Monday, June 1, 2020

Miho Nonaka

Miho Nonaka is a bilingual poet from Tokyo. Her first book of Japanese poems, Garasu no tsuki, was a finalist for Japan’s national poetry prize, and her poetry in English has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is one of the poets I featured in In a Strange Land: Introducing Ten Kingdom Poets (2019, Poiema/Cascade).

Her first full-length collection, The Museum of Small Bones (2020, Ashland Poetry Series) has just been published. Her poems and essays have appeared in various journals and anthologies, including Missouri Review, Southern Review, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, American Letters & Commentary, Iowa Review, Tin House, and American Odysseys: Writings by New Americans (Dalkey Archive Press, 2013). She is an associate professor of English and creative writing at Wheaton College, in Illinois.

The following poem is from In a Strange Land.

Water and Fire

No confusion, not drunk, never
fear when you feel
the water bubbling

from within. Each soul
is a well, set apart, alone.
The sun is directly over

head, and a stranger
waits for you at the well,
thirsty. He has nothing to draw

with, and the well is deep.
So is every other well,
he reminds you. It’s not up to you

to decide whether you’ve
suffered long enough.
He knows your name,

doesn’t he? Love comes
in tongues of fire. Flames
won’t set you ablaze;

you will be unconsumed.
A pair of wings brush past
your eyes in silver flickers

as the sound of water nears.
Open your thirsty mouth.
He is offering your very self

in a glass, the same water that
connects every well flowing
between Father and Son.

The rushing water reverses
something of Babel
in each of us: an upturned

hourglass measuring
the immeasurable, holding
our shattered lives together.

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 25, 2020

Richard Crashaw*

Richard Crashaw (c.1613—1649) dedicated himself to become a writer of Christian poetry in 1633 after having read George Herbert’s book The Temple, which had recently appeared. Crashaw’s first poetry collection Epigrammatum Sacrorum Liber, published just one year later, was written in Latin. He completed his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Cambridge, where he became friends with the poet, Abraham Cowley.

Curiously, Crashaw was raised in a distinctly anti-Catholic family, but became a Catholic himself, well after his father’s death. In Rome, through an introduction by the queen, he became friends with Cardinal Giovanni Battista Maria Pallotta, and served as his secretary from 1646 to 1649; dismayed with those close to the cardinal, he denounced their behaviour, which led to the cardinal sending Crashaw elsewhere. There is suspicion that when Crashaw died, a couple weeks later, that he had been poisoned by those who had become his enemies.

His book Steps to the Temple. Sacred Poems, With Other Delights of the Muses was published in 1646; an extended edition appeared in 1648.

But Men Loved Darkness Rather Than Light

The world's light shines, shine as it will,
The world will love its darkness still.
I doubt though when the world's in hell,
It will not love its darkness half so well.

The Recommendation

These houres, and that which hovers o’re my End,
Into thy hands, and hart, lord, I commend.

Take Both to Thine Account, that I and mine
In that Hour, and in these, may be all thine.

That as I dedicate my devoutest Breath
To make a kind of Life for my lord’s Death,

So from his living, and life-giving Death,
My dying Life may draw a new, and never fleeting Breath.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Richard Crashaw: 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 18, 2020

Carolyn Forché

Carolyn Forché was raised near Detroit in a Slovak/Irish home that was immersed in the Catholic faith. In adolescence she rebelled against the harsh Catholicism of her family, school and church, and began reading Protestant theologians ― seeking to make her faith her own. During her time at university she wandered, unsettled and distant from the surety of her isolated Catholic community, dabbling in various religious traditions.

In 1978 she travelled to El Salvador ― on a Guggenheim Fellowship with Amnesty International ― believing this was something God was asking her to do. She met the poet and priest Óscar Romero, and the self-sacrificing, joyful, oppressed Salvadoran people. This transformed her spiritual life, and drew her back into the Catholic church. Later, when she returned to the US, she tried to be a journalist, to communicate what was going on in El Salvador, as Óscar Romero had asked her to do. She failed; however, she had been writing poetry, and through it she began to shed light on the atrocities.

She had won the Yale Younger Poets Prize for her first book Gathering the Tribes (1975), and through her new book, The Country Between Us (1981) fulfilled the commission Romero gave her prior to his assassination in 1980.

She has since coined the term “Poetry of Witness,” and edited the anthology of politically-charged poems Against Forgetting (1993). Her fifth collection, In the Lateness of the World (2020), has just been published by Penguin Press.

