Psalms. His prose masterpiece The Names of Christ is, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, “the supreme exemplar of Spanish classical prose style”. It echoes themes also found in his poetry. In 1588 he prepared and published the first collected edition of the writings of Teresa of Ávila.

The following translation is by Willis Barnstone

On The Ascension

---Do you leave, shepherd saint,
your flock here in this valley, deep, obscure,
---in loneliness and plaint,
---and rise piercing the pure
high air–to that immortal refuge sure?

---Those who were formerly
lucky are melancholy and grieving too.
---You nourished them. Suddenly
---they are deprived of you.
Where can they go? What can they now turn to?

---What can those eyes regard
(which one time saw the beauty of your face)
---that is not sadly scarred?
---After your lips’ sweet grace
what can they hear that isn’t blunt and base?

---And this tumultuous sea,
Who can hold it in check? Who can abort
---The gale’s wild energy?
---If you’re a sealed report,
Then what North Star will guide our ship to port?

---O cloud, you envy us
Even brief joy! What pleasure do you find
---Fleeing, impetuous?
---How rich and unconfined
You go! How poor you leave us and how blind!

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Tania Runyan*

Tania Runyan is the author of four poetry collections, including Second Sky (2013, Poiema Poetry Series) and her new book What Will Soon Take Place (2017, Paraclete Press). The former book focuses on the life and writing of the Apostle Paul, while the latter collection is inspired by the Book of Revelation. Luci Shaw endorses Runyan’s new book by saying, “This bold collection is stunning, with poems that reveal the visceral views of both the prophet and the writer.”

She has also written three nonfiction books: How To Read A Poem, How To Write A Poem, and — less exciting but very practical — How To Write A College Application Essay.

One of Runyan’s poems from Second Sky is the first poem to be posted on D.S. Martin’s new web-journal Poems For Ephesians which debuted this past week on the McMaster Divinity College website.

The following poem, which first appeared in The Christian Century is from What Will Soon Take Place.

Ephesus

I was in love with God for one afternoon.
Twenty, alone on a beach, I dropped rocks
by the edge and watched the ocean wash
gray into blue, brown into red. An hour
of my crunching steps, the clack of pebbles,
the water’s rippling response. Never mind
invisibility. We were the only ones, and I
so intoxicating—sand-blown hair,
denim cut-offs, no reason to believe
anyone’s faith could dissolve. My prayers
were as certain as the stones I threw,
the answers as sure as the cove’s blue floor.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Tania Runyan: first post, second post.

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Diane Tucker

Diane Tucker is a Vancouver poet. She has three full-length poetry collections: God on His Haunches (Nightwood Editions, 1996), Bright Scarves of Hours (Palimpsest, 2007) and Bonsai Love (Harbour Publishing, 2014). She has also published a YA novel, His Sweet Favour (Thistledown, 2009). In 2013 her first stage play, Here Breaks the Heart: The Loves of Christina Rossetti, was produced by Fire Exit Theatre in Calgary.

She is one of the poet-organizers of Vancouver’s Dead Poets Reading Series — literally presenting the work of poets that are no longer around to read their own work.

God on his haunches

such an appalling picture
God on his haunches
like a bird watcher, waiting
for what he knows must happen
but will for the world neither impede nor hurry on
waiting for the crunch of the beak through the egg
waiting for the infusion of blue through the bud
God the time-lapse photographer

such a terrifying picture
that the Timeless One should savour time
should know the necessity of every second
should want to plunge me
into the deeps of every moment
drown me in the glory of that which has been made
raise me, sodden, into uncreated light
gleaming in the sun like a dolphin's back

a barbed baptism, the eternal end
reached only through fiery lungfuls of time
every second clotting the nostrils
each moment a coal ablaze in the throat

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, September 17, 2018

John Slater

John Slater is a poet from the Toronto area, known as Brother Isaac in his life as a Trappist monk in upstate New York. His first poetry collection Surpassing Pleasure appeared from The Porcupine’s Quill in 2011. Canadian poet Tim Lilburn has said — in reference to Slater’s new collection, Lean (Grey Borders, 2016) — “We are lucky to have such an eye and mind among us.”

Along with Jeffery Einboden he has translated The Tangled Braid: Ninety-nine Poems by Hafiz of Shiraz — the 14th century Sufi poet.

Slater lives at The Abbey of Genesse where he cares for elderly monks, works in their Japanese garden, and helps produce the abbey’s popular Monk’s Bread.

The following poem is from Surpassing Pleasure.

