Monday, December 30, 2019

Romanos the Melodist

Romanos the Melodist lived and wrote during the sixth century. He was born in Syria, later lived in Beirut, and eventually in Constantinople. Little is known about him, since he’s only mentioned by three ancient sources.

According to legend, the following poem came to him as the result of a dream in which Mary gave him a scroll which she commanded him to eat. Of poems written in the kontakion form, the oldest, dateable ones were written by Romanos. As many as 85 kontakia are attributed to him, although some of these are probably not his.

The following poem consists of 24 stanzas, three of which are included here. (The complete kontakion may be found here.) The dialogue is between Mary and the magi. In stanza 12 Mary is explaining that Joseph is a witness to all of the events of Christ’s incarnation.

Kontakion on the Nativity of Christ

1
Bethlehem has opened Eden, come, let us see;
we have found delight in secret, come, let us receive
the joys of Paradise within the cave.
There the unwatered root whose blossom is forgiveness
-----has appeared.
There has been found the undug well
from which David once longed to drink.
There a virgin has borne a babe
and has quenched at once Adam’s and David’s thirst.
For this, let us hasten to this place where there has
-----been born
----------a little Child, God before the ages

12
“He proclaims clearly all he has heard.
He declares openly all that he has seen
in heaven and on earth:
the story of the shepherds, how beings of fire sang
-----praises with ones of clay,
that of you, magi, how a star hastened before you,
lighting your way and guiding you.
And so, leaving aside all that you said before,
now recount to us what has befallen you.
Where have you come from, how did you understand
-----that there had appeared
----------a little Child, God before the ages?”…

24
“Save the world, O Saviour. For this you have come.
Set your whole universe aright. For this you have shone
on me and on the magi and on all creation.
For see, the magi, to whom you have shown the light of
-----your face,
fall down before you and offer gifts,
useful, fair and eagerly sought.
For I have need of them, since I am about
to go to Egypt and to flee with you and for you,
my Guide, my Son, my Maker, my Redeemer,
----------a little Child, God before the ages.”

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 23, 2019

Henry Vaughan*

Henry Vaughan (1622―1695) is a Welsh metaphysical poet, who was educated at Oxford. He had already become a successful poet, prior to his conversion, which he attributed to his experience of reading George Herbert’s poetry. After this, he gave up what he called “idle verse.” Although two more collections of his earlier poetry appeared without his authorization, it is still his more mature religious poetry he is celebrated for.

Besides writing his own poetry, Henry Vaughan also translated religious, medical and moral works into English. He was also a medical practitioner.

Although his poetry did not receive the attention it deserved within his lifetime, or even in the years that followed, his brilliance was rediscovered in the 20th century, which has led to modern acknowledgement of his worth.

Christ’s Nativity

Awake, glad heart! get up and sing!
It is the birth-day of thy King.
Awake! awake!
The Sun doth shake
Light from his locks, and all the way
Breathing perfumes, doth spice the day.

Awake, awake! hark how th’ wood rings;
Winds whisper, and the busy springs
A concert make;
Awake! awake!
Man is their high-priest, and should rise
To offer up the sacrifice.

I would I were some bird, or star,
Flutt’ring in woods, or lifted far
Above this inn
And road of sin!
Then either star or bird should be
Shining or singing still to thee.

I would I had in my best part
Fit rooms for thee! or that my heart
Were so clean as
Thy manger was!
But I am all filth, and obscene;
Yet, if thou wilt, thou canst make clean.

Sweet Jesu! will then. Let no more
This leper haunt and soil thy door!
Cure him, ease him,
O release him!
And let once more, by mystic birth,
The Lord of life be born in earth.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Henry Vaughan: 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, December 16, 2019

R.S. Thomas*

R.S. Thomas (1913―2000) was born in Cardiff. He spent most of his career as an Anglican priest among rural farmers in the Welsh hill country. The people of those parishes, and the hill country itself, loom large in his poetry. At the close of the century, he was seen as the most significant of all contemporary Welsh poets.

He had a dislike of modern material conveniences, which he felt distracted from the spiritual and from community. He and his wife Mildred married in 1940, and were together until her death in 1991.

His verse is featured in The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry (Cascade Books).

Hill Christmas

They came over the snow to the bread’s
purer snow, fumbled it in their huge
hands, put their lips to it
like beasts, stared into the dark chalice
where the wine shone, felt it sharp
on their tongue, shivered as at a sin
remembered, and heard love cry
momentarily in their hearts’ manger.
They rose and went back to their poor
holdings, naked in the bleak light
of December. Their horizon contracted
to the one small, stone-riddled field
with its tree, where the weather was nailing
the appalled body that had asked to be born.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about R.S. Thomas: 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, December 9, 2019

Óscar Romero

Óscar Romero (1917―1980) is a Catholic prelate who served in El Salvador including as Archbishop of San Salvador. As war increased between forces on the left and right, he spoke out against poverty, torture, government-arranged assassinations of many including priests, and against other social injustices.

After having just concluded a sermon, in which he encouraged Salvadoran soldiers to obey God rather than the oppressive government, as he was still standing at the altar, he too was gunned down. No one was ever convicted of his assassination, although investigations concluded that the order had been given by right wing politician, Roberto D’Aubuisson. There was even a massacre at Romero’s funeral, with smoke bombs exploding on the street and thirty-one people killed by gunfire.

In October 2018 he was proclaimed a saint by the Catholic Church.

The God We Hardly Knew

No one can celebrate
a genuine Christmas
without being truly poor.
The self-sufficient, the proud,
those who, because they have
everything, look down on others,
those who have no need
even of God ― for them there
will be no Christmas.
Only the poor, the hungry,
those who need someone
to come on their behalf,
will have that someone.
That someone is God.
Emmanuel. God-with-us.
Without poverty of spirit
there can be no abundance of God.

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 2, 2019

Brett Foster*

Brett Foster (1973―2015) is a poet and Renaissance scholar who was serving as an Associate Professor of English at Wheaton College, at the time of his death. His scholarly writing includes Shakespeare’s Life (2012), Shakespeare Through the Ages: The Sonnets (2009), Shakespeare Through the Ages: Hamlet (2008), and Rome (2005).

The following comment about Brett Foster from Alan Jacobs, author of The Narnian, was reported in the Chicago Tribune:
-----"As a poet, he was still growing when he died, which is one
-----of the saddest things of all. The poems he wrote in the
-----aftermath of his diagnosis were the most powerful and intense
-----he had ever written, and I grieve when I think about what
-----sorts of things he might have written had he been given more
-----time. But in everything he wrote and in everything that he did,
-----there was an exceptional generosity of spirit."