The following poem is from her collection Blue Hour (2003)

Prayer

Begin again among the poorest, moments off, in another
-----time and place.
Belongings gathered in the last hour, visible invisible:
Tin spoon, teacup, tremble of tray, carpet hanging from
-----sorrow’s balcony.
Say goodbye to everything. With a wave of your hand,
-----gesture to all you have known.
Begin with bread torn from bread, beans given to the
-----hungriest, a carcass of flies.
Take the polished stillness from a locked church, prayer
-----notes left between stones.
Answer them and hoist in your net voices from the
-----troubled hours.
Sleep only when the least among them sleeps, and then
-----only until the birds.
Make the flatbed truck your time and place. make the least
-----daily wage your value.
Language will rise then like language from the mouth of a
-----still river. No one’s mouth.
Bring night to your imaginings. bring the darkest passage
-----of your holy book.

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 11, 2020

Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter (1615―1691) is an English poet, theologian and Puritan church leader. His ministry in the English town of Kidderminster, where he was vicar from 1641 to 1661, was transformative.

He was an advisor to Oliver Cromwell and served as chaplain to Parliamentary soldiers in the English Civil War. Although he was an Anglican minister, he became a nonconformist, and was forbidden to preach. In 1685, even though he was suffering from tuberculosis, he was sentenced to eighteen months in prison.

His autobiography, The Reformed Pastor (1656), is Baxter’s encouragement to other pastors, and his guidance to them. His book, whose title I’ll shorten to simply call Poetical Fragments appeared in 1681.

He wants not friends that hath thy love

He wants not friends that hath thy love,
And may converse and walk with thee
And with thy saints, here and above,
With whom forever I must be.

Within the fellowship of saints
Is wisdom, safety and delight;
And when my heart declines and faints,
It’s raisèd by their heat and light.

As for my friends, they are not lost:
The several vessels of thy fleet
Though parted now, by tempests tossed,
Shall safely in the haven meet.

We still are centred all in thee,
Though distant, members of one Head;
Within one family we be,
And by one faith and spirit led.

Before thy throne we daily meet
As joint-petitioners to thee;
In spirit each the other greet,
And shall again each other see.

The heavenly hosts, world without end,
Shall be my company above;
And thou, my best and surest Friend,
Who shall divide me from thy love?

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 4, 2020

Charles Sangster

Charles Sangster (1822―1893) is a Canadian poet, born near Kingston, Upper Canada (now Ontario). When his first collection The St. Lawrence and the Saguenay… appeared in 1856, it was considered by many to be the best book of poetry yet published in Canada. He was praised in the London press as “the Wordsworth of Canada.” His second volume Hesperus… followed in 1860, and was considered to be even better.

His life circumstances, however, began to hinder his literary progress. He began to suffer from depression and a nervous disorder. His position with the Post Office Department in Ottawa left him little time for his poetic pursuits ― and both his first wife, and second wife had died, leaving him with three children to raise.

The Dictionary of Canadian Biography says of him, “By temperament quiet and introspective, Charles Sangster strove for harmony in his relationship with humanity and for spiritual fulfilment in God’s will.”

Henry’s Grave

Standing beside the consecrated mound,
-----That marked the narrow grave wherein he lay,
I thought upon the Trumpet’s welcome sound,
-----That would arouse him in the latter day.

I thought of the young spirit, that had fled
-----Beyond the keenest search of human eye—
Beyond the limits of a world of dread—
-----Beyond the reach of man’s philosophy.

And as I strove to lift the distant veil—
-----To track the spirit in its upward flight—
My mind was awed—my vision seemed to fail,
-----And all became confused as blackest night!

I was an atom of mere mortal mould,
-----Too weak to pierce the depths that soul had trod;
Backward to earth my wandering senses rolled,
-----And my eye rested on the crumbling sod—

Part of myself—poor perishable clay!
-----The child whose corse beneath my feet did lie,
Was, like myself, but mortal, yesterday,
-----And now, a dweller with the blest on high!

Oh! Mystery of Mysteries! Oh, Death!
-----I sit and muse in deep solemnity,
And wonder how the dust that perisheth
-----Must pass to life eternal but through thee!

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 27, 2020

Ernesto Cardenal*

Ernesto Cardenal (1925―2020) is a Nicaraguan poet, priest, and political revolutionary. In 1966 Cardenal founded a religious community on Mancarrón Island in Lake Nicaragua. He led literacy and poetry workshops among the peasant farmers and fishermen, who became well known for their paintings and tapestries.