Building on Sand

The ocean was for him as light
to a master of stained-glass
windows …

Simple implements, trowel,
bucket, water
to keep the white beach sand
wet and mouldable.

Unconcerned about the crowd
of tourists and curious
passersby, he chiselled
a fine Last Supper, a muscular
bust of Christ, or a crucifix,
etched in block letters
at the base:

JESUS THANK YOU

Each dusk, with an odd mix
of loss and satisfaction
to watch the day’s work
swept away,
dissolved in the slow tide’s
gradual blessing.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Cyrillona

Cyrillona is a Christian poet of the 4th century AD who wrote in the Syriac language. He is a younger contemporary of Ephrem the Syrian (Ephrem of Edessa), and was perhaps his nephew. Although only five of his poems survive, it is of significance to have anything from him at all. He probably lived in Syria or Mesopotamia. Since the custom of the day was to deliver sermons in verse form, Cyrillona would have been seen more as a pastor by his contemporaries.

The above image is from a Cyrillona manuscript, housed in the British Museum.

The following translation is from Carl Griffin who has said, “Cyrillona’s work is important not only as a rare witness to early Syriac theology, biblical exegesis, and homiletics, but also as an example of the high artistry that Syriac poetry attained in its early, golden age.”

On the Washing of the Feet

[Jesus] came to Simon, and (Simon) was pricked in his heart.
-----He arose before him and asked him:
“The feet of the watchers, out of fear,
-----are covered in heaven lest they be burned,
and you have come to take in your hand, my Lord,
-----the feet of Simon, and to serve me?
All of this you have made manifest to us,
-----your humility as well as your love.
In all of this you have honored us;
-----do not alarm us again now, my Lord.
The seraphim have never even touched the hem of your garment,
-----and see how you wash the feet of lowly men!
You, my Lord, are washing my feet for me—
-----Who may hear of it and not be pricked?
You, my Lord, are washing my feet for me—
-----What land is able to bear it?
This report of what you have done
-----will strike awe in all creation.
This news of what has happened on earth
-----will strike terror into the assemblies of heaven.
Depart, my Lord, leave, for I shall not permit this!
-----I worship you, for I am a debtor.
On the surface of the sea I walked at your order
-----and at your command I traversed the waves,
and was not this first thing enough for me?
-----This latter thing which you endow me with, even greater—
It’s not possible, my Lord, that this should happen!
-----The report of it alone strikes terror in creation.
It’s not possible, my Lord, that this should happen!
-----For it is a great burden beyond measure.”

[Jesus replied:]
“If this is not possible,
-----you have no share with me on my throne.
If this is not possible,
-----give back to me the keys which I committed to you.
If this is not possible,
-----your authority is also taken from you.
If, as you have said, this is not possible,
-----you are not able to be a disciple.
If, as you have said, this is not possible,
-----you shall never taste a portion of my body.”

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Robert Browning*

Robert Browning (1812—1889) is as much celebrated for his romance with poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning as he is for his poetry. His first published book Pauline: A Fragment of a Confession was denounced by John Stuart Mill as being dominated by the poet’s personal emotions and self-consciousness; this critique may be responsible for Browning subsequently veiling himself from his readers in his dramatic monologues.

He was raised in an evangelical home, but briefly became an atheist after having immersed himself in the work of Percy Bysshe Shelley. This was short-lived, however, and after his marriage to Elizabeth Barrett Browning his Christian faith grew steadily deeper — although, like much of his private life, was not declared in a personal way in his poetry.

His extensive piece Christmas-Eve and Easter-Day is an examination of different attitudes towards Christianity, and is one of his most significant contributions from his married years (1846 to 1861). Robert and Elizabeth lived primarily in Florence. Her grave is in the English Cemetery there, and his is in Westminster Abbey.

from Christmas-Eve - X

Earth breaks up, time drops away,
In flows heaven, with its new day
Of endless life, when He who trod,
Very man and very God,
This earth in weakness, shame and pain,
Dying the death whose signs remain
Up yonder on the accursed tree,—
Shall come again, no more to be
Of captivity the thrall,
But the one God, All in all,
King of kings, Lord of lords,
As His servant John received the words,
“I died, and live for evermore!”

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Robert Browning: first post

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Pierre de Ronsard

Pierre de Ronsard (1524—1585) is a Catholic poet, chief among those in the French Renaissance school known as La Pléiade. Their goal was to produce French poetry which could stand along side that of Greek antiquity. He seemed destined for a diplomatic career, until a case of incurable deafness overtook him. Ronsard took minor orders within the Catholic church, and began a comprehensive study of all known Greek and Latin poetry.

