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.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Jeff Gundy

Jeff Gundy is a Mennonite poet originally from Illinois. He is professor of English and Creative Writing at Bluffton University where he’s served since 1984. On the strength of his collection Somewhere Near Defiance (Anhinga Press) he was honoured as Ohio Poet of the Year 2014. His latest collection is Abandoned Homeland (2016, Bottom Dog Press).

He spent his recent sabbatical teaching and writing at LCC International University in Klaipeda, Lithuania.

The following poem first appeared in Christian Century.

Calm Sunday in Klaipeda

It was the holy part of the day, my loved ones asleep
in other countries, me with no duties and rooms
full of quiet. I ate my dark bread with brie and jam,
pressed out two cups of dark coffee. And that
must be the sun, skulking like a grown-up boy who knows
it’s been too long since he visited his mother. He has
no excuse but all is forgiven, she will open the curtains,
haul up the shades, crack the windows though it’s
far too cold for that. We will ring all the bells
in the quiet church across the street, unscrew
the doors from the jambs, dismantle all the borders,
forgive the Russians whether they like it or not.
And mercy will pour down like sunshine in the grand
photographs in the vast inscrutable book I bought
for ten euros at the bookstore downtown, a store
full of books translated out of the language I know
so that I could read only the authors’ names.
Truth must be personal, said Kierkegaard, home
from another of his long, brooding walks. And yet
not merely private. You shall love the neighbor,
he insisted. Outside my window the church is solid
and pale, three stories and a squat round tower,
in the tower three narrow windows that reveal
nothing. Winter sun warms the green roof,
but the entrance is still in shadow.

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, April 23, 2018

Edvard Kocbek

Edvard Kocbek (1904—1981) is a Slovenian Catholic poet and essayist. In his youth he joined the Sloven Christian Socialists, and by 1937 had written a controversial article criticizing the Spanish clergy for supporting Franco in the Spanish Civil War. In seeking to resist the fascist threat, Kocbek became associated with the Communist party of Slovenia, and eventually held a minor position in the government of Yugoslavia.

His 1951 short story collection Fear and Courage, however, dealt with issues the Slovenian partisans had faced during WWII. The Communist government reacted strongly against it — banning him from publishing or appearing in public. It wasn’t until 1964 that he was permitted to begin publishing again. The newer modernist poems he began publishing at this time became very influential on the new generation of poets writing in the Slovenian language. Encyclopedia Britannica describes him as “one of the finest of Slovene writers.”

The following is from Nothing Is Lost: Selected Poems, translated by Michael Scammell and Veno Taufer (Princeton University Press).

O Noise of Waters, Collapse of the Universe


O noise of waters, collapse of the universe,
woman, put your ear to my side,
yonder stretches eternal solemnity, hold my
hand, I cannot tell you how
thunderous is this magnificence, clasp me tight
bright death is bursting my body, my eyes
see no more, my ears hear no more,
my heart spills onto the nocturnal grass,
the heaving wind tears at me, I fall sweetly apart,
the earth is not finished yet. O terrible
Son of the living God, I mutely implore you, help
me in my love.

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, April 16, 2018

Alexis Kagame

Alexis Kagame (1912—1981) is a Rwandan poet, priest, historian, and philosopher. He was born into a long line of court historians. He extensively researched the oral history, traditions and literature of Rwanda — particularly its dynastic court poetry. At various points the Belgian colonial authorities found his views working against their purposes. In the early 1950s his bishop was persuaded to reassign him to Rome, to lessen his influence.

Kagame’s masterwork is the epic poem The Singer of the Lord of Creation (1950), written in the Kinyarwanda language, and translated By Kagame himself, into French. He also translated The Bible into Kinyarwanda. He became one of the first professors at the new University of Rwanda in 1963.

From The Singer of the Lord of Creation

Then Lucifer made up his mind: he would
rebel against the Lord. He sought a place
in space that would be suitable for war.
He had a vague presentiment that God
might be like that innocent-looking sheep
which suddenly became a thundercloud.
The rebel Lucifer began by God’s
command to shrivel, but he did not die.
His angel’s wings contracted like a bat’s
from white they turned an ugly black. A smell
of putrefaction emanates from him
that sickens men. He limps into the war
joining his comrades who became like cats.
They are accursed: they all have leprosy.

