Monday, September 27, 2021

Kim Hyunseung

Kim Hyunseung (1913―1975) is a Korean poet ― also known by the pen name Da Hyoung ― who was both influential as a poet and mentor. He was born in Pyongyang, North Korea, but moved with his family to Gwanju in South Korea during early childhood. He made his literary debut in 1934 with a poem in the Dong-A Ilbo newspaper.

He founded the literary journal, New Literature in 1951, and taught creative writing at Chosun University in the 1950s. He was a faithful Christian all his life.

A 40th anniversary memorial service was held in 2015 at Soongsil University featuring readings of Kim’s work and a musical setting of several of his poems.

The following was translated by Cho Young-Shil.

Autumn Prayer

In Autumn
let me pray . . .
Fill me with the humble mother tongue
bestowed on me at the fall of the leaves in time

In Autumn
let me love . . .
Embrace one only—
Plow this fertile
hour for the most beautiful fruit—

In Autumn
let me be solitary . . .
My soul,
like a raven who’s come through the sinuous waters
and the valley of lilies
to alight on a sapless bough

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Karol Wojtyla

Karol Wojtyla (1920―2005) is better known as Pope John Paul II. He was born in Poland and became the first non-Italian pope in 500 years. At the time of his death he had served in this role for 26 years.

When he was 21, Wojtyla co-founded a theatre and worked as an actor, but he gave this up to become a priest. Even so, he continued to write extensively, including poetry and plays. He also became a full university professor in philosophy and theology. He was particularly drawn to the writings of John of the Cross. His own poetry has been described as “…philosophically visionary, mystical and metaphysical.”

In her book, Wind From Heaven: John Paul II ― The Poet Who Became Pope, Monika Jablonska says, “Chronologically, Karol Wojtyla was first a writer, then a Catholic priest, and finally the pope…” She considers his writings to have contributed significantly to his selection as pope.

When his poems (including these two) first appeared in Polish journals Wojtyla was a parish priest and auxiliary bishop in Krakow, who wrote using the pseudonym Andrzej Jawien. These poems have been translated by Jerzy Peterkiewicz, and are from The Place Within: The Poetry of Pope John Paul II (Random House).

Actor

So many grew round me, through me,
from my self, as it were.
I became a channel, unleashing a force
called man.
Did not the others crowding in, distort
the man that I am?
Being each of them, always imperfect,
myself to myself too near,
he who survives in me, can he ever
look at himself without fear?

Girl Disappointed in Love

With mercury we measure pain
as we measure the heat of bodies and air;
but this is not how to discover our limits―
you think you are the center of things.
If you could only grasp that you are not:
the center is He,
and He, too, finds no love―
why don't you see?
The human heart―what is it for?
Cosmic temperature. Heart. Mercury.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Margaret Avison*

Margaret Avison (1918—2007) is one of Canada’s most-celebrated poets. She received the Governor General’s Award twice ― for her collections Winter Sun (1960) and No Time (1990) ― was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1984, received the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2003 for Concrete and Wild Carrot, and the Leslie K. Tarr Award (2005) for outstanding contribution to Christian writing in Canada. Her archives are held at the University of Manitoba.

I had the privilege of contributing twice to presentations she gave at a writers’ conference near her home in downtown Toronto ― first in November of 2003 where I read a few of her poems for her (including the one in this post) as extended readings were becoming taxing for her ― and again one year later when I interviewed her. That interview (which I believe is the last she ever gave) appeared in Image, and was later included in her autobiography I Am Here And Not Not-There (2009, The Porcupine’s Quill).

The following poem is from her collection Concrete and Wild Carrot (2002, Brick Books). It also appears in my anthology The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry (2016, Poiema/Cascade).

On a Maundy Thursday Walk

The Creator was
walking by the sea, the
Holy Book says. Finely-tuned
senses — flooded with
intense awareness — tested
a clear serene constancy.

Who can imagine it, sullied
as our senses are? Faulty as are even our
most excellent makings?