A new poetry collection ― which Brett had largely completed before his death ― Extravagant Rescues was published this summer from Triquarterly Books.

The following poem is from his collection from The Garbage Eater (2011, Triquarterly).

The Advent Calendar


Through the ear the Word of God,
pressed on cardboard, impregnates
with dignity the sleeping Mary,
whose child, the creed says,
“was conceived by the Holy Spirit.”

So the Church Fathers saw it,
and for portraits such as this you love
their resourceful escapes, the saving
image in the face of language.

It’s true, mystery is captured
by the world we know, but does it
then diminish? No clever gesture meant
to cover, no Vatican fig leaf,
these constructions drive belief

to necessary crisis. They give dimension,
savagely, and manifest the questions
given up on. Take away the stars
and glitter from this Advent calendar

(found along a sidewalk sale in June,
dollar ninety-nine), what remains
are rows of squares. You’re left
with only days, bare and perforated,
a liturgy of doors, perfect symbol.

Don’t days, after all, amount to this,
lined up, surreptitious? You open
and examine them, you count them
and you count them down.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Brett Foster: 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, November 25, 2019

Joanne Epp

Joanne Epp is a Winnipeg poet ― originally from Saskatchewan ― whose first full-length collection, Eigenheim, appeared from Turnstone Press in 2015. She has also published a chapbook, Crossings (2012). The name Eigenheim is the German term for “one’s own home.” It is also the name of a small community in Saskatchewan, and the Mennonite Church located there.

In an interview with Canadian Mennonite University she said, “[O]ne of the things I love about poetry [is] that compressed energy that you can get,” She continued, “I think a lot about what being a poet really is… It has seemed to me that being attentive is an essential part of the poet’s work... It has to come out of a love for the world.”

She is connected with a rich circle of Christian poets in Winnipeg, including Sarah Klassen, Sally Ito, Burl Horniachek, Luann Hiebert, and Angeline Schellenberg.

Joanne Epp is assistant organist at St. Margaret’s Anglican Church.

Fugue on the Magnificat

Pachelbel and rain, dim light
on organ keys. Shadows
in the rafters, ribs
of an upside-down ship
parting the water. Down the panes
of pebbled glass, drip by drop,
eighth notes in steady quick-step.
I’m practicing someone else’s prayers,
a means to sharpen my own longing
for that constant love to which
each phrase of counterpoint gives answer.
Rain crescendos to fullness, a deep Amen
on pedal notes that re-echo in the woodwork.
I hold the last long chord, close the book.
Tomorrow I’ll return, repeat
and repeat the task.
Each progress a beginning.

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 18, 2019

Jacob Stratman

Jacob Stratman is an Oklahoma poet whose poems have appeared in such journals as Christian Century, Plough Quarterly, Rock & Sling, and The Windhover. He is professor of English at John Brown University in Arkansas, and is chair of the division of Humanities and Social Sciences. He is the editor behind Lessons in Disability: Essays on Teaching with Young Adult Literature (2015) and Teens and the New Religious Landscape (2018) both from McFarland Publishing.

His first poetry collection has just appeared as part of the Poiema Poetry Series from Cascade Books. What I Have I Offer With Two Hands is a collection of poems offering advice to his young sons, but advice they are probably not yet ready to receive. I am privileged to have edited this collection along with the poet. The following poem is from this collection.

For When My Sons Yell At God

Jonah Leaving the Whale Jan Breughel the Elder. Oil on panel (38 x 56 cm) ca. 1600

“It is a childish work—the whale has the head of a dog and Jonah looks suspiciously fresh.”
---www.artbible.info

In candied red, the white-bearded
prophet emerges, hands still clasped in prayer,
clean, really clean, maybe too clean, first-day-
of-school clean, baptism clean. Perhaps it is
a childish painting, the punished coming up
for air after a three-day, divine timeout,
his begging and pleading inside this flesh
box, sincere or not, but he’s out, old and fresh
in a world around him, Breughel is sure
to make clear, swirling blue-black and solid
brown—the earth’s bruising, perhaps a wish
of yellow, healing in the distance, a light
faded behind the eye’s focus. The dogfish
eyes, big and rolling back. The mouth open

like the cave, like the tomb, like the brown creek
carp we refuse to touch, hate to catch, squishy
and formless but counted nonetheless. But
Jonah will dirty himself again after Nineveh,
under the vine, cussing at God telling
God His own business, and he will forget
the welcoming red, the fresh fruit color
of that cloak—the thin (or thinning) clearing
in the background beyond sea and storm,
even the mouth as exit, as release.
He will soon forget to consider how
suspicious it is for a man like him
sitting in death’s darkness for three days
to come out so clean, so bright, so forgiven.

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 11, 2019

G.A. Studdert Kennedy*

G.A. Studdert Kennedy (1883―1929) is a poet who served as an army chaplain on the Western Front in World War I ― which ended 101 years ago, today. Although he was born in England, he always maintained that he was an Irishman, due to his parentage; his father being born in County Dublin, but serving as vicar of St. Mary’s, Quarry Hill, in Leeds.

During the war he was very supportive of the British war effort. He received the Military Cross ― his citation reading:

-----“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He showed
-----the greatest courage and disregard for his own safety in
-----attending to the wounded under heavy fire. He searched shell
-----holes for our own and enemy wounded, assisting them to the
-----dressing station, and his cheerfulness and endurance had a
-----splendid effect upon all ranks in the front line trenches,
-----which he constantly visited.”

After the war, however, he became an outspoken pacifist.

Waste

Waste of muscle, waste of brain,
Waste of patience, waste of pain,
Waste of manhood, waste of health,
Waste of beauty, waste of wealth,
Waste of blood and waste of tears,
Waste of youth’s most precious years,
Waste of ways the saints have trod,
Waste of glory,
Waste of God.
War!

‘My Peace I Give Unto You’

Blessed are the eyes that see
-----The things that you have seen.
Blessed are the feet that walk
-----The ways where you have been.
Blessed are the eyes that see
-----The agony of God,
Blessed are the feet that tread
-----The paths His feet have trod.
Blessed are the souls that solve
-----The paradox of pain,
And find the path that, piercing it,
-----Leads through to peace again.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about G.A. Studdert Kennedy: 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 4, 2019

Anne Brontë

Anne Brontë (1820―1849) is the youngest of the Brontë sisters. Their father was an evangelical Anglican priest who was appointed Rector of Haworth in Yorkshire shortly after Anne’s birth. Her mother died when Anne was barely a year old.

