Monday, November 23, 2020

Sarah Klassen*

Sarah Klassen is a major Canadian poet whose poems rise reflectively and naturally from her life and fascinations. Her eighth poetry collection The Tree of Life (2020, Turnstone) continues the trajectory of her excellent 2012 collection Monstrance. Carla Funk has said, “Tuned to time―ancient, apocalyptic, and current, these poems sing of pilgrimage…”

Here you’ll find several poems that find Sarah Klassen in her native habitat ― the banks of the Red River in Winnipeg. “Once you’ve lived beside a river,” she says, “you’ll always want to rest your burning eyes / on water.” And so, we’re invited to do so with her as her experiences regularly resurface.
----------“Before sundown on a spring evening,
----------I leaned over the balcony railing. Below me
----------The river slithered north, a grey-green, turgid serpent.”
She’s on the lookout for, “six half-grown foxes…yelping, chasing, / wrestling on the grass like children unrestrained…” (“In Passing”).

Similarly, in “Ritual” she begins, “Holy week and three buffleheads on the cold river / practice the right of baptism.” A few days ago, she mentioned to me by e-mail, “These past few days I've been entertained by a family of playful otters on the river,” so I’m hopeful that they too will make it into a poem sometime soon.

Often, too, the stories and language of scripture appear ― Elijah, Hagar, Esther, Mary, and seven poems for the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3. Two sections of her reflection on the church in Ephesus, appears at Poems For Ephesians.

Refuge

What song do we sing when the journey ends
and we find ourselves in another country
with our exhausted children, our pitiful possessions,
a wardrobe all wrong for the climate,
a language no one understands? Our names
are known to no one, our gestures inappropriate

in this culture. We are naked. Nervous.
The overwhelming welcome breaks our hearts.
Each smile a shocking surprise.
A minivan opens its obedient doors and we ride
like royalty to light-filled rooms, furnished for us.
We are told: This is your home.

If we knew the language
and had breath to speak it,
we would ask: Where is that river
at whose ban
ks we may fall to our knees
and weep?


Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Sarah Klassen: first post, second post.

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

Monday, November 16, 2020

Lucille Clifton*

Lucile Clifton (1936—2010) is an American poet who grew up in Buffalo, New York. Her poetry is often concerned with family, community, racial identify, and hope. Frequently she includes biblical allusions, and speaks of deep spiritual beliefs. She is also known as an award-winning children’s author.

Clifton was a Distinguished Professor of Humanities at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. In 2012, The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton: 1965–2010 (BOA Editions) brought together her previously published poems plus several that had not previously appeared.

God send easter

and we will lace the
jungle on
and step out
brilliant as birds
against the concrete country
feathers waving as we
dance toward jesus
sun reflecting mango
and apple as we
glory in our skin

the calling of the disciples

some Jesus
has come on me
i throw down my nets
into the water he walks
i loose the fish
he feeds to cities
and everyone calls me
an old name
as i follow out
laughing like God’s fool
behind this Jesus

won’t you celebrate with me

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Lucille Clifton: first post.

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

Monday, November 9, 2020

Gerard Smyth

Gerard Smyth is a Dublin poet who has authored ten poetry collections, the most recent of which is The Sundays of Eternity (2020, Dedalus Press). His earliest poetry appeared in the late ‘60s, including his first book The Flags Are Quiet (1969, New Writers’ Press). He spent his entire professional life as a journalist with The Irish Times, where he still serves as Poetry Editor.

Three of his poems are included in the landmark issue of Poetry Ireland Review (#112 ― Name and Nature: ‘Who do you say that I am?’) edited by John F. Deane, which includes poetry by Seamus Heaney, Pádraig J. Daly, and Rowan Williams.

The first of the following poems was inspired by the large-scale painting “Blue Crucifixion” by Hughie O’Donoghue. The second one, written at the beginning of our current pandemic, has been set to music by British composer Philip Lawton for the choir of Berlin's Passionskirche (Church of the Passion).

Blue Crucifixion

for Clare and Hughie O’Donoghue

Not the crudely sketched
man of sorrows
from the cover-image
of the old school catechism
that was touched
and smudged so much
it lost its mystic fragrance.

And not Gauguin’s Yellow Christ
in the Breton countryside,
a Golgotha made strange
by those maids in attendance.
Or Poussin’s Redeemer
down from the Cross
under the gaze of the spellbound.

But the Blue Crucifixion
shows a fleshy semblance
of human wreckage that belongs
to a man who was counted
among the transgressors.
Our idea of him electrified
by such mystery as art requires.

Isolation

Bunched together like a gathering tribe
the daffodils rise again and there are signs
of sun behind the clouds.
We still have bread and books
and songs to keep the radio alive.
A note through the door is a kind surprise
and birds on the branches
of the trees outside stay up late.
The mornings are not so dark,
the internet takes us to the works of art,
tunes us in to Debussy or Paul Simon,
brings us close to the faraway country
where loved ones are.
A kite above someone’s back garden
rises and dips and gives a moment of joy
to a face in the window of isolation.

March 17th-19th, 2020

Posted with permission of the poet.

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

Monday, November 2, 2020

John Donne*

John Donne (1572―1631) is renowned as the preeminent metaphysical poet of his time. During his lifetime he was better known as a preacher ― elected as dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London in 1621.

His poetry was influential upon English poets of his day, and for about thirty years after his death, but it fell out of favour for most of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It was little read until championed by such modernist poets as W.B. Yeats and T.S. Eliot.

Rather than writing his poems for publication, Donne released his poems by sharing them in manuscript form, from which they were often copied by his admirers. Before his death, he had only authorized the publication of two of his poems, although two years after his death the first printed edition of his poetry appeared.

Most of his poems were written before he overcame his feelings of unworthiness enough to become an Anglican cleric. In his latter years he focussed on his prose writing, including Devotions upon Emergent Occasions which were published in 1624, and on writing his sermons. When Donne’s Sermons: Selected Passages, were published in 1919, they were praised in the secular literary world as “the very genius of oratory... [and] a masterpiece of English prose.”

The following poem is from his Holy Sonnets.

X

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those, whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy picture be,
Much pleasure, then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou’rt slave to Fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And Death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about John Donne: 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.