Monday, February 17, 2020

Phillis Wheatley*

Phillis Wheatley (circa 1753—1784) is a black American poet whose book Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral appeared on the eve of the American Revolution in 1773. She had been kidnapped as a child from her African home, by slave traders, and sold to tailor John Wheatley in Boston.

Growing up with the Wheatley’s children she learned to read and write. Her poem “An Elegiac Poem, on the Death of the Celebrated Divine…George Whitefield” (1770), drew attention to her talent sufficiently to lead to the publication of her book in London, England. She was a social success there, but returned to Boston, due to the illness of her mistress, Susanna Wheatley. She was given her freedom, prior to the deaths of John and Susanna. Her life of freedom did not turn out well, though; she was abandoned by her husband (also a freed black slave) was forced to hire herself out as a servant, and died in poverty at age 31.

The following poem ― being an elegy, arranged in couplets, and focussing on Christian truths ― is typical of Phillis Wheatley’s poetry.

On the Death of a Young Lady of Five Years of Age

From dark abodes to fair etherial light
Th' enraptur'd innocent has wing'd her flight;
On the kind bosom of eternal love
She finds unknown beatitude above.
This known, ye parents, nor her loss deplore,
She feels the iron hand of pain no more;
The dispensations of unerring grace,
Should turn your sorrows into grateful praise;
Let then no tears for her henceforward flow,
No more distress'd in our dark vale below,
Her morning sun, which rose divinely bright,
Was quickly mantled with the gloom of night;
But hear in heav'n's blest bow'rs your Nancy fair,
And learn to imitate her language there.
"Thou, Lord, whom I behold with glory crown'd,
"By what sweet name, and in what tuneful sound
"Wilt thou be prais'd? Seraphic pow'rs are faint
"Infinite love and majesty to paint.
"To thee let all their graceful voices raise,
"And saints and angels join their songs of praise."
Perfect in bliss she from her heav'nly home
Looks down, and smiling beckons you to come;
Why then, fond parents, why these fruitless groans?
Restrain your tears, and cease your plaintive moans.
Freed from a world of sin, and snares, and pain,
Why would you wish your daughter back again?
No––bow resign'd. Let hope your grief control,
And check the rising tumult of the soul.
Calm in the prosperous, and adverse day,
Adore the God who gives and takes away;
Eye him in all, his holy name revere,
Upright your actions, and your hearts sincere,
Till having sail'd through life's tempestuous sea,
And from its rocks, and boist'rous billows free,
Yourselves, safe landed on the blissful shore,
Shall join your happy babe to part no more.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Phillis Wheatley: 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 10, 2020

Jane Tyson Clement

Jane Tyson Clement (1917―2000) is a poet, playwright and short story writer who grew up in Manhattan. She always felt more at home in Bay Head, New Jersey, at her family’s summer house away from the city. These experiences imprinted on her mind the images of beauty in the natural world which would appear in her writing for years to come.

Once married, she and her husband joined the Bruderhof, a pacifist, Christian community which aligned well with their own attitudes.

In 1952 she published the chapbook The Heavenly Garden, but her poems primarily remained hidden for years. After her death in March of 2000, her family collected her poetry which was published as No One Can Stem The Tide (Plough).

In 2019 Plough Publishing published The Heart’s Necessities ― a book of Jane Tyson Clement’s poetry, but also the story of her life, with appreciations and tribute from Becca Stevens, a singer/songwriter who has set several of Clement’s poems to music.

The following poem was written in April 1977.

The Spider


I watch the spider fling
its most improbable thread ―
from aspen limb to birch
and back again.

So do we fling our faith
from star to star
and under God’s eternal, watching care
the perfect orb
will come.

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 3, 2020

Pier Giorgio Di Cicco*

Pier Giorgio Di Cicco (1949―2019) is a Catholic priest and the author of more than 20 books of poetry ― most recently Wishipedia (2018, Mansfield Press). He briefly taught Italian and Canadian Literature at the University of Toronto, and served as the Poet Laureate of the City of Toronto between 2004 and 2009.

At the time of his death on December 22nd from a heart attack, his role was providing chaplaincy services at St. Columbkille Roman Catholic Church in Orillia, Ontario.

The following poem is from his book Names of Blessing (2009, Novalis). B.C. poet Richard Osler shared this poem in an essay on “Poetry As Prayer.”

Dedication

I sing for you.
I am made for song.
It is my purpose, to invent new music, as a kind of prayer
that everything is, a cane tapping, a child running, the way
a leaf falls in its arpeggio. Everything states “consort”,
“orchestration”, and even music is to Him what is unrecognizable
to us:
the poor conversation, the bad day; it is our forcing
of a called tune that makes us deaf. For his musics weave
like wind, taking a sudden turn, holding up leaves, blowing the
snow.
We tap into his musics and call it a page, a song.
When our will is congruent to what we hear,
we are poets,
and people of prayer.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Pier Giorgio Di Cicco: 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, January 27, 2020

Luann Hiebert

Luann Hiebert is a Manitoba poet, who serves as Assistant Professor of English Literature at Providence University College, and is an adjunct faculty member at Steinbach Bible College. Her first full-length poetry collection is What Lies Behind (2014, Turnstone Press). It was shortlisted for two Manitoba book awards: the Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book, and the Lansdowne Prize for Poetry.