She wrote under the pseudonym of Acton Bell ― contributing 21 poems to a book of verse published in 1846 by the three sisters, which went unnoticed. She went on to publish two novels ― Agnes Grey (1847) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848). Anne’s novels sold well, perhaps due to the association in the minds of the public with her sisters’ successful novels ― Emily’s Wuthering Heights and Charlotte’s Jane Eyre (both published in 1847). She fell ill with tuberculosis late in 1848, and died by the following May.

The Penitent

I mourn with thee and yet rejoice
That thou shouldst sorrow so;
With Angel choirs I join my voice
To bless the sinner's woe.
Though friends and kindred turn away
And laugh thy grief to scorn,
I hear the great Redeemer say
'Blessed are ye that mourn'.

Hold on thy course nor deem it strange
That earthly cords are riven.
Man may lament the wondrous change
But 'There is joy in Heaven'!

The post this past week at Poems For Ephesians is also about Anne Brontë.

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 28, 2019

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872—1906) was one of the earliest black poets to gain wide attention in the United States. He couldn’t afford to go to college, and so took a job as an elevator operator in Dayton, Ohio. His first book Oak and Ivy (1893) was self-published, and he paid for it by selling copies to elevator riders for $1.

He soon moved to Chicago, where he was befriended by Frederick Douglass, who called him — “the most promising young colored man in America.”

His second book Majors and Minors (1895, Hadley & Hadley) appeared as his poems were receiving publication, in The New York Times and other major newspapers and magazines. A number of the poems in these collections were written in dialect, and were, at the time, the poems that drew attention to him.

His third book, was published by Dodd, Mead, & Company — and led to a six-month reading tour of England in 1897 — a company he subsequently published his poetry and fiction through.

He died from Tuberculosis when he was just 33.

We Wear the Mask

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

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 21, 2019

Gwyneth Lewis

Gwyneth Lewis is a Welsh poet who completed her studies at Cambridge, Harvard, Columbia, and Oxford. She writes both in English and Welsh; her first English-language collection Parables & Faxes (1995) won the Aldeburgh Festival Prize. She was appointed as the first National Poet of Wales for 2005/2006.

Her words “In these stones horizons sing” appear in six-foot letters on the face of the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff — along with a message in Welsh which has been translated as “Creating truth like glass from inspiration's furnace” — reflecting cultural aspirations for the people of Wales.

She has written two non-fiction books: Sunbathing in the Rain: A Cheerful Book about Depression (2002), and Two in a Boat: A Marital Rite of Passage (2005).

Gwyneth Lewis’s poetry collection Sparrow Tree (2011, Bloodaxe) won the Roland Matthias Poetry Award (which is awarded for poetry from Wales in English). It is the source for the following poem.

Philosophy

"Knitting's like everything," it's tempting to say.
No. Knitting's like knitting. Sure, there's cosmology

in Norwegian sweaters with vertical stars,
but as science that doesn't get us far.

If space is made of superstrings
then God's a knitter and everything

is craft. Perhaps we can darn
tears in the space-time continuum

and travel down wormholes to begin
to purl in another dimension's skein.

But no. There are things you can't knit:
a spaceship. A husband, though the wish

might be strong and the softest thread
would be perfect for the hair on his head,

another, tougher, that washes well
for his pecs and abdominals. You can stitch a soul

daily and unpick mistakes,
perform some moral nip and tucks —

forgiveness. Look out. Your Frankenstein
might turn and start knitting you again.

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 14, 2019

Meister Eckhart

Meister Eckhart is the commonly-known name for Johannes Eckhart (c.1260—c.1328) who is a German Dominican theologian and mystic. He had been teaching theology in Paris, and received the title “Meister” when he received his Masters degree.

Because he often spoke in vague, imprecise language, in 1325 he was accused of heresy. In his sermons he often said things that seemed pantheistic, or erroneous in other ways, which he later corrected. In February of 1327, from the pulpit of the Dominican church in Cologne, Eckhart repudiated the unorthodox sense in which some of his utterances could be interpreted, retracted all possible errors, and submitted to the Holy See.

The following poem is from Meister Eckhart's Book of the Heart: Meditations for the Restless Soul, (2017, Hampton Roads Publishing) which is translated by scholar Jon M. Sweeney and poet Mark S. Burrows.

Nine Words of Prayer

God, our only,
Scripture, our gift,
Holy, the qualities we seek.

The Name, sweet on the lips,
The love, intimate and secret,
Humility, again and again.

Vain is the world;
Miserable, those apart;
And Blessed, the sainthood
-----we seek.

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 7, 2019

Mark Jarman*

Mark Jarman has now published eleven books of poetry, the most recent of which is Heronry (2017, Sarabande Books). It is his first since his retrospective collection, Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems (2011). Jarman has written extensively about poetry — particularly expressing his support for both narrative poetry, and poems written in traditional forms. His new collection of essays about poetry, called Dailiness, is forthcoming in 2020 from Paul Dry Books.

William Thompson calls Mark Jarman “the leading Chrsitian poet in the United States,” in The Literary Encyclopedia (2006) and says, “even [Jarman’s] most explicitly Christian poems are marked by a consistently surprising temperament that Jarman himself describes as heterodox,” and that in recent years, his “poems have focused intensely on matters of belief and disbelief, and on the mysteries of love and suffering.”

Jarman served as Elector for the American Poets’ Corner at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City from 2009 to 2012. He received the Balcones Poetry Prize in 2013.

The following poem first appeared in Tiferet Journal, and is from Heronry.

Walking on Water

-----Matthew 14

-----Always the same message out of Matthew.
The water Jesus walks on is life’s turbulence.
-----He calms our trouble and lifts us up again.

To walk on water? That’s what’s puzzling –
-----that feat of anti-matter, defeat of physics,
those beautiful unshod feet of cosmic truth

-----for whom the whole performance is child’s play.
And unless one becomes as a little child
-----the kingdom’s inaccessible by any route.

That water, then, its broken surface tension,
-----collision of fracturing waves, apparent chaos,
its fractals turning infinite and weaving

-----the netted skin between worlds, that web
of light and gravity which underpins our faith –
-----water, a substance, stormy or pacific,

we know a myriad ways to get across it.
-----But simply walking on it? Literally?
How far do you think you’d go before you fell

-----through that convergence between time and space?
The water Jesus walked on wasn’t water
-----only. It was the storm that made it rock.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Mark Jarman: 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, September 30, 2019

George MacDonald*

George MacDonald (1824—1905) is the author of more than fifty books in a wide variety of genres — novels, plays, sermons, poems, essays and fairy tales. He became a Congregational minister in Arundel, Scotland in 1850, but left that position three years later due to theological differences. He never took on another church — although he was offered a staggering $20,000 per year by a large New York City church in 1872, when he was in the United States on a lecture tour.