Although he admitted that the Catholic church needed reform, he did not see Protestantism as the answer — despairing of division. His ideal was one king, one law, one faith, although his stand may have had more to do with an earlier Protestant portrayal of him as a pagan and a mediocre poet. Ronsard was an extremely popular poet in his day, enjoying the patronage of the French court — particularly of Charles IX.

The following was translated by Nicholas Kilmer

[You Are The God Of Hosts]


You are the God of hosts;
And you once gave your aid
To Israel’s escape.
You cleft into two parts
The course of red salt water;
Like valley stretched it out
Between two distant knolls
That walled it on both sides.
And in the midst of that
You made trustworthy road,
Through which, their feet dry, moved
The people whom you loved.
And then you flooded in
Your own obedient wave
Over the headstrong king,
Exterminating him
And all his drowning race.
Cast up safe from this sea
Your people wandered then
In deserts back and forth;
Adored the casted calf.
But even for that sin
Heaven did not refrain
From sending food like rain:
Which they had in that place
Forty years by your grace.
Oh Master, turn again
Your eyes, and look on us,
Your people sickening,
Your people perishing;
Because this foreign death
Pale famine, kills us all.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Mildmay Fane

Mildmay Fane (c. 1600—1666) the second Earl of Westmoreland is an English poet. His collection Otia Sacra appeared in 1648. It was the first time a peer of England had published his own verse. This collection consisted of 137 poems. In 2001 another 500 poems, newly identified as his, were published. He was a close friend of Robert Herrick, who dedicated several poems to him.

Fane was made a Knight of the Bath at the Coronation of Charles I (1626). Other literary pursuits included translating the Roman poet Martial, and writing eight stage plays — one of which was composed while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London, early in the English Civil War.

A Carol [IV]

When we a gem or precious stone have lost,
-----Is not the fabric or the frame
Of fancy busied, and each thing tossed
----------And turned within the room,
--------------Till we the same
Can find again? Is't not a martyrdom?

Doth vanity affect us so, yet are
-----We slumber-charmed, nor can employ
A thought that backward might reduce, so far,
----------Lively to represent
--------------Our misery,
Who fell and thus incurred a banishment?

Shall we leave any corner reason lends
-----To give sense light, unsought, untried?
To find how far our liberty extends,
----------And how refound we were
--------------Re-edified
By th' Shepherd, and by the Son of the carpenter?

May not this skill and love in him requite
-----The white and better stone to mark,
And t' raise this time above all others higher,
----------Wherein He came (through Light)
--------------Into the dark,
For to restore unto mankind its sight?

Most sure it will: and where neglect denies
-----To be observant of the day,
It proves not only forfeiture of eyes,
----------But all parts seem asleep
--------------Or gone astray—
So's the house again unbuilt, and lost the sheep.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Anya Krugovoy Silver*

Anya Krugovoy Silver (1968—2018) is a prolific poet, perhaps best known for writing boldly and honestly about her battle with inflammatory breast cancer. She was recently named a Guggenheim fellow for poetry for 2018. I was informed of her death last week, within the first 24 hours. I still feel shock, as she had just been sharing with me about various projects she was working on — including a review of my anthology, Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse, and a new poetry collection.

She participated in the Poiema Poetry reading at the Festival of Faith & Writing in Grand Rapids in April, as pictured below, and will be very missed by the circle of fine poets — including Julie Moore, Barbara Crooker, Tania Runyan, and Marjorie Maddox — who count her as a friend.

The following poem is from her fourth and most-recent book, Second Bloom, which I am honoured to have edited for the Poiema Poetry Series (Cascade Books).

Fourth Advent

On Sunday, I lie beside a friend in bed,
weeping, because she doesn’t want a better place.
How bleak the next life to her grieving sons,
who need their mother here, on earth—
her silly wigs, her marathons, her fingers
deftly pinching dumplings for the feast.
For our sins, it’s said that Christ was born.
The manger’s set up in the church,
my friend sleeps through her steroid pills.
The nights grow still. We wait, Emmanuel.
Merciful one, begotten of woman, understand
how difficult it is to trust that you are kind.

Here is Anya's obituary from Friday's New York Times.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Anya Krugovoy Silver: first post, second post.


Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Patrick Kavanagh*

Patrick Kavanagh (1904—1967) is an Irish poet from the farm country of County Monaghan. He was self-educated, and when he moved to Dublin, did not fit in with its literary culture. His early poetry was not exceptional, and his first critical success was his biographical novel The Green Fool in 1938. It exploited the romantic image of the peasant poet, which his contemporaries idealized, but did not respect. He soon desired to distance himself from this stereotype.