The perfection of
created Being, in the perfect
morning was born from the walker-by-the-sea's
imagination. At a word —
the hot smell of sunned rock, of
the sea, the sea, the sound of lapping, bird-calls,
the sifting sponginess of sand
under the sandals, delicate.
April light—all, at a word
had become this almost-
overwhelming loveliness.

Surely the exultation —
the Artist
Himself immersed in
His work, finding it flawless —
intensified the so soon
leaving (lifted out of
mortal life for good
forever).

That too eludes
us who disbelieve that we
also shall say goodbye to
trees and cherished friends and
sunsets and crunching snow
to travel off
into a solo death.

How much more, that
(suffering this
creation to go under
its Maker, and us all)
He, the Father of love, should stake it all
on a sufficient
indeed on an essential
pivot.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Margaret Avison: first post, second post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock.

Monday, September 6, 2021

John the Apostle

John the Apostle (c. 6 AD―c. 100 AD) is one of Christ’s original twelve disciples, and the author of the Gospel of John, three New Testament epistles, and the Book of Revelation. In his gospel, John frequently refers to himself simply as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” He and his brother James, the sons of Zebedee and Salome, were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee, and were referred to by Jesus as "Boanerges" that is "sons of thunder". The two brothers, along with Peter, formed Christ’s inner circle.

John was the only one of the disciples who remained at the foot of the cross, along with the women, to witness the death of Jesus. He is also the only disciple, according to tradition, to die of natural causes ― each of the others (besides Judas) dying as martyrs. John had been exiled to the Isle of Patmos, as part of the persecution of Christians under the Emperor Domitian, and there received his vision which he records in the Book of Revelation.

In the following opening to John’s Gospel (King James Version), the John mentioned is John the Baptist, not John the Apostle.

From The Gospel of John

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word
was with God, and the Word was God.

2 The same was in the beginning with God.

3 All things were made by him; and without him
was not any thing made that was made.

4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness
comprehended it not.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the
Light, that all men through him might believe.

8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness
of that Light.

9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man
that cometh into the world.

10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him,
and the world knew him not.

11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power
to become the sons of God, even to them that believe
on his name:

13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh,
nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,
(and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten
of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Walter Wangerin Jr.*

Walter Wangerin Jr. (1944―2021) is the author of more than 40 books, and served as a Lutheran pastor, and as a professor at Evansville University and later at Valparaiso University ― both in Indiana. His novel Book of the Dun Cow (1978) rocketed him into the spotlight, enabling him to write a wide variety of books across his career.

He has participated as a member of the Chrysostom Society, which includes (or included at various points) such fine writers as Madeleine L’Engle, Luci Shaw, Robert Siegel, John Leax, Doris Betts, Paul Willis, Jeanne Murray Walker, Eugene Peterson and Philip Yancey.

Yancey said in an August 9th memorial piece for Christianity Today, “As both a sermonizer and an artist, with graduate degrees in theology and English, Walt lived with the constant tension of how best to express themes of grace and the Cross. As a pastor, he found that story conveys truth most effectively and profoundly.”

Walter Wangerin Jr. lived with cancer for more than fifteen years, before dying on August 5th 2021. The following poem is from his collection On an Age-Old Anvil (Cascade Books, 2018).

Sacred

The wild geese lace the sky
flying north,
flying to the arctic
to lay and brood
the egg of creation.

The ancient Irishman
laying windrows with his scythe
looks up with a blue, rheumy eye.
He drops the cutting blade
and raises reverential hands.

Once it was a Dove,
the Holy Ghost descending.
Now it is the wild goose
flying.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Walter Wangerin Jr.: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Adélia Prado*

Adélia Prado is a leading Brazilian poet whose career was launched amid praise from modernist Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade, who suggested that St. Francis is dictating verses to a housewife in Minas Gerais; he said, “Adélia is lyrical, biblical, existential; she makes poetry as naturally as nature makes weather.” She is the first member of her family to attend university, completing degrees in Philosophy and Religious Education from the University of Divinópolis.