There are some who dispute some of MacDonald’s less-orthodox beliefs. He did eventually join the Anglican Church, but was not drawn to its high liturgy or theology. MacDonald himself did not want to spend energy disputing. In one novel he wrote:

-----“The farmer believed in God—that is, he tried to do
-----what God required of him, and thus was on the straight
-----road to know him. He talked little about religion, and
-----was not one to take sides on doctrinal issues. When he
-----heard people advocating or opposing the claims of this
-----or that party in the church, he would turn away with a
-----smile such as men yield to the talk of children. He had
-----no time, he would say, for that kind of thing. He had enough
-----to do in trying to faithfully practice what was beyond dispute.”

Numerous authors have declared George MacDonald’s influence on their work, including J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carroll, and Madeleine L'Engle.

The Grace of Grace

Had I the grace to win the grace
Of some old man in lore complete,
My face would worship at his face,
And I sit lowly at his feet.

Had I the grace to win the grace
Of childhood, loving shy, apart,
The child should find a nearer place,
And teach me resting on my heart.

Had I the grace to win the grace
Of maiden living all above,
My soul would trample down the base,
That she might have a man to love.

A grace I had no grace to win
Knocks now at my half open door:
Ah, Lord of glory, come thou in!—
Thy grace divine is all, and more.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about George MacDonald: 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, September 23, 2019

Angela Alaimo O’Donnell

Angela Alaimo O’Donnell teaches English, Creative Writing and American Catholic Studies at Fordham University in New York City. She is the author of two chapbooks, and five full-length poetry books — most-recently Still Pilgrim (2017, Paraclete Press). Her memoir, Mortal Blessings (2014) won first place, for its category, in the Catholic Press Association Awards.

She has been significantly inspired by Flannery O’Connor, having written two books about her: Flannery O’Connor: Fiction Fired by Faith (2015), and The Province of Joy: Praying with Flannery O’Connor (2012). This is re-emphasized by the epigraph to the poem in this post. This poem is from her new book, and first appeared in Christian Century.

The Still Pilgrim Considers a Hard Teaching

“If you believe in the divinity of Christ, you have to cherish
the world at the same time that you struggle to endure it.”
—Flannery O’Connor


Not just love but cherish it, this world—
from the Latin, carus, to the French, cher—
meaning dear, meaning costly, beloved—
meaning hold to your heart, handle with care,
this world, from Old English, weoruld,
meaning human race, meaning age of man,
this world, meaning our earth and her heirs,
meaning all of us, here, now, if you can—
the suicide bomber, the killer cop,
the war-worn refugee at the door,
the racist, the rapist, the shooter and shot,
the filthy rich and the dirty poor—
this world, ever ancient and ever new,
not just love it, but act like you do.

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 16, 2019

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow*

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807—1882) is one of New England’s Fireside Poets, and the most popular poet of his day. He wrote many long narrative pieces, telling stories from mythology and history, such as “Paul Revere’s Ride” and Evangeline, in tightly structured poetic form. Much of his verse was produced for the entertainment of a wide range of people — an aspect of poetry that has been overtaken by less literary forms of writing today — which may explain his bent toward sentimentality.

Although, like most of his friends he was a member of the Unitarian Church, he was fascinated by Jesus and his claims to divinity, which was more in keeping with the beliefs of orthodox Christian denominations. Perhaps it was translating Dante’s Divine Comedy that had particularly influenced him. In 1872 his great work Christus: A Mystery appeared, which includes the Apostles Creed as placed in the mouths of various disciples after the resurrection. This would have been a surprising declaration to those in the Unitarian Church.

My Cathedral

Like two cathedral towers these stately pines
---Uplift their fretted summits tipped with cones;
---The arch beneath them is not built with stones,
---Not Art but Nature traced these lovely lines,
And carved this graceful arabesque of vines;
---No organ but the wind here sighs and moans,
---No sepulchre conceals a martyr's bones.
---No marble bishop on his tomb reclines.
Enter! the pavement, carpeted with leaves,
---Gives back a softened echo to thy tread!
---Listen! the choir is singing; all the birds,
In leafy galleries beneath the eaves,
---Are singing! listen, ere the sound be fled,
---And learn there may be worship without words.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: 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, September 9, 2019

Olav H. Hauge

Olav H. Hauge (1908—1994) is a poet of Norway who also learned to speak English, German and French. He translated many foreign poets into Norwegian, including Tennyson, Yeats, Robert Browning, and Bertolt Brecht. Hauge translated into Norweigian the poetry of Robert Bly, who also translated Hauge’s work into English.

Hauge’s early poetry is quite traditional, but his later work demonstrates the influence of modernism, and Chinese poetry. He lived all his life in the western Norwegian village of Ulvik.

The following poem is from Luminous Spaces which was translated by Olav Grinde.

Always I Expect to Find

Always I expect to find
something that makes life worthwhile,
something worth winning,
which shall lift me up, strengthen
my will and brace my back.

Free me from this curse of doubt
so humbly I may bend my knee
to life’s eternal truth, let it
guide me right, give me goals
to reach for, faith and peace.

Blessed is the man who, drawn onward,
sees what is writ in the Lord’s hand.
Serpent becomes staff, the burning
bush is green again. Find your path
before your severed day is here!

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 2, 2019

Elizabeth Barrett Browning*

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806—1861) is one of the greatest poets of the nineteenth century. She suffered from ill health from her teens onward, beginning with a lung ailment when she was 14, and a spinal injury at 15. The prescribed laudanum and morphine she became reliant upon may have also contributed to her frail health.

Her family was very supportive of her writing — collecting one of the largest collections of juvenilia relating to any English writer — but was later so over-protective of her that she and Robert Browning had to elope to become married.

She dedicated herself to an educated expression of Christian faith, learning Hebrew while still in her teens, and later turning to Greek. She also read Milton's Paradise Lost, and Dante's Inferno while still young. Barrett Browning passionately believed that Christianity was naturally suited to being explored through poetry — that the highest poetry was essentially religious. She said in an 1842 letter to her friend Mary Russell Mitford, “The failure of religious poets turns less upon their being religious, than on their not being poets. Christ’s religion is essentially poetry — poetry glorified.”

A Thought For A Lonely Death-Bed

If God compel thee to this destiny,
To die alone, with none beside thy bed
To ruffle round with sobs thy last word said
And mark with tears the pulses ebb from thee,—
Pray then alone, ' O Christ, come tenderly!
By thy forsaken Sonship in the red
Drear wine-press,—by the wilderness out-spread,—
And the lone garden where thine agony
Fell bloody from thy brow, —by all of those
Permitted desolations, comfort mine!
No earthly friend being near me, interpose
No deathly angel 'twixt my face and thine,
But stoop Thyself to gather my life's rose,
And smile away my mortal to Divine!'

Sonnet 22

When our two souls stand up erect and strong,
Face to face, silent, drawing nigh and nigher,
Until the lengthening wings break into fire
At either curvèd point,—what bitter wrong
Can the earth do to us, that we should not long
Be here contented? Think. In mounting higher,
The angels would press on us and aspire
To drop some golden orb of perfect song
Into our deep, dear silence. Let us stay
Rather on earth, Belovèd,—where the unfit
Contrarious moods of men recoil away
And isolate pure spirits, and permit
A place to stand and love in for a day,
With darkness and the death-hour rounding it.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Elizabeth Barrett Browning: 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 26, 2019

Joseph Hart

Joseph Hart (1712—1768) is a London writer and Congregationalist minister, who was quite opposed to evangelical Christianity in his young adulthood. At that time he made his living teaching Latin, Hebrew and Greek, and had translated Greek poetry by Herodian and Phycolides. Hart wrote a pamphlet against John Wesley in 1741, entitled The Unreasonableness of Religion, which he later denounced after his conversion.

Like many other Christian poets of this period, hymns became his form of choice. In 1759 a first book of his collected hymns appeared, later to become known as Hart’s Hymns, which along with later supplements was reprinted every two or three years for more than a century. A biography of Hart was written by Thomas Wright, and published in 1910. His best-known hymn — included here — had seven stanzas in its original form, and underwent numerous revisions, including a chorus added by another writer. The following three verses are those most commonly found in hymnbooks.

Joseph Hart was buried at Bunhill Fields — a nondenominal graveyard in London commonly used for nonconformists. Others interred there include William Blake, John Bunyan, and Isaac Watts.

Come Ye Sinners

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love, and power:
He is able, He is able,
He is willing: doubt no more.

Come, ye thirsty, come and welcome,
God's free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance,
Every grace that brings us nigh,
Without money, without money,
Come to Jesus Christ and buy.

Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Bruised and broken, full of sin;
If you tarry till you're better,
You may never enter in:
Not the righteous, not the righteous;
Sinners Jesus came to win.

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 19, 2019

Paul Mariani*

Paul Mariani is an emeritus professor of English at Boston College. He holds a unique place as a biographer of poets — including having written books about Wallace Stevens, John Berryman, Gerard Manley Hopkins, William Carlos Williams, and Robert Lowell. His biography of Hart Crane, The Broken Tower, is the basis for the James Franco biopic of the same name, which was released in 2012.

He has had seven volumes of poetry published, including Epitaphs for the Journey: New, Selected, and Revised Poems (Poiema Poetry Series/Cascade Books) — on which I served as Paul’s editor. In September, he is to receive the inaugural Flannery O'Connor Lifetime Achievement Award at Loyola University in Chicago.

Mariani has published other significant books as well, including the spiritual memoir Thirty Days: on Retreat with the Exercises of St. Ignatius (2003, Penguin). His most recent book, The Mystery of It All: The Vocation of Poetry in the Twilight of Modernism, is newly published by Paraclete Press.

The following poem recently appeared in America.

What Happened Then

Do we understand what happened then?
The few of us in that shuttered room,
lamps dimmed, afraid of what would happen
when they found us? The women back
this morning to tell Peter what they’d seen.
Then these two back from Emmaus.
And now here he was. Here in the room with us.
Strange meeting this, the holes there
in his hands and feet and heart.
And who could have guessed a calm like this
could touch us. But that was what we felt.
The deep relief you feel when the one
you’ve searched for in a crowd appears,
and your unbelieving eyes dissolve in tears.
For this is what love looks like and is
and what it does. “Peace” was what he said,
as a peace like no other pierced the gloom
and descended on the room.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Paul Mariani: 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 12, 2019

Thomas of Celano

Thomas of Celano (c.1185—c.1265) is famous for his biographies of Francis of Assisi, the first of which was written at the request of Pope Gregory IX. He joined the Franciscans around 1215, and was acquainted with Francis personally. He is considered a likely author for a life of Clare of Assisi as well.

Thomas is also believed to be the author of the following Latin hymn — Dies Irae — which has been set to music for the Requiem Mass by many including Mozart and Verdi. It is unusual in that it was written in rhyme, which was not common for Latin in the classical period.

I have taken the liberty of slightly modernizing the following English version, which was translated by William J. Irons.

Day of Wrath (Dies Irae)

Day of wrath, O day of mourning!
See fulfilled the prophet's warning:
Heaven and earth in ashes burning.
Wondrous sound the trumpet flings,
Through earth's sepulchers it rings,
All before the throne it brings.
O what fear man's bosom rends
When from heaven the Judge descends
On whose sentence all depends.

Death is struck and nature quaking;
All creation is awaking,
To its Judge an answer making.
Lo, the book, exactly worded,
Wherein all has been recorded;
So shall judgment be awarded.
When the Judge His seat attains,
And each hidden deed arraigns,
Nothing unavenged remains.

What shall I, frail man, be pleading,
Who for me be interceding
When the just are mercy needing?
King of Majesty tremendous,
Who does free salvation send us,
Fount of pity, then befriend us!
Righteous Judge, for sin's pollution
Grant your gift of absolution
Ere the Day of Retribution.

Faint and weary you have sought me,
On the cross of suffering bought me;
Shall such grace be vainly brought me?
Think, good Jesus, my salvation
Caused your wondrous incarnation;
Leave me not to sin's damnation!
Guilty now I pour my moaning,
All my shame with anguish owning:
Hear, O Christ, your servant's groaning!

Bows my heart in meek submission,
Strewn with ashes of contrition;
Help me in my last condition!
Worthless are my prayers and sighing;
Yet, Good Lord, in grace complying,
Rescue me from fires undying.
You the sinful woman saved;
You the dying thief forgave;
And to me true hope vouchsaved!

With your favored sheep then place me,
Nor among the goats abase me,
But to your right hand upraise me.
While the wicked are confounded,
Doomed to flames of woe unbounded,
Call me, with your saints surrounded.
To the rest you did prepare me
On your cross; O Christ, upbear me!
Spare, O God, in mercy spare me.

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 5, 2019

William Blake*

William Blake (1759—1827) is a London poet, and artist — often categorized with the English romantic poets, even though he was such a unique figure. During his lifetime he did not receive the recognition of Wordsworth and Coleridge, and he spent most of his life in London rather than the idyllic Lake District.

He spoke out against injustice. In such poems as “London” and “The Chimney Sweeper” from his Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794) he shone a light on the plight of the poor climbing boys. He was critical of both church and state whose self-interest encouraged this exploitation. A Christian politician, Lord Shaftesbury, did much to end this practice through laws limiting child labour (1833) and finally the Chimney Sweepers Act (1875). Blake’s poetry was a voice crying in this wilderness.