He countered this with the long, narrative poem The Great Hunger (1942) which many critics feel is his finest creation. It presents an anti-sentimental view of rural Ireland, and the despair of being tied to an unproductive farm.

For many years Kavanagh supported himself through journalism, developing a sarcastic bite, which he aimed at the Irish cultural elite. He lost a lot of energy, and nearly died of cancer, through these combative years.

In 1959, a former opponent helped him to be posted to the faculty of English at University College, Dublin. Here he became a popular lecturer, and chose a path of forgiveness and contentment. The sonnets in his collection Come Dance With Kitty Stobling (1960) were praised by Richard Murphy in the New York Times Book Review, as "a lyrical celebration of love fulfilled in man by God."

The following poem is all the more powerful when you know the struggle Patrick Kavanagh faced in becoming a significant poet.

Having Confessed

Having confessed he feels
That he should go down on his knees and pray
For forgiveness for his pride, for having
Dared to view his soul from the outside.
Lie at the heart of the emotion, time
Has its own work to do. We must not anticipate
Or awaken for a moment. God cannot catch us
Unless we stay in the unconscious room
Of our hearts. We must be nothing,
Nothing that God may make us something.
We must not touch the immortal material
We must not daydream to-morrow’s judgement—
God must be allowed to surprise us.
We have sinned, sinned like Lucifer
By this anticipation. Let us lie down again
Deep in anonymous humility and God
May find us worthy material for His hand.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Patrick Kavanagh: first post

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Ida Gerhardt

Ida Gerhardt (1905—1997) is a Dutch poet, and a professor of Greek and Latin. Early on, she was influenced by the poet J.H. Leopold, who was her Classics teacher. In May of 1940 her debut poetry collection, Kosmos, was published. Much of her work is nature poetry, which arises from her Christian belief that there is a unity in all creation and it is the poet's sacred duty to uncover this.

The following poem was translated by John Irons, who says, "The poem describes the effect of the carillon coming from the steeple of a church, which is playing an old hymn included in the Valerius Gedenck-Clanck of 1626: [O Lord, who stretches out the heavens like a tent — Isaiah 40:22]...It is an appeal to God in time of need — highly appropriate in the context of the poem."

The Carillon

The people in the streets looked stricken,
their ashen faces drawn and tight, —
then something made their features quicken
and, listening, they seemed brushed with light.

For in the clock-tower when, resounding,
the bronze-chimed hour had died away,
the carilloneur began his pounding
and everywhere was heard to play.

Valerius: — a solemn singing
with bass bell’s tolling undertone
and flickerings of lighter ringing:
‘We raise our eyes to Thy high throne.’

As one of all those nameless people
who by the house fronts came to stand,
I listened to the pealing steeple
that sang of my afflicted land.

This speechless gathering, beyond us
the city with Dutch light above —
I’ve never for what’s stolen from us
felt such a bitter, bitter love.

War year 1941

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Adam Mickiewicz

Adam Mickiewicz (1798—1855) — Poland's great Romantic poet — was greatly influenced by Lord Byron, Goethe and other Europeans. Christian faith is significant to his character, however in his writing it is often intertwined with his romanticism (combining elements of folk tales, chivalry, and tragic love) and his Polish nationalism.

In 1829 the poet visited Rome, and focussed on his religious practice — writing very little. In 1831 he wrote the third part of his earlier poem "Dziady" ("Forefather's Eve"). In this section he "views Poland as fulfilling a messianic role among the nations of western Europe by its national embodiment of the Christian themes of self-sacrifice and eventual redemption." This erroneous belief can distract from aspects of true Christian faith in his writing.

The Master of Masters

There is a master who has made a song
And tuned alike the heartbeats of a throng;
Like strings all elements of earth he binds
And o'er them guides the thunder and the winds;
And, playing ever with unwearied hand,
Sings to a world that will not understand:

A master who has colored blue the sky,
---And painted on the background of the wave,
And hewn colossal forms on mountains high
---And molded them of metal in the cave:
But all the knowledge that the world has brought
Cannot explain the meaning of his thought.

There is a master with a tongue divine
---Who has revealed the power of God o'er man;
He has interpreted with voice and sign
---The record of his works since time began:
They called him God in days that went before;
Today they scorn him, worshiping no more.

O earthly artist! what are thy small deeds?
Thy feeble carvings and thy books and creeds?
Dost thou complain that some among the throng
Like not thy picture, and sing not thy song?
Then gaze upon the Master, and be proud,
Thou Son of God, rejected by the crowd!