He supported the Sandinista rebels in the 1970s in their opposition to Nicaragua’s dictator Anastasio Somoza, and was forced to flee to Costa Rica in 1977. He later served as Minister of Culture from 1979 to 1987 as part of the new Sandinista government of Nicaragua.

In 1984 he was suspended from the priesthood by the Catholic church, after he had been rebuked in person by Pope John Paul II the previous year. In February of 2019 Pope Francis lifted the ban on Cardenal practising as a priest, saying he was “absolved of all canonical censure”. Ernesto Cardenal died on March 1st of this year.

The following poem is from Apocalypse: And Other Poems (New Directions, 1977), and is translated by Robert Pring-Mill.

Behind the Monastery

Behind the monastery, down the road,
there is a cemetery of worn-out things
where lie smashed china, rusty metal,
cracked pipes and twisted bits of wire,
empty cigarette packs, sawdust,
corrugated iron, old plastic, tires beyond repair:
all waiting for the Resurrection, like ourselves.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Ernesto Cardenal: 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, April 20, 2020

Jen Stewart Fueston

Jen Stewart Fueston is an American writer and teacher, who lived abroad ― teaching English in Budapest, Lithuania, and Istanbul ― before returning to teach writing at University of Colorado, and to raise a family.

As a poet she has published two chapbooks ― Visitations (2015, Finishing Line), and Latch (2019, River Glass Books). She is also one of the poets featured in the anthology In A Strange Land: Introducing Ten Kingdom Poets. Her first full-length poetry collection Madonna, Complex has just appeared in the Poiema Poetry Series. It was a pleasure working with Jen, both for the anthology and as the editor of her new book.

The following poem first appeared in Rust & Moth and is from Madonna, Complex.

To a Friend, Lonely in the Fall

In fall at least the world doesn’t lie to you
about dying, might even convince you you can
do it beautifully, become the blaze maple
transcendent against blue. The stands

of cottonwood that in summer appeared to be one
tree, unclasp green hands, separate and shiver
bare, remember they’re alone. The light that angles
through the gold is not the kind that fills

the wanting in your core. Still, it can be caught
with words arranged on lines, like bait on hooks,
and fed upon. Because love is not a fullness, it’s an
ache. Because one God I’ve known has loved me most

when He took everything away. The stark tree stripped
knows every name the wind goes by.

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, April 13, 2020

Charles Kingsley*

Charles Kingsley (1819—1875) is an Anglican clergyman, poet, and novelist, who was a founding member of the Christian Socialist movement. His novels include Alton Locke (1850), Hypatia (1853), Hereward the Wake (1866) and his children’s fantasy The Water Babies (1863).

Much of his creative output had social or ecclesiastical reform in mind, such as taking on issues of the urban poor, the rural poor, sanitation, public health, and the slave trade in the United States. His poetry collection Andromeda and Other Poems appeared in 1858. He was clearly anti-Catholic, which led to confrontations with John Henry Newman.

In 1859 Kingsley was appointed chaplain to Queen Victoria, and regius professor of modern history at Cambridge in 1860. He also tutored the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) in history.

Easter Week

See the land, her Easter keeping,
Rises as her Maker rose.
Seeds, so long in darkness sleeping,
Burst at last from winter snows.
Earth with heaven above rejoices;
Fields and gardens hail the spring;
Shaughs and woodlands ring with voices,
While the wild birds build and sing.

You, to whom your Maker granted
Powers to those sweet birds unknown,
Use the craft by God implanted;
Use the reason not your own.
Here, while heaven and earth rejoices,
Each his Easter tribute bring-
Work of fingers, chant of voices,
Like the birds who build and sing.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Charles Kingsley: 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, April 6, 2020

William Baer*

William Baer is a poet, playwright, fiction writer and university professor. He is the author of twenty two books, including six poetry collections ― the most recent of which is Love Sonnets (2016, White Violet Press). He has won the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize, and the X.J. Kennedy Poetry Prize. Baer is a champion of the New Formalism, having edited several poetry anthologies highlighting metrical poetry, and he founded the journal The Formalist. He is also the founding director of the Richard Wilbur Poetry Series.

William Baer has taught creative writing, cinema, and world cultures at the University of Evansville, in Indiana.

The following poem first appeared in Louisiana English Journal, and is from his collection Psalter.

