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 rhyming 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.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Robert Herrick*

Robert Herrick (1591—1674) is the most significant of the poets from a group of dramatists and poets known as “Sons of Ben” — a tribute to the English poet Ben Jonson. He was ordained in the Church of England in 1623 after having graduated with his Masters degree from Cambridge University.

In 1592 his father fell from an upper storey window of their London home, which is suspected to have been a suicide. The desire for a father figure, partially fulfilled by Ben Jonson, shows itself throughout his verse.

Herrick’s only published book of poems is Hesperides: Or, The Works Both Humane & Divine (1648) — a collection of 1400 poems (many of which are just epigraphs). It includes a section entitled “His Noble Numbers,” which are his collected religious poems, and may have originally been intended to appear as a separate book.

In 1994 a memorial to Robert Herrick was unveiled in the new Poets' Corner window in Westminster Abbey.

Litany to the Holy Spirit

In the hour of my distress,
When temptations me oppress,
And when I my sins confess,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When I lie within my bed,
Sick in heart and sick in head,
And with doubts discomforted,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the house doth sigh and weep,
And the world is drowned in sleep,
Yet mine eyes the watch do keep,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the passing bell doth toll,
And the Furies in a shoal
Come to fright a parting soul,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the tapers now burn blue,
And the comforters are few,
And that number more than true,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the priest his last hath prayed,
And I nod to what is said,
'Cause my speech is now decayed,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When, God knows, I'm tossed about
Either with despair or doubt;
Yet before the glass be out,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the tempter me pursueth
With the sins of all my youth,
And half damns me with untruth,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the flames and hellish cries
Fright mine ears and fright mine eyes,
And all terrors me surprise,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

When the Judgment is revealed,
And that opened which was sealed,
When to Thee I have appealed,
-----Sweet Spirit, comfort me!

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Robert Herrick: 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, May 6, 2019

Les Murray*

Les Murray (1938—2019) is considered the leading Australian poet of his generation. His most-recent poetry collection, Waiting for the Past, won the Judith Wright Calanthe Award at the 2015 Queensland Literary Awards. This is just one more in a series of honours Les Murray has received, such as having Queen Elizabeth II present him with the Gold Medal for Poetry at Buckingham Palace in 1999. He died last Monday — April 29th — at age 80.

The late Derek Walcott once wrote of Murray’s poetry, “There is no poetry in the English language now so rooted in its sacredness, so broad-leafed in its pleasures, and yet so intimate and conversational.”

Murray is one of the poets featured in my anthology The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry(available here) and through Amazon. He was very generous in helping me to obtain the various rights to use his poetry within various jurisdictions around the globe.

The following poem is from Waiting for the Past and first appeared in First Things.

Jesus Was A Healer

Jesus was a healer
never turned a patient down

never charged coin or conversion
started off with dust and spittle

then re-tuned lives to pattern
simply by his attention

often surprised himself a little
by his unbounded ability

Jesus was a healer
reattached his captor’s ear

opened senses, unjammed cripples
sent pigs to drown delirium

cured a shy tug at his hem
learned to transmit resurrection

could have stood more Thank You
for God’s sake, which was his own

Jesus was a healer
keep this quiet, he would mutter

to his learners. Copy me
and they did to a degree

still depicted on church walls
cure without treatment or rehearsals.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Les Murray: 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, April 29, 2019

Hugo von Hofmannstal

Hugo von Hofmannstal (1874—1929) is an Austrian poet, playwright and librettist. When he was just 16, he began publishing remarkably advanced poetry, and became well-connected within Vienna’s literary community.

In 1911 he wrote his adaptation of the 15th century English morality play Everyman, which later became (and still is) a regular feature of the Salzburg Festival. George Sterling says, Hofmannstal “vivified and humanized” the play, adding powerfully to “the dramatic and emotional elements”.

He also worked with Richard Strauss, being the librettist for several of his operas including Elektra (1909) and Arabella (1933). During WWI he held a government post, but the end of the war also marked the end of the monarchy to which he had been dedicated. His latter plays increasingly reflect his Christian faith.

The following are the first lines spoken by God in Everyman, translated by George Sterling and Richard Ordynski.

From Everyman

O men! vile men! how long shall I endure
The hardness of your hearts? Forgetting Me,
Dreading Me not, ye live the lives of beasts.
Basely sin-soaked, blind to My light and law.
And know Me not your God. The world alone
Enthralls you. Heavenly things beget your scorn.
The bond between My majesty and you
Ye have forgotten that I gave My blood.
Dying upon the Tree that men might live,
That I was nailed upon a martyr's cross,
That cruel thorns were woven for my crown,
That I gave all to you. Now all my laws
Ye break. But swiftly shall my judgment come
On sinful man. Unerring messenger!
Stand forth! I have a journey for thee, Death.