Idra Novey has said, “There is never a day that can’t be improved with a few lines by Adélia Prado.” In 2014 Prado was honoured with The Griffin Lifetime Achievement Award.

The following poem was translated from Portuguese by Ellen Doré Watson and appears in her book, The Mystical Rose: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2014).

Guide

Poetry will save me.
I feel uneasy saying this, since only Jesus
is Saviour, as a man inscribed
(of his own free will)
on the back of the souvenir crucifix he brought home
from a pilgrimage to Congonhas.
Nevertheless, I repeat: Poetry will save me.
It's through poetry that I understand the passion
He had for us, dying on the cross.
Poetry will save me, as the purple of flowers
spilling over the fence
absolves the girl her ugly body.
In poetry the Virgin and the saints approve
my apocryphal way of understanding words
by their reverse, my decoding the town crier's message
by means of his hands and eyes.
Poetry will save me. I won't tell this to the four winds,
because I'm frightened of experts, excommunication,
afraid of shocking the fainthearted. But not of God.
What is poetry, if not His face touched
by the brutality of things?

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Adélia Prado: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock.

Monday, August 16, 2021

John Norris

John Norris (1657―1712) is an English philosopher, theologian, and metaphysical poet. An important concern for him was to try to prove the existence and immortality of the soul ― which I suspect are outside the range of things objectively provable. He was a philosophic opponent of John Locke, however, he and Locke corresponded with each other for many years. Locke even put in a good word for Norris, which led to his rectorship at Bemerton, Wiltshire. Eventually though, the two men quarrelled and expended considerable ink in refuting one another’s views.

Many of Norris’s best-known poems appeared in A Collection of Miscellanies (1687) which includes various writings; by 1730 a ninth edition was printed. One of his most popular books Christian Blessedness was published in 1690.

During the last twenty years of his life he wrote extensively, and lived the quiet life of a country parson in Bemerton, Wiltshire ― which had been the home of George Herbert.

Hymn to Darkness

Hail thou most sacred venerable thing!
What Muse is worthy thee to sing?
Thee, from whose pregnant universal womb
All things, even Light thy rival, first did come.
What dares he not attempt that sings of thee,
Thou first and greatest mystery?
Who can the secrets of thy essence tell?
Thou like the light of God art inaccessible.

Before great Love this monument did raise,
This ample theatre of praise.
Before the folding circles of the sky
Were tuned by Him who is all harmony.
Before the morning stars their hymn began,
Before the council held for man.
Before the birth of either Time or Place,
Thou reign'st unquestioned monarch in the empty space.

Thy native lot thou didst to Light resign,
But still half of the globe is thine.
Here with a quiet, and yet aweful hand,
Like the best emperors thou dost command.
To thee the stars above their brightness owe,
And mortals their repose below.
To thy protection Fear and Sorrow flee,
And those that weary are of light, find rest in thee.

Tho light and glory be th' Almighty's throne,
Darkness in His pavilion.
From that His radiant beauty, but from thee
He has His terror and His majesty.
Thus when He first proclaimed His sacred Law,
And would His rebel subjects awe,
Like princes on some great solemnity,
H' appeared in's robes of State, and clad Himself with thee.

The blest above do thy sweet umbrage prize,
When cloyed with light, they veil their eyes.
The vision of the Deity is made
More sweet and beatific by thy shade.
But we poor tenants of this orb below
Don't here thy excellencies know,
Till Death our understandings does improve,
And then our wiser ghosts thy silent night-walks love.

But thee I now admire, thee would I choose
For my religion, or my Muse.
'Tis hard to tell whether thy reverend shade
Has more good votaries or poets made,
From thy dark caves were inspirations given,
And from thick groves went vows to Heaven.
Hail then thou Muse's and Devotion's spring,
'Tis just we should adore, 'tis just we should thee sing.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock.