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.