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, April 9, 2018

Julie L. Moore*

Julie L. Moore is Associate Professor of English, and the Writing Center Director at Taylor University in Indiana. Her life has recently gone through major changes — a move from Cedarville University in Ohio to Taylor, and more significantly the dissolution of a marriage she was completely committed to. Such an experience naturally impacts the voice of the poet in her new collection, Full Worm Moon. Moore is daring; she's unafraid to share her experience of the darkness, and yet to find hope in the beauty and goodness still present in her life.

I have been privileged to be Julie's editor for both Full Worm Moon, and her previous collection, Particular Scandals, both of which are part of the Poiema Poetry Series (Cascade Books). I am also pleased to have included her poems in both of my recent anthologies — The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse. All of these books are available through Wipf & Stock.

Anya Krugovoy Silver reflects on this new collection: “‘What if the beautiful day is over?’ wonders Julie Moore in her shattering new collection, Full Worm Moon. And indeed, poems about the end of a marriage wring the reader. . . Amidst the world’s disarray, Moore’s playful wit and exultant language ultimately proclaim the persistence of tenderness, peace, and love.”

The following poem is from Full Worm Moon.

Compline

St. Meinrad Archabbey

Forgive me my faults, my faults, my grievous faults,
she recites with the Benedictines preparing
for evening’s darkening shroud—

her husband’s figure standing erect
in her memory, his finger pointing at her,
threatening her, his once-sure vows

now dead, their hazy specters
prowling the hallways of her heart,
their long fingernails raking its walls.

While she chants—words, just words,
& barely sung—the Lord’s Prayer
stumbles onto her tongue: forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Not even an hour, nor is it sweet,
this prayer that arrests her,

exorcising the ghosts of promises past,
their furious, furious haunting.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Julie L. Moore: 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, April 2, 2018

Malcolm Guite*

Malcolm Guite is an English formalist poet, who is chaplain at Girton College, Cambridge, and teaches at the Faculty of Divinity at Cambridge University. He is author of several books, including two poetry anthologies for Lent and Advent, as well as Mariner: A Voyage with Samuel Taylor Coleridge (2017, Hodder & Stoughton): his analysis of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."

I met with him last fall in Hamilton, Ontario — the city his family had moved to when he was crossing into adolescence, before he was sent to boarding school in England to preserve his British identity. It was a delight, to drive him through Hamilton streets which he began to recognize from his youth.

During his terrible boarding school experience his worldview shifted from Christianity to existentialism. However, by his final year of graduate studies at Pembroke College, Cambridge, he re-engaged with Christian faith through his experience of beauty in the romantic poets, the religious significance of historic sites he had visited, and through a paper he had written analyzing the Psalms.

Guite participates in many events in Britain and North America related to C.S. Lewis scholarship, and has collaborated and toured with Canadian musician Steve Bell. The following poem is from his third full-length poetry collection Parable and Paradox, which appeared from Canterbury Press in 2016.

I AM The Resurrection

John 11.25: I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in
me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.


How can you be the final resurrection?
That resurrection hasn’t happened yet.
Our broken world is still bent on destruction,
No sun can rise before that sun has set.
Our faith looks back to father Abraham
And forward to the one who is to come
How can you speak as though he knew your name?
How can you say: before he was I am?

Begin in me and I will read your riddle
And teach you truths my Spirit will defend
I am the End who meets you in the middle,
The new Beginning hidden in the End.
I am the victory, the end of strife
I am the resurrection and the life.


Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Malcolm Guite: 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, March 26, 2018

Christina Rossetti*

Christina Rossetti (1830—1894) is one of the greatest Victorian female poets — perhaps only second to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Her first poetic triumph was the book Goblin Market and Other Poems (1862). She is also known for her children’s poems in Sing-Song (1872). She wrote six devotional studies, the last of which The Face of the Deep: A Devotional Commentary on the Apocalypse (1892) featured Rossetti’s verse-by-verse reflections on the Book of Revelation, and includes more than two hundred poems.

In the early 1870s she became seriously ill with Graves’ Disease. After her recovery she dedicated much of her attention to writing devotional prose. These writings reveal much of how she viewed the world as symbolic of spiritual truths; they also demonstrate her Christocentric view of scripture.

When asked about her poetic influences she wrote, “If any one thing schooled me in the direction of poetry, it was perhaps the delightful idle liberty to prowl all alone about my grandfather’s cottage-grounds some thirty miles from London.” Despite her love of nature, she lived most of her adult life in London.

Good Friday

Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy blood’s slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon —
I, only I.

