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.