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Mary Karr*

Mary Karr has just released her fifth poetry collection Tropic of Squalor from HarperCollins. This is her first book of poetry since Sinners Welcome (2006). Despite her passion for poetry, she is best known for her trilogy of memoirs, the most-recent of which is Lit (2009). She has also written The Art of Memoir (2015), a book about how to write memoirs. Karr is the Peck Professor of Literature at Syracuse University, where she's taught for more than 25 years.

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

The following poem first appeared in Commonweal, and is from Tropic of Squalor.

The Devil's Delusion

I lie on my back in the lawnchair to study
the trees claw up toward heaven.
They have all the sap I lack.
It’s doubt I send rivering cloudways
in great boiling torrents, as if all creation
were a bad stage set I could wave
-----------------------------------------------way away,
then I could cast my dark spells in a blink
and a flaming fingersnap—and
a universe de Mare pops up
so I win the everlasting argument against all
that was or will or tiredly is.
As if my soul would not in that blink
be obliterate. As if, as kids say.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Mary Karr: first post

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Langston Hughes*

Langston Hughes (1902—1967) is the leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Throughout his life he struggled with the attraction he felt for Christian faith and the beauty it poured into black American culture, in contrast with the uses religion is so often put to that have nothing to do with God.

His written output includes novels, plays, short fiction, non-fiction and especially poetry. He felt it important to write for children, such as in his poetry collection The Dream Keeper and Other Poems (1932), about the culture of Black America, and about Christian faith. Hughes "gospel-singing play" Tambourines To Glory premiered on Broadway in 1963. The play was controversial in that it also took on issues of hypocrisy within the Black church.

In the following poem, Langston Hughes uses a black persona, perhaps as a way of expressing his own deep desires without identifying them as his own.

Moan

I'm deep in trouble,
Nobody to understand,
---Lord, Lord!

Deep in trouble,
Nobody to understand,
---O, Lord!

Gonna pray to ma Jesus,
Ask him to gimme His hand.
---Ma Lord!

I'm moanin', moanin',
Nobody cares just why.
---No, Lord!

Moanin', moanin',
Feels like I could die.
---O, Lord!

Sho, there must be peace,
Ma Jesus,
Somewhere in yo' sky.
---Yes Lord!

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Langston Hughes: first post

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Amy Clampitt

Amy Clampitt (1920—1994) is a poet whose attention to the particularities of our world could not help but bring her into reflections of God. She was born in Iowa to parents who were Quakers. She wrestled with faith and doubt all her life, being distrustful of organized religion. In the 1970s she became an "intense" Episcopalian, and — according to her friend, the poet, Mary Jo Bang — eventually came to "some sort of private peace with her enduring inconsistencies." She was always pleased hearing God's works praised, and right from the start was deeply influenced by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Clampitt lived most of her life in New York City. She worked as a secretary for Oxford University Press, and as a reference librarian at the Audubon Society. She began writing poetry when she was in her forties, and it wasn't until 1978 that her first poem appeared.

The following is from her first book of poems, The Kingfisher (1983).

The Sun Underfoot Among the Sundews

An ingenuity too astonishing
to be quite fortuitous is
this bog full of sundews, sphagnum-
lined and shaped like a teacup.
----------------------------------------A step.
Down and you’re into it; a
Wilderness swallows you up:
ankle-, then knee-, then midriff-
to-shoulder-deep in wetfooted
understory, an overhead
spruce-tamarack horizon hinting
you’ll never get out of here.
----------------------------------------But the sun
among the sundews, down there,
is so bright, an underfoot
webwork of carnivorous rubies,
a star-swarm thick as the gnats
they’re set to catch, delectable
double-faced cockleburs, each
hair-tip a sticky mirror
afire with sunlight, a million
of them and again a million,
each mirror a trap set to
unhand unbelieving,
----------------------------------------that either
a First Cause said once, “Let there
be sundews,” and there were, or they’ve
made their way here unaided
other than by that backhand, round-
about refusal to assume responsibility
known as Natural Selection.
----------------------------------------But the sun
underfoot is so dazzling
down there among the sundews,
there is so much light
in the cup that, looking,
you start to fall upward.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Laura Battiferri

Laura Battiferri (1523—1589) is an Italian poet of the Renaissance. Her two published books are The First Book of Tuscan Works (1560), and The Seven Penitential Psalms…with Some Spiritual Sonnets (1564). When her young husband, who was a court organist, died, she expressed her sorrow through her poetry. In 1550 she married, the sculptor, Bartolomeo Ammannati — whom she was married to for the rest of her life.