Yet give not o’er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Christina Rossetti: 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, March 19, 2018

James A. Zoller

James Zoller is the author of three poetry collections, including Living on the Flood Plain (2008, WordFarm), and his brand-new collection Ash & Embers. He is Professor of Writing and Literature at Houghton College in New York State. Previously, he has taught at SUNY-Albany and at the University of New Hampshire. In 2011 he was Fulbright Professor of American Studies at Pusan National University in South Korea.

I am pleased to have served Jim, and his fine poetry, as the editor of this new book — which is part of the Poiema Poetry Series from Cascade Books. The following poem is from Ash & Embers.

Kaleidoscope

One eyed, yes. And one eye
sees the visual organ music
in that rose of nine petals,
nine-point celestial compass, a fine
odd number though not seven, not perfection.

Random, the number of luck,
nine is another math entirely —
a trinity of trinities, three squared,
an image shaped illuminated leveraged,
the mandala, tool of spectral navigation.

So I pulled off its smiling head
its single-eyed smiley-face its life-filter its rose-
colored glasses, only to discover
a petri dish with random shapes and shards
vivid, odd, and polished glass

the kind one might mistake for trash
— the kind one might liken
to chaos of the human soul,
the hit-or-miss of the universe,
the cluttered proofs for God.

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, March 12, 2018

Pierre Corneille

Pierre Corneille (1606—1684) is one of France’s three great seventeenth-century dramatists — alongside Racine and Moliere. He wrote a very popular French verse translation of Thomas a Kempis' Imitation of Christ. His most-celebrated plays include Le Cid (1637), Polyeuct (1642) and Cinna (1643). American poet Richard Wilbur is one of the many translators of his works.

Corneille’s play Polyeuct is based on the life of Polyeuctus (a Saint according to the Greek Orthodox Church). He was an Armenian officer in Rome’s army who converted to Christianity even though it was likely to mean his death.

In the play, the following section is spoken by Nearchus, trying to convince his friend Polyeuct to not postpone his baptism. Polyeuct’s wife Pauline, whom he loves dearly, is afraid that if his conversion is public, he will be martyred. Later in the play, after Polyeuct’s death, both Pauline, and her father become Christians.

The following translation is by Noel Clark.

From Polyeuct (Act One)

But how can you be sure you’ll live that long,
Or guarantee resolve will prove that strong?
Has God, in whose hands your soul and lifespan rest,
Promised to grant you a delayed request?
God is all-good, all-just but, still, His grace
Is varied in effect by time and place.
Those shafts can lose their powers of penetration,
If hearts repel them by procrastination.
The soul grows callous and God’s grace, deflected,
Less freely is bestowed, when once rejected.
That holy gift, designed to save the soul,
Descends more rarely and can find no role.
The grace inspiring you to be baptised,
Already languishes, its aim revised —
Despite the sighs of love that reached your ear,
The flames are dying and will disappear.

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, March 5, 2018

Wu Li

Wu Li (1632—1718) is best known as a painter — one of the six orthodox artistic masters in the early Ch’ing period. He remained loyal to the Chinese landscape tradition, despite having seen prints of European paintings.

His poetry is noteworthy for his boldness in seeking to establish a Chinese Christian poetry.

He converted to Christianity and joined the Jesuits in 1682, later becoming one of the first Chinese to be ordained as a priest (1688). He could have been well paid as a court painter, but instead he chose the life of an evangelist — often disguising himself as a peasant or fisherman — travelling from village to village in Jiangsu.

The following poem was translated by Jonathan Chaves.

Singing of the Source of Holy Church


Before the firmament was ever formed,
------------------or any foundation laid,
high there hovered the Judge of the World,
------------------prepared for the last days!
This single Man from his five wounds
------------------poured every drop of blood;
a myriad nations gave their hearts
------------------to the wonder of the Cross!
The heavenly gates now have a ladder
------------------leading to their peace;
demonic spirits lack any art
------------------to insinuate deception.
Take up the burden joyfully
------------------fall in behind Jesus,
look up with reverence towards the top of that mountain,
------------------follow His every step.

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, February 26, 2018

John Masefield

John Masefield (1878—1967) is a significant English poet of the early twentieth century. Both of his parents died when he was a young child. In 1891 he left school to go on board the HMS Conway, where he trained for a life at sea. His aunt thought this would help cure his obsession with reading. Being on board ship, however, gave him plenty of free time to read, and to write; this is where he also learned the joy of story-telling. In 1895 Masefield discovered the poetry of Canadian poet Duncan Campbell Scott, which inspired him to immerse himself in poetry, and eventually to dedicate his life to it.