I met her this past October at the Faith in Form Conference in Winnipeg, where we were among the literary presenters, including Sarah Klassen, Sally Ito, Angeline Schellenberg, and Joanne Epp.

a stone’s throw away
(John 8:3-11)

she was familiar
with the pattern

----------he cheated her
----------she cheated him
----------they cheated love

caught
----------women were stoned
----------for such affairs (not
men) the Law

threw her down
----------at the teacher’s feet
demanded condemnation

justice
(un) just
----------a stone’s throw away
----------her death sentence

the teacher drew lines
in the sand drew in the stone
cold crowd

___m_ e_ r_ c_ y___
threw the Law
off guard caught her
by surprise
----------___l_o_v_e__
--------------------threw away
-----------------------------------the stones

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, January 20, 2020

Marianne Bluger

Marianne Bluger (1945―2005) is a Canadian poet who authored eleven collections, including The Eternities (2005, St. Thomas Poetry Series). Her father was a Jewish Holocaust survivor, and her first husband a Zen master. She was influenced by both, and passionate about her own Anglican, Christian faith.

She studied under Louis Dudek at McGill University, and maintained a friendship with him throughout their lives. She received the Archibald Lampman Award in 1993, for her collection Summer Grass (Brick Books).

Her obituary says, “Bluger co-founded Christians Against Apartheid. She worked for many years with great dedication both in secret and openly to help bring down the evil regime of Apartheid in South Africa. The church network that was able to do so much to topple the oppressors, and the example of the church women of South Africa who suffered so much, taught her the most important lesson of her life: that Christ will never fail the one who loves and trusts Him.”

She administered the Canadian Writers’ Foundation for twenty five years, assisting noteworthy Canadian writers with financial needs. She also co-founded the Tabitha Foundation to assist those in Cambodia.

The Choirmaster

After the practice
when the choir is gone
in the stilly twilit
stained glass gloom

at the windy organ
in the country church
an old dame with arthritic hands
plays on and on…

a fugue of Bach
its rounded sounds
in perfect tune
fused line on line
pour forth and there
throbbing in the hallowed air
hangs the whole blessed empyrean

her pure heart’s gift to the Holy One

This poem appeared in the Margo Swiss anthology Poetry As Liturgy (St. Thomas Poetry Series).

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, January 13, 2020

Edmund Spenser*

Edmund Spenser (1552―1599) is considered one of the greatest English poets, for having glorified both England and its language through his epic The Faerie Queene. In the poem ― one of the longest in the English language ― he writes of knights, as a way of speaking allegorically of different virtues, reminiscent of “the armour of God” as described in Ephesians 6.

He was a highly original poet, who absorbed and re-envisioned the influences of ancient poets, such as Virgil, and Petrarch, and of his Italian contemporary Torquato Tasso. Ancient sources contributed to his understanding of structure, and to his vision ― taking the ideas of early philosophies, and pagan mythology, and weaving in his own experience of Christian faith.

from An Hymne of Heavenly Love

With all thy hart, with all thy soule and mind,
Thou must him love, and his beheasts embrace;
All other loves, with which the world doth blind
Weake fancies, and stirre up affections base,
Thou must renounce and utterly displace,
And give thy selfe unto him full and free,
That full and freely gave himselfe to thee.

Then shalt thou feele thy spirit so possest,
And ravisht with devouring great desire
Of his deare selfe, that shall thy feeble brest
Inflame with love, and set thee all on fire
With burning zeale, through every part entire,
That in no earthly thing thou shalt delight,
But in his sweet and amiable sight.

Thenceforth all worlds desire will in thee dye,
And all earthes glorie, on which men do gaze,
Seeme durt and drosse in thy pure-sighted eye,
Compared to that celestiall beauties blaze,
Whose glorious beames all fleshly sense doth daze
With admiration of their passing light,
Blinding the eyes, and lumining the spright.

Then shall thy ravisht soule inspired bee
With heavenly thoughts farre above humane skil,
And thy bright radiant eyes shall plainely see
The idee of his pure glorie present still
Before thy face, that all thy spirits shall fill
With sweet enragement of celestiall love,
Kindled through sight of those faire things above.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Edmund Spenser: 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, January 6, 2020

Scott Cairns*

Scott Cairns is the author of nine poetry collections ― the most recent include Anaphora (2019), Slow Pilgrim: The Collected Poems (2015), and Idiot Psalms (2014) which were all published by Paraclete Press. In 2007 his spiritual memoir Short Trip to the Edge (Harper San Francisco) first appeared; Greek and Romanian editions have since been published, as well as an expanded English edition. He is now the Director of the Seattle Pacific University Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing.

In a recent interview with Saint Katherine Review, Scott Cairns said, “[I]n order to see anything, you have to really look. You have to pour over the words. You have to pour over the landscape. You have to ‘attend’, as we’re often invited to do during the liturgy. So in my own vocation as a poet, I have to be a lover of language and a truster of language that through the Holy Spirit it will lead me into seeing something I hadn’t anticipated. A vocation is not so much something we’re called to do to serve God. We’re called into a vocation, and in that vocation, if we pursue it with due diligence, that’s where the Lord blesses us further. So it’s not something we do for him so much as it is what he gives us to do that’s worthwhile.”

The following poem is from his new collection, Anaphora.

Sin En Route to Lent

Beneath his breath
the zealot says
thank God I am
not like this man,
the Pharisee
who thought to scorn
the publican.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Scott Cairns: 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.