Blake was very clearly a Christian, as expressed in his own writing, but he also believed he received visions right from the time he was a child. He said that many of his poems and images were inspired by angelic messengers.

You Don’t Believe

You don't believe — I won't attempt to make ye, and that
You are asleep — I won't attempt to wake ye.
Sleep on! sleep on! while in your pleasant dreams
Of Reason you may drink of Life's clear streams.
Reason and Newton, they are quite two things;
For so the swallow and the sparrow sings.

Reason says `Miracle': Newton says `Doubt.'
Aye! that's the way to make all Nature out.
`Doubt, doubt, and don't believe without experiment':
That is the very thing that Jesus meant,
When He said `Only believe! believe and try!
Try, try, and never mind the reason why!'

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about William Blake: 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, July 29, 2019

Chris Anderson

Chris Anderson is a professor emeritus of English at Oregon State University. His 14 books include three poetry collections; the newest is You Never Know (2018, Stephen F. Austin University Press). He describes himself as “a believer and a walker in the woods”. He is also an ordained Catholic deacon.

In his book Light When It Comes: Trusting Joy, Facing Darkness, and Seeing God in Everything (Eerdmans, 2016) he writes, “We all have moments…that move us somehow, that seem to mean something we can’t quite put into words, but we are embarrassed by them or we doubt them or in the rush of things that happen to us each day we forget about them.” His book’s purpose, as the subtitle expresses, is to encourage us to trust such moments because they can lead us to God.

Paul Willis has described “a shimmering strangeness that marks the presence of the holy” in Anderson’s poetry. His website is: www.deaconchrisanderson.com

With an Intimate Friend

With an intimate friend
you don’t always have to be intimate.
Especially in the morning.
You can just sit together
drinking coffee. Reading the paper.
So it is with prayer.
He the front page, you the sports.

Posted with permission of the poet. This post was suggested by Charles Wood.

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 22, 2019

Daffyd ap Gwilym

Daffyd ap Gwilym (c.1315—c.1350) is a Welsh poet, born into an aristocratic family. About 170 of his poems survive, although others have also been attributed to him in the past.

In a day when Welsh court poets kept themselves out of their verse, he made himself (or a fictionalized version of himself) the focus of his poetry — perhaps due to the influence of French poets. He wrote praise for rich patrons, and poems of erotic love and nature — “The Girls of Llanbadarn” being a shameless, youthful, self-mocking lament at being rejected by the girls he sees in church.

Two rival Welsh communities claim to be his burial place. It is thought that Daffyd ap Gwilym may have been a victim of the Black Death. Besides what the poet tells us, little is known about him. The sculpture pictured is found in Cardiff City Hall.

The Skylark

The lark’s special hours of prayer
Spiral up from its house each day,
world’s early bird, spate of gold song,
Heavenwards, April’s porter.

Graceful voice, melody’s helmsman,
Sweet path, lovely labour is yours,
Shaping song above hazel groves,
Grey wings’ gracious achievement.
Yours the spirit, precious task,
And high-flown speech for preaching,
Strong song from the fount of faith,
Privileged in God’s presence.
Aloft you soar, cai’s own power,
And aloft you sing each song.
Bright spell near the wall of stars,
Zenith’s long circling journey,
Full measure, you have mounted
High enough: the prize is yours.

Let every good creature praise
Its Creator, pure bright Ruler.
Cease not, thousands hear it, it’s worthy,
To praise God as He decrees.
Love’s author’s way, where are you?
Clear sweet voice, in grey-brown garb.
Yours is pure cheerful singing,
Melody-maker, russet muse.
Chanter of heaven’s chapel,
Fair the omen, skilful are you,
Ploughland franchise, frequent deft lyric,
Crested, and the cloak is brown.

Set a course for well-known skies,
Singer, wild moorland region
One beholds you high above
Surely, when the day is longest.
When you arise to worship,
Gift bestowed by the Trinity,
Not a treetop sustains you
Above the world, you’re eloquent,
But the just Father’s graces,
His miraculous providence.

Teacher of praise dawn to darkness,
Descend, may God bless your wings.
My fair brown bird, my envoy,
And my fellow bard, if you’d go,
Bring greetings to a beauty,
Radiant her gift, Gwynedd’s moon,
And seek one of her kisses
To bring here to me, or two.
Lord of the sky’s chartless sea,
Hover by her hall yonder:
Small matter, may I be with her,
Eiddig’s anger, one morning.

For your wretched slaughter the fine
Is such that none dare slay you.
Should he try it, bold plotting,
Eiddig’s bane, you’ll stay alive:
Great the compass that’s your birdcage,
You’re so far from bow and hand.
Stamping the ground , sad the bowman,
His great aim will go awry:
Wicked his wrath, wheel above him
While he with his arrow goes by.

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 15, 2019

Mark S. Burrows

Mark S. Burrows is an American poet and professor living in Bochum, Germany, where he is on the faculty of Protestant University of Applied Sciences, and is Poetry Editor for Spiritus (John Hopkins University). He has translated many poets, including in the book-length collections Prayers of a Young Poet by Rilke, and Meister Eckhart’s Book of the Heart (with Jon M. Sweeney).

His poetry and translations have appeared in such publications as Christian Century, Anglican Theological Review, and Poetry. His newest book, The Chance of Home (2018, Paraclete Press), is a collection of his own poetry; it is the source for the following poem.

A Stubborn Parable

I don’t know what Nature is: I sing it.
—Fernando Pessoa

This morning, sitting in a small enclosed garden,
I notice a sprig of green clinging improbably to

a dark stone wall, its roots rising from a slender
crease where a stray seed once fell, carried by

the winds, perhaps, or some wayward bird—who
could ever tell? It somehow found an edge of soil

and held out against the thrust of winter’s snow
and ice, lifting itself up toward the sun against

an unforgiving face of stone—a parable of grit,
the resilience of song, a strong resonance of hope.

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, July 8, 2019

Ralph Erskine

Ralph Erskine (1685—1752) is a Scottish poet and chaplain. He attended Edinburgh University, and was ordained in 1711. He is remembered for his devotional writing, especially his Gospel Sonnets — poetic theological reflections, with memorable analogies, which were not structured as sonnets at all. By 1797 they had appeared in 25 editions.

One of his most interesting creations is “Meditations On Smoking Tobacco; Or, Smoking Spiritualized” — a 50-line poem of metaphoric reflections for smokers:
-----...And when the smoke ascends on high,
-----Then thou behold’st the vanity
-----Of worldly stuff,
-----Gone with a puff.
-----Thus think, and smoke tobacco...