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 22, 2019

Elizabeth Rooney

Elizabeth Rooney (1924—1999) is a poet who grew up on a farm in Blue Mounds, Wisconsin. It is the same farm where the Cave of the Mounds was discovered in 1939 — an attraction well-known throughout Wisconsin. While raising their children she and her husband Mike lived in New York State, where she worked as an employment councillor. Years later, she returned to the Blue Mounds farm to run the Cave of the Mounds National Natural Landmark — a tourist site.

She didn’t begin writing poems until 1978; on a retreat with a group of Episcopal lay women called The Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross, she felt a call from God. Over the next two decades she wrote over 700 poems.

In a letter to Luci Shaw, she once described what inspiration for her poems was like: "Mine seems to come like butterflies, and I try to net them and get them on paper without knocking too many bright bits of color off their wings."

The following poem was written in 1981, and is available in her book Morning Song.

Openings

Now is the shining fabric of our day
Torn open, flung apart,
Rent wide by Love.
Never again
The tight, enclosing sky,
The blue bowl,
Or the star-illumined tent.
We are laid open to infinity,
For Easter Love
Has burst His tomb and ours.
Now nothing shelters us
From God's desire —
Not flesh, not sky,
Not stars, not even sin.
Now Glory waits
So He can enter in.
Now does the dance begin.

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 15, 2019

Edwin Arlington Robinson

Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869—1935) is an American poet who began his career publishing with a vanity press and receiving little attention.

In response to a critique of his first book, where he was accused of having the bleak view that our world is a prison, Robinson replied, “The world is not a prison house, but a kind of spiritual kindergarten, where millions of bewildered infants are trying to spell God with the wrong blocks.”

In 1904, Theodore Roosevelt’s son, Kermit, brought Robinson to his father’s attention. President Roosevelt convinced Charles Scribner's Sons to republish Robinson’s second book, The Children of the Night, and reviewed it himself.

In his poem “The Children of the Night” he says:
-----“For those that never know the light,
-----The darkness is a sullen thing…”
After which the poet poses erroneous views — such as that this life is all there is, that God is a lie, or that there is only chaos — which God will respond to in love:
-----“…God counts it for a soul gone mad,
-----And if God be God, He is just…”
The poet concludes the poem:
-----“...Let us, the Children of the Night,
-----Put off the cloak that hides the scar!
-----Let us be Children of the Light,
-----And tell the ages what we are!”

The following poem is from the same book.

Calvary

Friendless and faint, with martyred steps and slow,
Faint for the flesh, but for the spirit free,
Stung by the mob that came to see the show,
The Master toiled along to Calvary;
We gibed him, as he went, with houndish glee,
Till his dimmed eyes for us did overflow;
We cursed his vengeless hands thrice wretchedly, —
And this was nineteen hundred years ago.

But after nineteen hundred years the shame
Still clings, and we have not made good the loss
That outraged faith has entered in his name.
Ah, when shall come love's courage to be strong!
Tell me, O Lord — tell me, O Lord, how long
Are we to keep Christ writhing on the cross!

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 8, 2019

Marie J. Post

Marie J. Post (1919—1990) is a Michigan poet, a graduate of Calvin College, and a former teacher of junior high students. Her poems regularly appeared in The Grand Rapids Post, and in The Banner. A number of her own original hymns appear in the Christian Reformed Church’s Psalter Hymnal.

Her collection, I Had Never Visited an Artist Before and Other Poems (Being Press) appeared in 1973, followed by a book of poems focussing on the Apostle Peter — Sandals, Sails & Saints (1993). Some of her poems were also included in Luci Shaw’s anthology of incarnation poems, A Widening Light — which originally appeared in 1984, and has been reissued by Regent College Press.

Palm Sunday

Astride the colt and claimed as King
that Sunday morning in the spring,
he passed a thornbush flowering red
that one would plait to crown his head.

He passed a vineyard where the wine
was grown for men of royal line
and where the dregs were also brewed
into a gall for Calvary’s rood.

A purple robe was cast his way,
then caught and kept until that day
when, with its use, a trial would be
profaned into a mockery.

His entourage was forced to wait
to let a timber through the gate,
a shaft that all there might have known
would be an altar and a throne.