His first poetry collection Salt-Water Ballads (1902) demonstrates the influence of his time at sea, and includes his famous poem “Sea Fever,” which begins with the lines,
----“I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely
---------sea and the sky,
----And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer
---------her by...”

In 1911 he composed the long narrative poem “The Everlasting Mercy” — a poem that tells the story of a drunkard and womanizer named Saul Kane, who experiences a true conversion to Christ. The poem was ground-breaking, in that its character speaks in a colloquial and coarse manner, rather than in refined “poetic” language.

In 1923 an edition of his Collected Poems sold an impressive 80,000 copies. Masefield became Poet Laureate of the UK in 1930, succeeding Robert Bridges. Masefield's cremated remains were placed in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.

from The Everlasting Mercy

O Christ who holds the open gate,
O Christ who drives the furrow straight,
O Christ, the plough, O Christ, the laughter
Of holy white birds flying after,
Lo, all my heart’s field red and torn,
And Thou wilt bring the young green corn
The young green corn divinely springing,
The young green corn forever singing;
And when the field is fresh and fair
Thy blessèd feet shall glitter there,
And we will walk the weeded field,
And tell the golden harvest’s yield,
The corn that makes the holy bread
By which the soul of man is fed,
The holy bread, the food unpriced,
Thy everlasting mercy, Christ.

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, February 19, 2018

Léopold Sédar Senghor

Léopold Sédar Senghor (1906—2001) is a Senegalese poet who was also a professor at the universities of Tours and Paris between 1935 and 1945. Despite his higher education he was given the rank of private when he enlisted in the French army in 1939. He spent two years in Nazi concentration camps; upon his release he joined the Resistance in France. He served as the democratically elected President of Senegal from 1960 to 1980.

As a poet, in 1978 Léopold Sédar Senghor received the lucrative Prix Mondial Cino Del Duca — an international literary prize, established in France. In 1990 his poetry was collected in Oeuvre Poétique (Poetical Work).

The following was translated by John Reed and Clive Wake.

from Prayer For Peace — II

Lord God, forgive white Europe.
It is true, Lord, that for four enlightened centuries, she has
----scattered the baying and slaver of her mastiffs over my lands
And the Christians, forsaking Thy light and the gentleness of
----Thy heart
Have lit their camp fires with my parchments, tortured my disciples,
----deported my doctors and masters of science.
Their powder crumbled in a flash the pride of tatas and hills
And their bullets have gone through the bowels of vast empires like
Daylight, from the Horn of the West to the Eastern Horizon
They have fired the intangible woods like hunting grounds, dragged
----out
Ancestors and spirits by their peaceable beards,
And turned their mystery into Sunday distraction for somnambulant
----bourgeois.
Lord, forgive them who turned the Askia into maquisards,
----my princes
Into sergeant-majors
My household servants into ‘boys’, my peasants into wage-earners,
----my people into a working class.
For Thou must forgive those who have hunted my children like wild
----elephants,
And broken them in with whips, have made them the black hands of
----those whose hands were white.
For Thou must forget those who exported ten millions of my sons
----in the leperhouses of their ships
Who killed two hundred million of them.
And have made for me a solitary old age in the forest of my nights
----and the savannah of my days.
Lord, the glasses of my eyes grows dim
And lo, the serpent of hate raises its head in my heart, that
----serpent that I believed was dead.

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, February 12, 2018

Annabelle Moseley

Annabelle Moseley was honoured in 2014 as the Long Island Poet of the Year. She is the author of the double poetry collection — A Ship To Hold The World & The Marionette's Ascent — combining two books into one (2014, Wiseblood Books). The first book consists of poems written about biblical characters; the second is a cycle of poems, telling the story of a marionette. Her poems are written in iambic-pentameter, frequently using linked sonnets. She has won several awards, and served as the Walt Whitman Birthplace Writer-in-Residence for 2009-2010.

Because of the similar vision between the first half of Moseley's book, and of my anthology Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse, I include several of her poems in that anthology, which was published late in December of 2017. It is now available through Wipf & Stock.