He died at Dunfermline, where he served for many years. A larger-than-life statue of him was erected there, in front of Queen Ann Street Church, in 1849.

from The Believer's Soliloquy; Especially in Times of Desertion, Temptation, Affliction
Sect. VI. The Song of Heaven desired by Saints on Earth

…Glory to God that here we came,
And glory to the glorious Lamb.
Our light, our life, our joy, our all
Is in our arms, and ever shall.

Our Lord is ours, and we are his;
Yea, now we see him as he is:
And hence we like unto him are,
And full his glorious image share.

No darkness now, no dismal night,
No vapour intercepts the light;
We see for ever face to face,
The highest Prince in highest place.

This, this does heav'n enough afford,
We are for ever with the Lord:
We want no more, for all is giv'n;
His presence is the heart of heav'n."

While thus I laid my list'ning ear
Close to the door of heav'n to hear;
And then the sacred page did view,
Which told me all I heard was true;

Yet shew'd me that the heav'nly song
Surpasses ev'ry mortal tongue,
With such unutterable strains
As none in fett'ring flesh attains:

Then said I, "O to mount away,
And leave this clog of heavy clay!
Let wings of time more hasty fly,
That I may join the songs on high."

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 1, 2019

John Terpstra*

John Terpstra is a Hamilton poet and writer. His most recent poetry collection is Mischief (2017, Gaspereau Press) — a playful and accessible book that subtly draws us into its depths through its seeming simplicity and its sympathetic voice.

Here we see more of who John Terpstra is — such as through his compassionate reflections on neighbours and strangers alike. Perhaps more than in any other collection, he also reveals his alternate identity as a carpenter and cabinetmaker; two of the poems which do this, previously appeared in my anthology, The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry.

Of his five nonfiction books, two are about the landscape of his chosen city. His first, Falling Into Place (which first appeared in 2002) focusses on a huge glacial sandbar known as the Iroquois Bar — and the most-recent, Daylighting Chedoke (2018, Wolsak & Wynn), is about the now-largely-underground Chedoke Creek. Both books consider how human activity has altered the landscape.

Terpstra has also recently contributed three poems to the second Poiema anthology, Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

The following poem, before it appeared in Mischief, was published in the chapbook Brendan Luck (2005, Gaspereau Press) and in Reformed Worship — from which it was submitted, and won an Evangelical Press of America Prize for Poetry in 2009.

Needlecraft

In the church where we go to now
the words of the preacher
begin innocently enough
to thread through the fabric of our lives.
They draw together shapes
not previously recognized,
and connect portions of the narrative
as yet unread, or not yet readable,
a pattern not apparent,
as though written and stitched
by a random hand.

The church where we go to now
Is, and is not, the church
of our fathers and mothers.
The old words do not come easily,
here, the songs have faded and frayed,
they have been crushed and ground
by the lives of our forebears,
the weighing down of history.

The preacher is not innocent.
She is both fearful and full of joy.
She would unburden us,
but the slim silver sliver that she guides
will prick
as it moves through,
and there is blood on the pattern,
the page, on the hand,
as well as healing,
just as there was for our mothers and fathers.

She pulls the thread, taut,
then snaps it between her teeth.
Amen. For now and forever
amen to this bite of a new
dispensation, ancient
and exact
as needlecraft.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about John Terpstra: 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, June 24, 2019

Miklós Radnóti

Miklós Radnóti (1909—1944) is a Hungarian poet who developed his artistic voice between the wars, studying Hungarian and French literature at the University of Szeged. He was active in Budapest’s avant-garde literary scene. As the days grew politically darker, his second poetry collection, Song of the New Shepherds (1931), was banned — for which he could have been imprisoned. He and his wife travelled to France many times during the 1930s, and they converted to Catholicism.

During WWII, because of his Jewish background, he was drafted three times for forced labour. The third time this happened he had been working in the Yugoslavian copper mines, and was on a forced retreat from Russian forces. In a weakened state, and unable to continue, he was shot; his body was dumped in a mass grave. When the grave was exhumed a year later, his notebook — containing his final poems — was discovered. Miklós Radnóti has been called one of the most significant poetic witnesses to the Holocaust.

The following is from Radnóti’s posthumous collection Forced March, translated by Clive Wilmer and George Gömöri. Here “the poet” is speaking with the prophet Nahum who has just spoken of how “more than of old, today, sin multiplies”.

from Eighth Eclogue

To the slaughter nations scramble.
And the soul of man is stripped bare, even as Nineveh.
What use had admonitions? And the savage ravening locusts
In their green clouds, what effect? Of all beasts man is the basest.
Here, tiny babes are dashed against walls and over there,
The church tower is a torch, the house an oven roasting
Its own people. Whole factories fly up in their smoke
The street runs mad with people on fire, then swoons with a wail,
The vast bomb-bays disgorge, the great clamps loose their burdens
And the dead lie there, shrivelled, spattering city squares
Like a herd’s dung on the pasture: everything, once again,
Has happened as you foretold. What brings you back here, tell me,
To earth from ancient cloud-swirl?

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 17, 2019

Clement of Alexandria

Clement of Alexandria (c. 150—215) is a significant philosopher of the early church. In about 190 he began teaching his own school of thought, which centred on the reasonableness of the Christian faith. He wrote three books: Exhortation to the Greeks, Instructor, and Miscellanies. Clement’s “new philosophy” was actually Biblical Christianity aimed at correcting gnostic heresies.

Clement was one of the first leaders to speak up in favour of Christians using visual art in their worship. He suggested, "Let our emblem be a dove, or a fish, or a ship running before the wind, or a musician's lyre, or a ship's anchor. And if there be a fisherman, he will remind us of an apostle, and little children being drawn up out of the water."

The following is considered by some to be the oldest Christian hymn, other than texts from scripture; it was translated into English by F. Bland Tucker.

Jesus, Our Mighty Lord

Jesus, our mighty Lord,
our strength in sadness,
the Father's conquering Word,
true source of gladness;
your name we glorify,
O Jesus, throned on high;
you gave yourself to die
for our salvation.

Good shepherd of your sheep,
your own defending,
in love your children keep
to life unending.
You are yourself the Way:
lead us then day by day
in your own steps, we pray,
O Lord most holy.

Glorious their life who sing,
with glad thanksgiving,
true hymns to Christ the King
in all their living:
all who confess his Name,
come then with hearts aflame;
the God of peace acclaim
as Lord and Savior.

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 10, 2019

Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas (1914—1953) is the best known of all Welsh poets. He grew up in a Wales that had undergone an evangelical revival in 1904—1905 that had transformed the entire culture. His father was an atheist who nevertheless constantly ranted against God, while his mother was a devoted nonconformist chapel-goer.

