Monday, January 18, 2021

Angeline Schellenberg*

Angeline Schellenberg is a Winnipeg poet, and the author of the new collection Fields of Light and Stone (2020, University of Alberta Press). The poems are, as Don McKay says, “acts of remembrance that are all the more poetic for being scrupulously plainspoken…” He also describes them as “a series of love letters to the dead” which says a lot of how Angeline Schellenberg, in these poems, commemorates her Mennonite grandparents, while thoughtfully considering the heritage they passed down to her. Her first full-length collection, Tell Them It Was Mozart, was published by Brick Books in 2016.

Although I was already well aware of her poetry, I only first met Angeline Schellenberg in Winnipeg in 2019 at the inaugural Faith In Form arts conference, which was organized by Burl Horniachek.

The following poem is from Fields of Light and Stone.

Generations

1586: as far back
as the Mennonite database
can take me.

All I find: the surname Voht,
a town called Culm.

My great-great-great-
great-great-great-
great-great-great-

great-great-grandfather
had a daughter
who had a baby.
And on it goes.

What chases us down a family tree?
A high forehead?
A voice? A fear?

What drives me to scratch
the earth for these four-letter
kernels?

Voht’s daughter named her son
Hans―God is gracious,
a promise I can translate.

But I cannot hear
the plea it answered.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Angeline Schellenberg: 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 11, 2021

Andrew Lansdown*

Andrew Lansdown is one of Australia’s most-significant poets. The newest of his 15 poetry collections has just appeared as part of the Poiema Poetry Series from Cascade Books ― Abundance: New & Selected Poems. I am honoured to have edited this important collection with Andrew, and am pleased to be able to help expand his influence in North America. In Australia his poetry has won a number of prestigious awards, including the Western Australian Premier’s Book Award (twice), and the Adelaide Festival of Arts’ John Bray National Poetry Award.

In A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Australian Poetry, Geoff Page wrote:
----------Lansdown is able to suggest very deftly and concisely
----------the so-called ‘thisness’ of things, especially things
----------in nature… Lansdown has a very sincere and direct way
----------of handling poems about his immediate family which
----------subtly suggests great tenderness without becoming
----------sentimental… They have a descriptive exactness and a
----------seeming spontaneity, combining to produce a text to
----------which one can imagine no change being made without damage.

In recent years, Lansdown has explored his fascination with Japanese poetry and culture ― writing in Japanese forms such as Haiku and Tanka, honouring Basho and other influential Japanese poets, and visiting Japan to encounter its cherry-blossom beauty and the hollow solitude of Buddhist shrines.

The following poem first appeared in The McMaster Journal of Theology & Ministry.

The Martyred Mother

i.m. Hashimoto Tecla and her children, Kyoto, 1619 AD

I speak not of the other four children
who were condemned with her, nor even of
the newest child in her womb, but only
of the smallest one bound to her bosom.

One might have imagined the rope would burn
through fast so the baby’s body would fall
away from hers—slump free from the torso
to which it was tied as if to a stake.

And yet it seems the persecutors’ cord
bore the flames better than the martyrs’ flesh.
Perhaps they had soaked that rope in water
before they wrapped it around their victims.

Still, hemp’s surely coarser, tougher than flesh.
How long would it take for flames to fray it?
Longer, I guess, than it would take to melt
fat in an infant’s cheek, a woman’s breast.

Whether wet or dry, thick or thin, that rope
held out long enough for the flames to fuse
the child to its mother’s chest, meld the two
into one greasy charred misshapen lump.

On the fumie the faithful won’t trample
the carved Madonna clasps the destined Child—
in like manner, but with bound and burned arms,
the martyred mother held her infant fast.

And in this embrace both she and the babe
defied the shogun and exposed his shame.
Their souls rode up in palanquins of smoke,
up to their Sovereign, who wept as they came.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Andrew Lansdown: 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 4, 2021

Reginald Heber

Reginald Heber (1783―1826) is an Anglican clergyman who served as a country parson for fifteen years before being appointed Bishop of Calcutta. While a student at Oxford University he distinguished himself as a poet, winning the Newdigate Prize ― which has since been won by such poets as Matthew Arnold, Oscar Wilde, and Andrew Motion. In 1812 Heber’s Poems and Translations appeared.

For me, his most familiar contribution is the great anthem "Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!" ― which, in the hymnal I remember from childhood, was honoured as hymn #1 and sung with great enthusiasm.

As Bishop of Calcutta, Heber took great interest in the people he served, studying the Tamil language, and using his authority to ordain as deacon the first native Indian to receive Holy Orders. In 1824 he began an extensive sixteen-month journey throughout India, which also brought him through what is now Bengladesh and Sri Lanka. He was critical of the disrespect shown by the British East India Company toward Indian people, and was concerned that few were promoted to senior positions.

Heber died suddenly in Trichinopoly, India, at the age of 42. His Narrative of a Journey Through the Upper Provinces of India: 1824–25 was published posthumously. A marble memorial was erected to him in St. Paul’s Cathedral. There is also a sculptured portrait of Heber in the inner courtyard of what was once the India Office, now the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office in London.

This poem is from The Poetical Works of Reginald Heber, D.D. Lord Bishop of Calcutta (1830, Frederick Warne).

Epiphany

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning!
---Dawn on our darkness and lend us Thine aid!
Star of the East, the horizon adorning,
---Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

Cold on His cradle the dew-drops are shining,
---Low lies His head with the beasts of the stall;
Angels adore Him in slumber reclining,
---Maker and Monarch and Saviour of all!

Say, shall we yield Him, in costly devotion,
---Odours of Edom and off'rings divine?
Gems of the mountain and pearls of the ocean,
---Myrrh from the forest or gold from the mine?

Vainly we offer each ample oblation;
---Vainly with gold would His favour secure:
Richer by far is the heart's adoration,
---Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning!
---Dawn on our darkness and lend us Thine aid!
Star of the East, the horizon adorning,
---Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

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.