Gethsemani

--------------------(Luke 22:44)

This is the bloody chalice of agony
borne of what’s to come. Which catches his breath
with wracking fears of what will come to be:
the whips, the thorns, the crucifixion and death.
It is an agony borne of sacrifice:
taking upon himself, in this lonely place,
every single evil, sin, and vice,
redeeming the entire human race.
It is an agony borne of the dreadful fact
that despite his efforts from now to Pentecost,
not all the world will properly react,
and many will still reject him and be lost.
And so, his blood, like sweat, without a sound,
Seeps through his flesh and trickles to the ground.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about William Baer: 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, March 30, 2020

Malcolm Guite*

Malcolm Guite teaches at the Faculty of Divinity at Cambridge University, and is chaplain at Girton College, Cambridge. He is a well-respected Christian poet and scholar ― having written critical pieces such as Mariner: A Theological Voyage with Samuel Taylor Coleridge (2018, IVP Academic), edited poetry anthologies, and had several collections of his own work published. His newest poetry book is After Prayer: New Sonnets and Other Poems (2019, Canterbury).

He has also collaborated with artists in other genres ― particularly inspiring Canadians such as singer Steve Bell (CD Keening For the Dawn), and visual artist Faye Hall who created 63 images illuminating 63 lines of his poetry for the book Seven Whole Days (2017, Castle Quay Books).

The following link presents Malcolm reading his poem “As If” , augmented with a visual climb along vines, through a fruit tree, and into an atrium at Regent College where Guite was the featured speaker for the 2019 Laing Lectures. His topic being: Imagining the Kingdom.

The following poem is from his collection Sounding the Seasons.

A Sonnet for Palm Sunday

Now to the gate of my Jerusalem,
The seething holy city of my heart,
The Saviour comes. But will I welcome him?
Oh crowds of easy feelings make a start;
They raise their hands, get caught up in the singing,
And think the battle won. Too soon they’ll find
The challenge, the reversal he is bringing
Changes their tune. I know what lies behind
The surface flourish that so quickly fades;
Self-interest, and fearful guardedness,
The hardness of the heart, its barricades,
And at the core, the dreadful emptiness
Of a perverted temple. Jesus, come
Break my resistance and make me your home.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Malcolm Guite: 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, March 23, 2020

Veniamin Blazhenny

Veniamin Blazhenny (1921―1999) is a Russian-language poet who was born in a small Jewish village in Belarus. His literary pseudonym, "Blazhenny" is said to suggest both “Fool for Christ” and "Blessed". He corresponded with Boris Pasternak, sending him some of his early poetry ― although his poems remained unpublished until the late 1980s, due to censorship and the limited publishing options in the Soviet Union. To add injury to this insult, he was incarcerated in a Soviet psychiatric institution because he had the “delusion” that he was a poet. His first book did not appear until 1990.

He referred to his poetry as his “letters to God” in which he would often cry out or rage at him; “It always seemed to me that the Lord was somewhere nearby ― Here I will hail him with an excited voice.”

In 2017, Artur Klinau ― a significant Belarusian artist, writer and editor ― said in an interview, “The rediscovery of [Blazhenny] influenced the development of poetry in our country.”

The Soul Waking Up

The soul, waking up, will not recognize her house,
The darling earthly shelter.
She will wonder, forced by her destiny...
Why would she need a home when she is a soul?

And moving through the path of no return,
Through the vast expanses of the heavenly track,
The soul will take with her my earthly name
And my immense sorrows.

No, she will not take my every trouble,
But only the unbearable path,
Where step by step I prayed to God,
And step by step I struggled with my earthly limits.

A mysterious light will be spilled
At the turning point of time,
But the timeless chain [of spirit] will not be broken
Neither in this pitiful world, nor in the other.

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 16, 2020

Susan Cowger

Susan Cowger is a poet living in Washington State, and one of the poets featured in the recent anthology In A Strange Land: Introducing Ten Kingdom Poets (2019, Poiema Poetry Series). She has been contributing to poetry for years ― releasing her chapbook Scarab Hiding in 2006. She is a founder and former editor of Rock & Sling. which is now a publication of Whitworth University.

I first met Susan, and her friend the poet Laurie Klein, at the Festival of Faith & Writing in Michigan, back when they were the face of Rock & Sling. This post celebrates the release of Susan Cowger’s debut poetry collection Slender Warble (2020, Poiema/Cascade). I am pleased to have been able to work with Susan Cowger to edit this collection.