I have long wondered about including a post about Dylan Thomas here, although I doubt he was truly a Christian. Even so, he was so God-haunted, so influenced by the Bible and hymns, and he wrote so many poems which clearly express a Christian faith, that I decided — at the very least — he speaks profoundly of faith in God.

In his book Dylan Thomas; Dog Among the Fairies, Henry Treece concludes that in Thomas's poem "Vision and Prayer" — "The poet has openly accepted God's love and has rejoiced in his acceptance. . . . This poem ends in a burst of confessional self-abnegation very reminiscent of Francis Thompson's ‘Hound of Heaven’." Treece also says, "his successive poems have testified . . . to his acceptance of religion and his need for prayer."

Many would disagree, even though, one of his closest friends, the poet Vernon Watkins, was clearly a Christian — and Dylan Thomas’s favourite poem, was John Milton’s “On The Morning of Christ’s Nativity.” Perhaps what this most proves is how difficult it is for us to truly understand another human being.

Dylan Thomas’s drunkenness and immoral behaviour was enough to keep him from receiving a plaque in Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey. This absence was amended in 1982 when US President Jimmy Carter remarked to the Dean, “You put him in here. And I will pray for him.”

The following poem was one that Vernon Watkins convince Thomas to include in his collection Twenty Five Poems.

And Death Shall Have No Dominion

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan't crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashore;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Through they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.

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 3, 2019

Janet McCann

Janet McCann has taught creative writing in the English Department of Texas A&M University for more than 45 years. The most recent of her numerous poetry collections is The Crone at the Casino (Lamar University Press, 2014).

I met her this February at the Windhover Writers Festival at University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas. I was able to express to her how influential the anthology Odd Angles of Heaven (1994, Harold Shaw Publishers) — which she’d edited together with David Craig — had been for me as I was developing as a poet, and how it is a significant forerunner to my anthology The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry.

She and David Craig also went on to publish two further poetry anthologies — Place of Passage (2000) and Francis and Clare in Poetry (2004).

The following Janet McCann poem is from Rattle (#25 Summer 2005).

Life List

My friend the scholar-birdwatcher
is dying, after a quiet regular life
of Milton and birds, and if I could

imagine him a farewell, it would be this:
to look out into the small yard
he tended for forty years, to where

he placed the bird houses, the martin
house and the hummingbird feeder,
just in time to see a sweep of air

curve in and take form, the great arctic gyrfalcon
not on his life list, there on the sill,
beak, feathers and pinions

and final knowledge, Adam’s homecoming
after the story’s end, better than Eden.
May he leave in his hand a feather, that his wife

might know where he has gone.

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 27, 2019

Ann Griffiths

Ann Griffiths (1776—1805) is a Welsh hymnwriter who, as a young woman, was deeply influenced by the Methodist Revival. There are no pictures of her, but this effigy (from the Ann Griffiths Memorial Chapel at Dolanog) is based on descriptions of her. According to E. Wyn James of Cardiff University, “Ann’s hymns have long been regarded as one of the highlights of Welsh literature, and since the mid-nineteenth century she herself has become a prominent icon in Welsh-speaking Wales.”

This is particularly remarkable considering that Griffiths received little education and lived in the same remote farmhouse “Dolwar Fach” her entire life. Only 70 stanzas of her verse survive, mostly due to the efforts of her spiritual mentor John Hughes, and his wife Ruth who had been a maidservant at Dolwar Fach and a close friend of Ann’s.

Known as Ann Thomas for most of her life, she had only been married ten months — following the birth and death of her only child, a daughter — when Ann passed away.

The following translation by Rowan Williams, though beautiful in its own right, does not seek to maintain the complex musicality of the original Welch. It takes an image from Song of Songs (attributed to Solomon) and turns it around — seeing Jesus as the Rose of Sharon from the perspective of the bride.

I Saw Him Standing

Under the dark trees, there he stands,
there he stands; shall he not draw my eyes?
I thought I knew a little
how he compels, beyond all things, but now
he stands there in the shadows. It will be
Oh, such a daybreak, such bright morning,
when I shall wake to see him
as he is.

He is called Rose of Sharon, for his skin
is clear, his skin is flushed with blood,
his body lovely and exact; how he compels
beyond ten thousand rivals. There he stands,
my friend, the friend of guilt and helplessness,
to steer my hollow body
over the sea.

The earth is full of masks and fetishes,
what is there here for me? are these like him?
Keep company with him and you will know:
no kin, no likeness to those empty eyes.
He is a stranger to them all, great Jesus.
What is there here for me? I know
what I have longed for. Him to hold
me always.

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 20, 2019

Juana Inés de la Cruz

Juana Inés de la Cruz — in English, Joan Agnes of the Cross — (1648—1695) is a Mexican Heironymite nun. She was largely self-taught in childhood — secretly reading volumes from her grandfather’s library, which was forbidden for girls to do. She became accomplished in such areas as science, philosophy, languages, music and poetry.

Her most-significant pieces are The Divine Narcissus and First Dream. She was influenced by the poet Luis de Góngora.

After joining the nunnery in 1667, she began writing poetry and prose pieces concerning love, faith and feminism. She was often criticized by Catholic leaders who thought a woman should be devoting herself to prayer rather than writing. She argued that it would be better to have women teaching women (as encouraged in 1 Timothy 5). In 1693 she seems to have stopped writing, which was probably due to pressure from church authorities.

While caring for those who were ill with the plague, she herself grew ill and died.

The following is from The Divine Narcissus. Here it is Narcissus (that is Christ), appearing as the Good Shepherd, who is speaking.

The Divine Narcissus — Third Tableau, Scene VIII

-----Poor little lost sheep,
forgetful of you Master,
where can you be straying?
When you depart from me,
it’s life you leave behind, will you not see?
-----Drinking stagnant waters
out of ancient cisterns,
you slake your foolish thirst,
while, deaf to you mistake,
the spring of living waters, you forsake.
-----Call to mind my favors:
you’ll see how lovingly
I watch over you
to free you of offense,
laying down my life in your defense.
-----Covered with frost and snow,
I leave the flock behind,
to follow your foolish steps;
still you spurn this love of mine,
though for you I’ve left the other ninety-nine.
-----Consider that my beauty,
beloved of every creature,
desired by them all—
by every single one—
has set its heart on winning you alone.
-----Down paths through briary wastes,
I follow where you’ve trod,
I brave these rugged woods
until my feet are torn,
are stabbed and pierced by every passing thorn.
-----Still, I shall seek you out
and, even if in the search
I risk my very life,
yours I shall not disown:
to find you I would sooner lose my own.

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.