The following poem comes from the extended story of a marionette. At the place in the story where this poem falls, she finds herself abandoned in a dark church. Here she looks up to see a statue of Christ hanging on a cross (like a marionette on a cruciform device). The sequence from which this is drawn first appeared in Dappled Things.

from In the Church: A Mirror Clown — III


Escape this strung-up tree with buried shoots —
flee from the cold eyes watching me perform.
Perhaps he felt like this among the roots,
between night's petals, huddled to keep warm.
Among his sleeping friends, the garden bed
so dark and dread. I look up at him now.
He hangs here in this church above my head.
He moves me without strings to make a vow.
I promise: here I'll sit, all night with him;
I've finally found a use for lidless eyes.
I see that he is nailed there, limb by limb
attached to wood, but by such different ties.
All this, and he went willingly. He chose.
Death's own marionette, until he rose.

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis. His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Ku Sang

Ku Sang (1919—2004) is a highly respected Korean poet. Although he was born in Seoul, he grew up in what is now North Korea. Shortly after WWII, when opposition to his poetry arose from the Communist authorities, he escaped to the south. His book Wastelands of Fire (1956), concerning the suffering caused by the Korean War, established his reputation.

He was a lecturer at Chung-Ang University in Seoul. His work has been translated into English, French, German, Swedish, and Italian. His style is direct, rarely using abstract symbolism. His poems are grounded in his Christian faith.

The following poem is from Wastelands of Fire; the English translation (1989, Forest Books) is by Brother Anthony.

In a Winter Orchard

In the orchard white with snow
like sprinkled salt,
a plum tree raises thick black branches
in a victory sign,
outlined with flowers in full bloom,
like an Easter garland.

"Behold, whoever puts his life in me,
even though he dies, will never die;
do not be doubtful
of invisible realities."

Playfully, a single magpie
hops from branch to branch.

Beside a hole gaping
like a cavity in a lung,
stiff as a corpse
an apple tree lies, a full arm's girth.

A man comes by, dark as shade,
with a frame bound upon his back;
he lops the dead branches with an axe,
splits the trunk, and bears it all away.

"Behold, a figure of the dead
who will tomorrow be cast
into perdition's flames;
beware, then, lest the roots of your existence
become infected!"

A crow flies cawing
across the frozen sky.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis. His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Abigail Carroll

Abigail Carroll is the Pastor of Arts and Spiritual Formation with Church at the Well in Burlington, Vermont, and has taught in Boston University’s Writing Program. Her first poetry collection Habitation of Wonder has just been published as part of the Poiema Poetry Series from Cascade Books. I value the experience of having assisted her as editor.

Her previous books include A Gathering of Larks: Letters to Saint Francis from a Modern-Day Pilgrim (2017, Eerdmans) and Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal (2013, Basic Books). Her writing has appeared in periodicals such as New York Times, Boston Globe, and Wall Street Journal.

The following is from Habitation of Wonder (2018, Cascade Books).

That I Might Dwell


That I might dwell in warbler
song, in fields of sorrel, fields
of stars, that dwelling in your
house I’d know, I’d rest, I’d play
at wonder. Oh that I might dwell

in pine-branched shade, among
the sway, among the praise of oak-
fern, granite, jay nest, spruce—
among the shadow-dance of leaves,
the breeze unpinning doubt, all

apathy, all hollow hours, all fears.
Oh may I dwell in reverence here,
and dwelling in your house, I’ll
wait, I’ll pray, I’ll lay this body
down on what you’ve dreamed,

on what you’ve sung, spliced, spun,
twined, embroidered, breathed.
And dwelling in your house I’ll
know the peace of moss, the moth-
winged hush of unhinged awe,

musk of sage, gaze of deer. Oh let
me lose myself in rooms of fox-
glove, cowslip, wild plum, wren—
that I might taste the sleep of loam,
that I might tenant beauty here.

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis. His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Torquato Tasso

Torquato Tasso (1544—1595) is an Italian epic poet, born in Sorrento. His greatest achievement is Gerusalemme Liberata (Jerusalem Delivered), his imagined version of the first Crusade and the Liberation of Jerusalem (1099), which was first published in 1581. Prior to the rise of modernism in the twentieth century, Tasso was one of Europe’s most widely-read poets. The poem was influential for epic poets including Spenser and Milton.

It is hard to see the Crusades as anything more than a political war, justified and encouraged using religious ideals — and hard to relate to the glorification of the Crusades by a Catholic poet 500 years later. Tasso, however, saw this as a fitting subject. As can be seen in the following excerpt from the poem, one motivation for the crusades was to gain access to the pilgrimage site of Christ’s empty tomb. This pilgrimage was not only seen as an act of devotion, but also supposedly as a formal expiation from serious sin, perhaps even prescribed by a confessor.