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 1, 2019

Guido Guinizelli

Guido Guinizelli (c. 1230—1276) is an Italian poet; he became a judge in his native city of Bologna, but in 1274 was exiled. Guinizelli transformed what he had learned from the Provençal poets, and became a significant influence on such Italian poets of the following generation, as Guido Cavalcanti and Dante Alighieri.

His poetic theme is romantic love — particularly from the perspective of an unsuccessful suitor — with the acknowledgement that love is of God. “Guinizelli's poetry can be briefly described as a conciliation between divine and earthly love with deep psychological introspection.”

In the following selection — translated by Robert Edwards — he expresses the sadness of his unrequited love to his Lord. Later in the poem, he imagines himself before the judgement of God, who reproaches the poet’s preoccupation with the lady: “All praises are due to me alone”. The poet lamely replies, “She had the likeness / Of an angel from your kingdom. / It’s not my fault I fell in love with her.” His lines are likely to flatter the woman, but his excuse doesn’t even seem to convince himself. I suspect he wants us to see through his defence, so we will be cautious of how much devotion we give to anything besides God.

from Lady, love compels me

I’m driven to paint the air
Since I’ve been led to this end:
I toil and I gain nothing.
Alas, that I was given to this!
Love has led me to this end:
I am the saddest of all men.
Oh, Lord Jesus Christ,
Was I the only person born
To be in love forever?
Since my lady has seen it,
It’s better that I should die at once:
Perhaps she will feel compassion.

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 25, 2019

Clement of Rome

Clement of Rome was a first century convert to Christianity, and may even be the one mentioned in Paul’s epistle to the Philippians as one of the co-workers whose names are in the Book of Life.

Either way, he knew both Peter and Paul, and was a leader in the church at Rome. The present-day Church of San Clemente in Rome is believed to have been built over his house. He was martyred in 101 AD in Greece by — according to tradition — being tied to an anchor and thrown into the sea.

He wrote a letter to the church at Corinth, which is considered to be the earliest piece of post-New Testament Christian writing that we have.

The following prayer appears at the close of Clement’s letter to the Corinthians.

Benediction

May God, who sees all things,
and who is the Ruler of all spirits
and the Lord of all flesh —
who chose our Lord Jesus Christ
and us through Him
to be a peculiar people —
grant to every soul that calls
on His glorious and holy Name,
faith, fear, peace, patience,
long-suffering, self-control,
purity, and sobriety,
to the well-pleasing of His Name,
through our High Priest and Protector,
Jesus Christ, by whom be to Him glory,
and majesty, and power, and honor,
both now and forevermore. Amen.

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 18, 2019

Moses

Moses is one of most-significant figures of the Old Testament — prophet, leader, law-giver and intercessor with God himself. He was born in Egypt, and is the only major biblical character to have never, in his lifetime, set foot in the land of Israel. He, along with Elijah, was transfigured with Christ on Mount Tabor (Matthew 17) — signifying the continuity of the law and the prophets, through to the coming of Jesus. The first five books of the Bible are attributed to Moses (although it seems unlikely that he wrote the account in Exodus of his own death).

The following is the only psalm attributed to Moses, and is given here in the New King James Version.

Psalm 90

A Prayer of Moses the man of God.


Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
Or ever You had formed the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

You turn man to destruction,
And say, “Return, O children of men.”
For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it is past,
And like a watch in the night.
You carry them away like a flood;
They are like a sleep.
In the morning they are like grass which grows up:
In the morning it flourishes and grows up;
In the evening it is cut down and withers.

For we have been consumed by Your anger,
And by Your wrath we are terrified.
You have set our iniquities before You,
Our secret sins in the light of Your countenance.
For all our days have passed away in Your wrath;
We finish our years like a sigh.
The days of our lives are seventy years;
And if by reason of strength they are eighty years,
Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow;
For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
Who knows the power of Your anger?
For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath.
So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Return, O LORD!
How long?
And have compassion on Your servants.
Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy,
That we may rejoice and be glad all our days!
Make us glad according to the days in which You have afflicted us,
The years in which we have seen evil.
Let Your work appear to Your servants,
And Your glory to their children.
And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us,
And establish the work of our hands for us;
Yes, establish the work of our hands.

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 11, 2019

Diane Glancy*

Diane Glancy is a poet of mixed heritage. Early in life she chose to be identified, with her father, as a Cherokee Native American. She has written extensively as a novelist, playwright, and nonfiction writer. As a poet she has published twenty titles — including both chapbooks and full-length collections. Glancy has received many awards including a Minnesota Book Award, an American Book Award, the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, and an Oklahoma Book Award.