The following poem is from Slender Warble.

A Cry Too Soft to Hear

O Lord if forever is now
contained in this skin I wonder

what will happen to the place I scraped raw
ragged furrows scabbing over the pain

the flesh injured beyond bruise
a cataclysm designed to draw you

into being
something like protector

savior of a wound I created
as if I could believe you would come and love

what I hate

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 9, 2020

J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien (1892―1973) is one of the most influential novelists of the 20th century. His fantasy novel The Hobbit (1937, Unwin) and the subsequent trilogy The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955) led directly to a huge resurgence of fantasy literature over the past sixty-plus years.

His friendship with C.S. Lewis is well-documented and celebrated ― particularly Jack Lewis’s championing of The Hobbit, and his encouragement for Tolkien to complete and publish its famous sequel.

The poem Mythopoeia ― which can be read here in its entirety ― is Tolkien’s creative response to an evening of debate with Lewis (and Hugo Dyson) on September 19, 1931 concerning whether myths might be fit vessels to contain truth. The agnostic Lewis said myths were "lies breathed through silver". It is noteworthy that it was only a few days later that C.S. Lewis came to the realization of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ ― under the influence of his friend Tolkien.

In his book Faith, Hope and Poetry (2008, Routledge) Malcolm Guite shares the following excerpt from Tolkien’s poem to express how our imaginations, though tainted by the fall, have not been totally overthrown.

from Mythopoeia

The heart of Man is not compound of lies,
but draws some wisdom from the only Wise,
and still recalls him. Though now long estranged,
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not dethroned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned,
his world-dominion by creative act:
not his to worship the great Artefact,
Man, Sub-creator, the refracted light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.

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 2, 2020

Anselm of Canterbury

Anselm of Canterbury (c.1033―1109) was a theologian, and philosopher who was born in what is now northwest Italy. He is known for his ontological argument for the existence of God ― and for clearly teaching that salvation could only be paid for by the God-man Jesus Christ.

In 1060 he entered the Benedictine monastery at Bec, and by 1078 was elected its abbot. Under Anselm, Bec became a European centre for learning. On a visit to England he was named Archbishop of Canterbury by William the Conqueror ― who had established Norman control of England in 1066. Anselm served in this role from 1093 until his death.

Let Me Seek You By Desiring You

Lord Jesus Christ; Let me seek you by desiring you,
and let me desire you by seeking you;
let me find you by loving you,
and love you in finding you.

I confess, Lord, with thanksgiving,
that you have made me in your image,
so that I can remember you, think of you, and love you.

But that image is so worn and blotted out by faults,
and darkened by the smoke of sin,
that it cannot do that for which it was made,
unless you renew and refashion it.

Lord, I am not trying to make my way to your height,
for my understanding is in no way equal to that,
but I do desire to understand a little of your truth
which my heart already believes and loves.

I do not seek to understand so that I can believe,
but I believe so that I may understand;
and what is more,
I believe that unless I do believe, I shall not understand.

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 24, 2020

Waldo Williams

Waldo Williams (1904―1971) is a Welsh poet who, although he was raised as an English speaker, wrote in the Welsh language. He married Linda Llewellyn in 1941; he was grief-stricken when she died of tuberculosis only two years later, and he never remarried. In 1953 he joined the Quakers.

Waldo Williams was known as a Christian pacifist, and as a Welsh nationalist. He protested against the Korean War and military conscription by refusing to pay income tax; such action led to him twice being imprisoned.

Dail pren (The leaves of the tree) was the only volume of his poems published during his lifetime. The most comprehensive collection of Williams’ poetry in translation is Anthony Conran’s The Peacemakers: Selected Poems published by Gomer Press in 1997.

The following poem was translated by Menna Elfyn

What is it to be human?


What is staying alive? To possess
A great hall inside of a cell.
What is it to know? The same root
Underneath the branches.

What is it to believe? Being a carer
Until relief takes over.
And to forgive? On fours through thorns
To keep company to an old enemy.

What is it to sing? To receive breath
From the genius of creation.
What's work but humming a song
From wood and wheat.

What are state affairs? A craft
That's still only crawling?
And armaments? Thrust a knife
In a baby's fist.

Being a nation? What can it be? A gift
In the swell of the heart.
And to love a country? Keeping house
In a cloud of witnesses.

What's the world to the all powerful?
A circle spinning.
And to the children of the earth?
A cradle rocking.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

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

Monday, February 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.