In Rome, Bartolomeo worked closely with Michelangelo and Giorgio Vasari. When she and her husband moved to Florence, Battiferri considered it to be an uncultured backwater, and thought her poetry would not have the opportunities she had experienced in Rome. She soon, however, found her place in Florence, gaining great popularity. She and her husband also became great financial supporters of the Jesuits.

The following poem, was translated into English by Victoria Kirkham, and is from Battiferri’s third collection, Rime, which was incomplete at the time of her death.

Spiritual Sonnet 1

Behold , Lord — and high time it is by now — I
Address to you my altered style; disdain it not, if
Ever there reached your ears a humble prayer;
Devout and pious.
How much before, alas, I sought in vain to
Make myself like the best, but only with an outer
Resemblance; as much as I esteemed earthly and
Base reward, so much I disdained the heavenly and you, my God.
Behold, Lord above, now that your pity has
Awakened this soul to its greater need, whence it
Openly sees its fault,
Repentant it prays ever for your mercy, since
With long sorrow it is manifest that whatever
Pleases in the world is a brief dream.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Rod Jellema*

Rod Jellema (1927—2018) was born in Michigan. His poetry often circles back there although he has lived most of his adult life in the Washington, D.C. area. He founded the Creative Writing Program at the University of Maryland, where he has been Professor Emeritus of English. Jellema is known both for his original poetry, and for his translations of Frisian poetry — for which he has won the Pieter Jelles Prize and the Columbia University Translation Prize.

Rod Jellema is one of the poets included in my anthology The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry (2016), and wrote the lead poem in my anthology Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse (2017) — both available through Wipf & Stock.

This week I sent Rod an e-mail, admitting that it was high-time I posted again about his poetry. The reply came from his wife, Michele, saying — "Rod passed away four weeks ago." Here I seek to honour him, and the exceptional poetry he has written. For those who don't realize what a significant contribution he has made to Christian poetry, I would encourage you to purchase one of his poetry books today.

The following poem is from Jellema's collection A Slender Grace (2004) and is also included in Incarnality: The Collected Poems (2010) — both published by Eerdmans.

Take a Chance

If you cancel the trip to Innesfree
because it's raining, you may miss the quick
red rage of a torn leaf
before it gentles itself onto the quiet pool.

The tests warned him that his exceptional mind
was weakest for doing math, so math
is what he took up with holy awe,
forcing his dazzled way to insight.

If you always leave a nightlight burning
because as a child you got fearfully lost,
turn it off. The lights far out in the dark
are sending lifelines you never imagined.

The New Age seers, tracking the fates, may tell you
no — but take a chance. Just maybe that old
unbelievalble Yahweh really did imprint you
with enough God Image to make you free to leap.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Rod Jellema: first post

Posted with permission of Michele Jellema.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, June 11, 2018

John Lydgate

John Lydgate (1370—1449) is a monk and quite prolific as a poet — actually one of England's most voluminous poets. When he was about fifteen, he became a novice at the Benedictine abbey of Bury Saint Edmunds, and later is believed to have attended Oxford University. He was greatly influenced by the work of Geoffrey Chaucer — and although he never met him, he did know the poet's son and his granddaughter. In fact, Alice Chaucer became one of his many patrons, as did the king's brother Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester.

George MacDonald shares the following poem in his anthology England’s Antiphons. There he describes Lydgate as “the monk of Bury, a great imitator of Chaucer” — which strikes me as a compliment and a criticism rolled into one; the criticism, however, is one MacDonald extends to much of fifteenth century devotional verse.

Thank God For All


By a way wandering as I went,
Well sore I sorrowed, for sighing sad;
Of hard haps that I had hent
Mourning me made almost mad;

Till a letter all one me lad,
That well was written on a wall,
A blissful word that on I read,
That always said, 'Thank God for all.'

And yet I read furthermore —
Full good intent I took there till:
Christ may well your state restore;
Nought is to strive against his will; it is useless.
He may us spare and also spill:
Think right well we be his thrall, slaves.
What sorrow we suffer, loud or still,
Always thank God for all.

Though thou be both blind and lame,
Or any sickness be on thee set,
Thou think right well it is no shame — think thou.
The grace of God it hath thee gret.
In sorrow or care though ye be knit, snared.
And world's weal be from thee fall, fallen.
I cannot say thou mayst do bet, better.
But always thank God for all.

Though thou wield this world's good,
And royally lead thy life in rest,
Well shaped of bone and blood,
None the like by east nor west;
Think God thee sent as him lest; as it pleased him.
Riches turneth as a ball;
In all manner it is the best in every condition.
Always to thank God for all.