In her new collection, The Book of Bearings, she takes on the confusion and conflict implicit in the collision of cultures that happened when Europeans began settling in North America. I am honoured to be the editor of this new collection for Cascade’s Poiema Poetry Series.

Glancy’s poetry has appeared in such journals as American Poetry Review, Image, New England Review, and in the anthology Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

The following poem first appeared in Caliban Online Journal, and is from The Book of Bearings.

St. Bo-gast-ah’s Confession to God in Later Years

All this—the Lord made me understand in writing—
I Chronicles 28:19


It was a daily fog.
Sometimes I cannot get off the floor.
I am a slug that moves across the step
leaving a silver trail.
To know there was a bright light from within.
To know it even in the darkness.

Have mercy on the uprooted.
On the unwanted.
On the made-over to fit somehow.
You reform us, Lord.
You yourself were remade to a man struggling
on the cross.
You were thought odd.
You were dismissed.
In that we are one.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Diane Glancy: first post.

Posted with permission of the poet.

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

Monday, March 4, 2019

Paul Willis*

Paul J. Willis has been a professor at Westmount College for thirty years, and is the former Poet Laureate of Santa Barbara, California. He has had two recent experiences as an Artist-in-Residence in the North Cascade Mountains; these have been a significant influence on his two most-recent poetry collections — Deer at Twilight (2018, Stephen F. Austin State University Press) and Little Rhymes For Lowly Plants (2019, Kelsay Books).

As the title of his new book indicates, he has been recently drawn into formally-structured poetry, and has unpretentiously chosen to focus on what he’s found around his feet. There is also a section in this book about matters of faith — including five poems that previously appeared in my anthology Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

He has now published six collections of poetry, including Say This Prayer Into The Past (2013, Poiema Poetry Series). The following poem is from Little Rhymes For Lowly Plants.

Here and There

-----(Platanus racemose)

The ivory of sycamore
in the winter morning sun
for just an hour. But what a shine.

We too stand up illuminated,
in the valley of the shadow,
losing leaves, and that’s a sign

our roots are meant for higher ground;
though we may grow as splendid oak,
bay, sycamore, we sigh and pine.

—Los Padres National Forest

*This is the fourth Kingdom Poets post about Paul Willis: first post second post, third post.

Posted with permission of the poet.

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

Monday, February 25, 2019

Thomas Dekker

Thomas Dekker (1572—1632) is a contemporary of Shakespeare who wrote prolifically — particularly as a playwright. He collaborated on plays with Ben Jonson — both before and after they had written mocking portrayals of each other for the London stage. Dekker’s most famous play, The Shoemaker’s Holiday (1599), a rowdy comedy of life in London, is still performed today. He was also very active as a pamphleteer, taking on such topics as the London Plague of 1603, and the Gunpowder Plot.

Paul McCartney borrowed from Dekker the following lines, almost unaltered, and set them to music, without acknowledging their source for The Beatles’ 1969 album Abbey Road.
-----Golden slumbers kiss your eyes,
-----Smiles awake you when you rise;
-----Sleep, pretty wantons, do not cry,
-----And I will sing a lullaby...

Although Dekker was not particularly known as a religious man, C.S. Lewis recognized the root of the line, “All life is but a wandering to find home” — from the play The Witch of Edmonton — as an “exposition of medieval Christian doctrine.”

The following comes from Robert Hudson’s 2017 edition of Dekker’s Four Birds of Noah’s Ark — a prayer book, rather than a poetry book. Even so, these prayers are expressed in poetic lines, which speak eloquently in metaphor and echoing rhythms, very much like the Psalms. Hudson has annotated the prayers and modernized the language, without robbing Dekker’s prayers of their music.

A Prayer For The City

[Luke 19:41-44]

O Father of mercy, look down upon this city not
-----with an eye of justice, for no flesh
-----is righteous in your sight, but behold this,
-----your sanctuary, as your Son beheld Jerusalem.
Set, O Lord, a host of angels at the gates,
-----and let truth spread her banner on the walls.
-----Let not the arrow of the invader fall
-----upon our houses by day nor the sword
-----of the strong man smite us by night.
Give wisdom, O Lord, to the rulers of this city,
-----zeal to the preachers, and holiness of life
-----to the inhabitants. Let the tree of your gospel,
-----which for so many years has flourished here,
-----still spread into large branches, and may
-----those branches bear an abundance of lively fruit.
Save, O Lord, this temple of yours; bless it, defend it,
-----crown it with honors so that it may outshine
-----all the cities in the world
-----in goodness as it does in greatness. Amen.