The following is from Anthony M. Esolen’s translation which appeared in 2000.

From Jerusalem Delivered
Canto 1 — Stanza 23


“Rather it was the target of our hopes
To storm the noble walls of Sion, seize
Our fellow Christians from their shameful yoke,
The bitter slavery and indignities,
To establish a new realm in Palestine
Where piety should hold perpetual lease,
Where no one would prevent the pilgrim from
Fulfilling his vow to adore the Savior’s tomb.”

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis. His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Nathaniel Lee Hansen

Nathaniel Lee Hansen, originally from Minnesota, is an assistant professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas. He is the author of the new poetry collection, Your Twenty-First Century Prayer Life, which I assisted with as the editor of the Poiema Poetry Series. He has also published the chapbook, Four Seasons West of the 95th Meridian (2014) from Spoon River Poetry Press.

He contributes to the literary dialogue by writing reviews, such as of Tania Runyan's Second Sky for The Cresset, and Benjamin Myers' Lapse Americana for Christianity & Literature. Along with his teaching role at Hardin-Baylor, Hansen edits the journal Windhover, and is the director of the annual Windhover Writers' Festival.

Your Twenty-First Century Prayer Life

Your most frequent requests:
300 safe interstate miles,
night of sufficient sleep, a liner
sturdy for the class’s ocean.
Names you speak again, again—
bless Andrew, bless Lynne.

You wonder how saints
master discipline, currents
of communication in crackling
lines, sparking from sender
to receiver, back again.

You can count on one hand
when prayer blossomed
organically without desire’s
weeds crowding petals,
stealing sunlight, robbing
soil of water and life.

Your petitions persist,
abundant (overflowing)
with me, my, and I.
You forget, if you want
to live you must lose
your life.

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis. His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Max Jacob

Max Jacob (1876—1944) is a French poet, artist and critic of Jewish background. He befriended Pablo Picasso in the summer of 1901, when the painter first arrived in Paris; he helped him learn French, and eventually the two roomed together in the Montmartre district.

In 1909 he experienced a vision of Christ and became a Catholic Christian. In 1921 Picasso represents Jacob as a monk in his painting, Three Musicians, because he had decided to enter a monastery.

He was arrested by the Gestapo in 1944. Jacob’s brother and sister were both gassed at Auschwitz, whereas Jacob died in an infirmary, apparently from bronchial pneumonia.

The following is from The Selected Poems of Max Jacob, translated by William Kulik.

Death

----------The body cold and stiff in the morgue of the
world who will give its life back so it may leave?
----------The morgue mountain is on my body who will
free its life so it may leave?
----------Eyes advance like a cloud of bees the eyes of
Argus or the lamb of the Apocalypse.
----------The cloud has thawed my body’s morgue. A
Place, understand me, for the sweet coming of the Lord.
----------Finally, the body’s little more than a faint out-
line the eyes of the cloud gone too.
----------What’s left barely the size of a steak: a blood-
stain, some bits of marble in memory of a lost name.


This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis. His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Denise Levertov*

Denise Levertov (1923—1997) is a British-born American poet who authored more than two dozen collections, including The Collected Poems of Denise Levertov (2013, New Directions). She is considered one of the Black Mountain poets — along with Robert Creeley, Edward Dorn and Robert Duncan — because her early work appeared in the Black Mountain Review.

Becoming a political activist, Levertov was outspoken in opposition to the Vietnam War. She served as Poetry Editor of The Nation in the early '60s, and of Mother Jones in the 1970s. She also taught at various schools, including Stanford University.

Levertov had considered herself to be an agnostic, even though her father as a Hasidic Jew had converted to Christianity, and had become an Anglican priest. She often wrote on religious themes — taking a long, circuitous route to faith — eventually declaring her own conversion in 1984.

For the New Year, 1981

I have a small grain of hope—
one small crystal that gleams
clear colors out of transparency.

I need more.

I break off a fragment
to send you.

Please take
this grain of a grain of hope
so that mine won’t shrink.

Please share your fragment
so that yours will grow.

Only so, by division,
will hope increase,

like a clump of irises, which will cease to flower
unless you distribute
the clustered roots, unlikely source—
clumsy and earth-covered—
of grace.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Denise Levertov: first post second post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis. His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.