If thy good beginneth to pass,
And thou wax a poor man,
Take good comfort and bear good face,
And think on him that all good wan; did win.

Christ himself forsooth began —
He may renew both bower and hall:
No better counsel I ne kan am capable of.
But always thank God for all.

Think on Job that was so rich;
He waxed poor from day to day;
His beasts died in each ditch;
His cattle vanished all away;
He was put in poor array,
Neither in purple nor in pall,
But in simple weed, as clerks say, clothes: learned men.
And always he thanked God for all.

For Christ's love so do we;
He may both give and take;
In what mischief that we in be, whatever trouble we
He is mighty enough our sorrow to slake. be in.
Full good amends he will us make,
And we to him cry or call: if.
What grief or woe that do thee thrall,
Yet always thank God for all.

Though thou be in prison cast,
Or any distress men do thee bede, offer.
For Christ's love yet be steadfast,
And ever have mind on thy creed;
Think he faileth us never at need,
The dearworth duke that deem us shall;
When thou art sorry, thereof take heed,
And always thank God for all.

Though thy friends from thee fail,
And death by rene hend their life,
Why shouldest thou then weep or wail?
It is nought against God to strive: it is useless.

Himself maked both man and wife —
To his bliss he bring us all: may he bring.
However thou thole or thrive, suffer.
Always thank God for all.

What diverse sonde that God thee send,
Here or in any other place,
Take it with good intent;
The sooner God will send his grace.
Though thy body be brought full base, low.
Let not thy heart adown fall,
But think that God is where he was,
And always thank God for all.

Though thy neighbour have world at will,
And thou far'st not so well as he,
Be not so mad to think him ill, wish.
For his wealth envious to be:
The king of heaven himself can see
Who takes his sonde, great or small;
Thus each man in his degree,
I rede thank God for all. counsel.

For Christ's love, be not so wild,
But rule thee by reason within and without;
And take in good heart and mind
The sonde that God sent all about; the gospel.
Then dare I say withouten doubt,
That in heaven is made thy stall. place, seat, room.
Rich and poor that low will lowte, bow.
Always thank God for all.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Jay Parini

Jay Parini has authored dozens of books. His New and Collected Poems 1975—2015 appeared from Beacon Press in 2016. His novels often look into historic characters, such as The Passages of H.M. (about Herman Melville), and The Last Station (about Leo Tolstoy); the latter was adapted into an Academy Award nominated film. He has written many literary biographies, such as of John Steinbeck and Robert Frost. His book Jesus: The Human Face of God (2013) invites readers into his personal quest for knowing Jesus. He has also written non-fiction books such as Why Poetry Matters (2008).

Parini has been on the faculty of Middlebury College in Vermont since 1982. The film version of his novel Benjamin’s Crossing which he and his wife, Devon Jersild, adapted into a screenplay, is to be released in 2018.

His Morning Meditations

My father in this lonely room of prayer
Listens at the window
In the little house of his own dreams.

He has come a long way just to listen,
Over seas and sorrow, through the narrow gate
Of his deliverance.

And he dwells here now,
Beyond the valley and the shadow, too,
In silence mustered day by dawn.

It has come to this sweet isolation
In the eye of God, the earliest of mornings
In the chambered skull, this frost of thought.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek. Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Salvatore Quasimodo

Salvatore Quasimodo (1901—1968) is an Italian poet of Sicilian heritage. In the late 1930s he dedicated himself entirely to writing, and although he was opposed to fascism he did not participate in the resistance to the German occupation during WWII. One of his major projects during this time was a translation of the Gospel of John. In 1945 he became a member of the Italian Communist Party.

The range of his translation work is broad, including Greek Tragedies, Shakespearian plays, and the 20th century poetry of E.E. Cummings and Pablo Neruda. His own poetry became increasingly influential. In the 1950s he received many awards, including the 1959 Nobel Prize in Literature. Toward the end of his life he travelled through Europe and to the United States for readings and lectures.

The following poems were translated by Jack Bevan

Day Stoops

You find me forsaken, Lord,
in your day
and have no grace
locked from all light.

Without you I go in dread,
lost road of love,
and have no grace,
fearful even to confess,
so my wishes are barren.

I have loved you, fought you;
day stoops
and I gather shades from the skies;
how sad my heart
of flesh.