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 18, 2019

Alexander Pope*

Alexander Pope (1688—1744) is a British poet known for his long and satirical poems — such as The Rape of the Lock (1714) and The Dunciad (1728). He was highly influenced by John Dryden, and is said to have perfected Dryden’s technique of rhymed couplets.

He is considered to be the first full-time self-supporting English writer, which came about through selling subscriptions to editions of his translations of Homer, and his editions of Shakespeare.

In his poem An Essay on Man (1733) Pope presents, as The Poetry Foundation puts it, “an aesthetic and philosophical argument for the existence of order in the world, contending that we know the world to be unified because God created it.”

Prayer of Saint Francis Xavier

Thou art my God, sole object of my love;
Not for the hope of endless joys above;
Nor for the fear of endless pains below,
Which they who love thee not must undergo.

For me, and such as me, thou deign'st to bear
An ignominious cross, the nails, the spear:
A thorny crown transpierc'd thy sacred brow,
While bloody sweats from ev'ry member flow.

For me in tortures thou resignd'st thy breath,
Embrac'd me on the cross, and sav'd me by thy death.
And can these sufferings fail my heart to move?
What but thyself can now deserve my love?

Such as then was, and is, thy love to me,
Such is, and shall be still, my love to thee —
To thee, Redeemer! mercy's sacred spring!
My God, my Father, Maker, and my King!

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Alexander Pope: 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, February 11, 2019

George Moses Horton

George Moses Horton (1797—1884) is a North Carolina poet who was a slave. He was born on the plantation of William Horton, where he taught himself to read, although he could not write. He composed poems in his mind, and then recited them to others.

His first book The Hope of Liberty was published in 1829 after his master had permitted him to visit the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where students encouraged his poetry, and where a professor’s wife tutored and assisted him. This made him the first black author in the South to publish a book. His hope had been to earn enough from his poetry to secure his freedom, but this was not the case. He wrote two further books of poetry: Poetical Works (1845) and Naked Genius (1865).

He wrote many poems of Christian faith, such as: “On the Truth of the Saviour” which includes the lines:
-----Behold the storms at his rebuke,
-----All calm upon the sea—
-----How can we for another look,
-----When none can work as he?

George Moses Horton served in the Union army during the American Civil War; after the war he moved to Philadelphia, where he lived until his death.

On The Conversion of a Sister

'Tis the voice of my sister at home,
Resigned to the treasures above,
Inviting the strangers to come,
And feast at the banquet of love.

'Tis a spirit cut loose from its chain,
'Tis the voice of a culprit forgiven,
Restored from a prison of pain,
With the sound of a concert from heaven.

'Tis a beam from the regions of light,
A touch of beatific fire;
A spirit exulting for flight,
With a strong and impatient desire.

'Tis a drop from the ocean of love,
A foretaste of pleasures to come,
Distilled from the fountain above,
The joy which awaits her at home.

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 4, 2019

Philip C. Kolin*

Philip C. Kolin is the Distinguished Professor of English (Emeritus) at the University of Southern Mississippi. He is a very prolific writer, having authored more than 40 books. He has also published numerous poetry collections including Departures (2014, Negative Capability), Benedict’s Daughter (2017, Resource Publications), and his newly-released Reaching Forever (Poiema Poetry Series).

It has been my privilege to work with Philip C. Kolin as the editor for this new book. I have also included one of his poems on my new web-journal Poems For Ephesians, which is on the McMaster Divinity College website.

Kolin is very active in the literary world, having, for example, recently co-edited a collection of poems about the Mississippi River for Louisiana Literature Press entitled Down to the Dark River. He is also the editor of the Southern Quarterly.

The following poem first appeared in America, and is from Reaching Forever.

When God Arrives

Let your eyes write
new tears for a pilgrimage
to a place you cannot see.

But wait
for the thick darkness.
That is when he will call

for you. Till then
quiver your soul.
Don’t think about

being made in his image.
You will only be looking
into a dark mirror.

He lives in infinity, and his voice is
an octave higher than silence.
His words thrum

through the clouds.
He whispers fire and speaks
in endless vowels.

He comes with a river bird
asperging feathers.
Pray for the sky that absorbs

evaporating continents
and black-plumed sins.
As his train goes by,

you realize you do not
have to wear
your body anymore.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Philip C. Kolin: first post.

Posted with permission of the poet.

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