Amen
For Sunday in Albis


You have not betrayed me, Lord:
I am the first-born
of every grief.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Philip Britts

Philip Britts (1917—1949) is a poet, farmer, pacifist, and pastor who was originally from Devon, England. He became a member of the Bruderhof Christian community, after they had been expelled from Germany by Hitler's government in 1937; when they fled to England, Britts and his wife joined the movement. During WWII, Britts moved to Paraguay with others from his community. It was in South America where he contracted a rare tropical disease which took his life.

In 2018, Plough — the publishing house of the Bruderhof community — has made available, Water at the Roots, a collection of Philip Britts's poetry, interspersed with brief biographical sketches to contextualize the poems. They describe him as a British Wendell Berry, because of his philosophy of life, and the poetry he wrote.

The following poem is from Water at the Roots.

Wait For The Weather

It's good to plough when the earth is soft
----And the furrows smoothly go;
When the tilth is fine and the weather fair,
----It is good to sow.

So when the earth is baked to brick
----And wind is dry and sun is bright,
It's better to bide at home and wait,
----And put your harness right.

It's better to wait your time, and make
----Good order for when you start.
Then all day long, when the time is right,
----Plough with a thankful heart.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Robert Hudson

Robert Hudson is a Michigan poet, editor, publisher, writer, and old-time fiddle player. His book The Christian Writers Manual of Style is now in its fourth edition. Although Bob is senior editor-at-large for Zondervan/HarperCollins Publishers, his personal, playful pursuits seem less about building his career than about his love of words, music and the spiritual life.

His first full-length poetry collection Kiss the Earth When You Pray: The Father Zosima Poems (2016) feels like translations from a medieval mystic. Zosima is in fact a fictitious character from Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov (inspired by a real-life Russian Orthodox ascetic). It is in the voice of Hudson's version of this character these poems are written.

Other recent books by Robert Hudson include The Monk's Record Player (2018, Eerdmans) — a fascinating intertwined joint-biography of Thomas Merton and Bob Dylan focusing on the summer of 1966 — and Four Birds of Noah's Ark (2017, Eerdmans) an updated version of Thomas Dekker's prayer book from 1608.

Bob and his wife Shelley Townsend-Hudson run Perkipery Press, which has published chapbooks for three decades, and play together as members of the band Gooder'n Grits, that performs the pre-bluegrass music of the Carolinas.

The following poem is from Kiss the Earth When You Pray.

On Creation


There is this. The river, silent,
moving through the reeds,

the crab tree
crippled with fruit,

the doe in winter
that will die before nightfall,

and the sapling with ambition
in the heart of the forest—

all things are warm
from the forge of Creation.

The muskrat slapping
water with its tail,

the mute stones
wearing smooth in rain,

the earthworm lolling
from its hole in flood time,

and the night sky heavy
with snow but waiting—

all these are still warm
from the fires of Creation.

The ox at the yoke,
at the row's end, turning,

the yew and the heron
and the unwinding stars,

the swallow blinded
in the eye of the sun,

and the mole whose patience
undermines the world—

all these are still warm
from the touch of that Hand.

Who sows the seeds in the drops
of rain and fills the morning crows

with laughter? Who hung
the web in the spider's mind?

Tell every pilgrim you meet on the way,
the shrine of the Holy is everywhere.

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo (1802—1885) is one of France’s greatest writers, known for his novels, poems and plays. His stories, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831) and Les Misérables (1862) continue to capture the imagination of readers today, and of those who have seen them retold in various forms.

In his writing Hugo took on political, philosophical and religious issues, such as promoting the abolition of the death penalty. In 1848 he was elected to the Constituent Assembly, and later to the Legislative Assembly. After the 1851 coup, Hugo escaped to Brussels and lived in exile for close to twenty years — primarily in the English Channel islands of Jersey and Guernsey.

He was critical of the church of his day for not championing the cause of the poor and exploited. Although he held some ideas, and sometimes behaved in ways, inconsistent with a Christian life, Victor Hugo clearly expresses Christian views in many of his works.

The following is translated by E.H. and A. M Blackmore.

“O God, whose work excels all we can think…”

O God, whose work excels all we can think,
Creator with no boundary and no brink,
-------Lidless and sleepless eye!
Soul never shut! Life’s everlasting spring!
Mystic gulf from which comes a billowing
-------Smoke of men, beasts and sky!

You human nations strewn throughout your coasts,
Rise up; unite, innumerable hosts;
-------Make war on God. Yes, do!
Attack the infinite Unattainable
Who is so kind that he is terrible,
-------So deep that he is blue.

Measure your frailty and his boundless power.
Legions besieging the almighty tower,
-------Multitudes far extended,
Frail insects thronging the vast pediment,
Passing things—before his first star is spent
-------Your last day will be ended!

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.