Monday, June 14, 2021

Gillian Allnutt

Gillian Allnutt is an English poet who was presented the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry by Queen Elizabeth II in February of 2017. She has published nine collections, including How the Bicycle Shone: New & Selected Poems (2007) and wake (2018) both from Bloodaxe Books.

In a recent review in the Church Times, Martyn Halsall said, “Gillian Allnutt’s spare, elegiac poems are like runes on bone; messages from another world” which is an apt description since her poems are often spare to the point of being obscure. He also said, “These are pilgrim poems, light-footed, and yet dedicated to spiritual quest; ambitious in their intensity; profound in their search for grace…”

The following poems are both from Lintel (2001, Bloodaxe Books).

Meditation

I said to my soul: be still and wait
where the light green sediment collects

at the lake’s near edge.
An old red lifebelt hangs in silence, sedge-

still. Still the long rope,
loosely gathered, loops

on its cast-iron post
like hope, at rest.

The Road Home

It is the road to God
that matters now, the ragged road, the wood.

And if you will, drop pebbles here and there
like Hansel, Gretel, right where

They’ll shine
in the wilful light of the moon.

You won’t be going back to the hut
where father, mother plot

the cul de sac of the world
in a field

that’s permanently full
of people

looking for a festival
of literature, a fairy tale,

a feathered
nest of brothers, sisters. Would

that first world, bared now to the word
God, wade

with you, through wood, into the weald and weather
of the stars?

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, June 7, 2021

Joanne Epp*

Joanne Epp has just had her second poetry collection launched by Turnstone Books, which is now being celebrated with a “blog tour” ― which is their creative take on advancing a new book during our current pandemic! The book is Cattail Skyline and is her follow-up to her earlier collection Eigenheim.

The landscape captured in these pages is predominantly the Saskatchewan of her youth, both remembered and revisited: a land of railways, buffalo rubbing stones, an ancestral cemetery, pin cherries, chokecherries, raspberries, riverbanks, treaty territory, wild strawberries, cranberries, bunchberries, saskatoon berries, and cattails. There’s also one section about the author’s trip to Cambodia in 1994 with the Mennonite Central Committee.

Epp is a Winnipeg poet who consistently speaks of her perspective on the artform. “I approach poetry as a way of expressing and giving shape to what I encounter in the world,” she said in recent interview with Poetry In Voice. “[W]hile a love of language is essential, poetry also has to come out of a love for the world.”

She serves as assistant organist at St. Margaret's Anglican Church in Winnipeg. The following poem is from Cattail Skyline.

Image in a country church

Horse Lake, Saskatchewan

Sunday, white clapboard unbearably bright.
People shading eyes as they greet
and pass inside to hear the preacher read
the Revelation of John: a lamb standing
as though it had been slain
—the paradox
we can hardly speak, the reason
we’ve come and sung, reminded again
how mystery resides in that harsh death,
the rising after, its unnerving glory. It’s here
in this small clearing—that glory, declared
in morning rays through arched windows,
shining the varnished pews;
in brightness flashing out from everything:
white doors, chrome on cars, flecks of mica
in the gravelled yard. Each waxy needle on spruce,
each trembling aspen leaf, each face.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Joanne Epp: 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 31, 2021

Lucy Maud Montgomery

Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874―1942) is a Canadian author, particularly famous for her 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables, and its sequels. Much of her fiction is set in Prince Edward Island ― which has become a significant focus for the island’s tourism. She went on to publish 20 novels, hundreds of short stories, and more than 500 poems. As is often the case, as her fiction increased in popularity, her poetry writing decreased.

As a poet she was greatly influenced by the Romantics, and Lord Tennyson. Her most ambitious poem “The Watchman” is a dramatic monologue reminiscent of Robert Browning, which tells the story of a Roman soldier, Maximus, who witnessed the resurrection of Christ.

The following poem first appeared in The Christian Advocate on October 1st 1908, and is from The Watchman and Other Poems (1916). John Ferns, an English professor at McMaster University, wrote in 1986 about this poem, “Perhaps it is the Biblical subject of drought or the Christian idea of rebirth that provokes the increasing use of religious language as the poem proceeds.”

After Drought

Last night all through the darkling hours we heard
The voices of the rain,
And every languid pulse in nature stirred
Responsive to the strain;
The morning brought a breath of strong sweet air
From shadowy pinelands blown,
And over field and upland everywhere
A newborn greenness shone.

The saintly meadow lilies offer up
Their white hearts to the sun,
And every wildwood blossom lifts its cup
With incense overrun;
The brood whose voice was silent yestereve
Now sings its old refrain,
And all the world is grateful to receive
The blessing of the rain.

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 24, 2021

Adam Zagajewski*

Adam Zagajewski (1945―2021) is one of Poland’s most celebrated poets. He was born in Lvov, Poland, but in the wake of WWII his family was forced to move west as territories shifted and Lvov became part of the Ukraine. His early writing was protest poetry, which led to his works being banned by Poland’s communist leaders in 1975. Later his focus transitioned to “night, dreams, history and time, infinity and eternity, silence and death.” He died on March 21st in Krakow, Poland.

Although he identified himself as a Catholic ― “a failed Catholic” ― he was not at home in the Catholic Church in Poland, which he called a disaster, where the majority of bishops are not even Christian, and where sermons bring political messages. In an interview with Catholic Herald last year he said:
----------But if you ask me what use can my readers make out of the
----------religious accent of my poems, well, it is not my business
----------to comment on this. If you are a serious poet you embark
----------on a search and you never know what you find at the end.
----------The idea of the search is for me the capital element in my
----------work. It is very hard to define oneself if the substance of
----------what you do is the quest, because it goes towards something
----------that you can’t define, something that does not have a strong
----------shape. Search is in searching, not in strong definitions.

The following poem is from Unseen Hand (2014, Farrar, Straus and Giroux) translated by Clare Cavanagh.

First Communion

Gliwice, Piramowicz Street

Dark gray houses and triangular bay windows,
near a little park with German statues
(pseudo-baroque from the thirties).
Mrs. Kolmer took my picture there
right after my First Communion
against the backdrop of a freshly laundered sheet:
I'm that chubby child. Earnest,
upright, candle in hand.
I'm a beginning Catholic,
who struggles to tell good from evil,
but doesn't know what divides them,
especially at dawn and dusk, when
for a long moment the light wavers.
The poplar leaves in the garden are black,
the light is black, the homes are black,
the air's transparent, only the sheet is white.
Color photos will come later
to mute the contrasts and perhaps permit
an ordinary life, splendid holidays,
even a second communion.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Adam Zagajewski: 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 17, 2021

Bedřich Bridel

Bedřich Bridel (1619―1680) is a Czech baroque writer, poet, and missionary. He was educated in Prague, joined the Jesuit order in 1637, was ordained a priest around 1650, and worked in the Jesuit printing office. Besides his own original works, which were for religious education, Bridel also translated German and Latin texts into Czech. He spent the last twenty years of his life in mission work in Bohemia. He died of the plague in 1680.

The following poem was translated into English, for a forthcoming Kingdom Poets anthology, by Rhina P. Espaillat (with Henry R. Cooper Jr.). The anthology is edited by Burl Horniachek and will appear as part of the Poiema Poetry Series (Cascade Books). This is the first translation of this poem into English.

What Is God? Man?

Three-cornered and three-sided, you
are both triangular and round;
A spherical abyss far too
immeasurably deep to sound;
you are justice, but with no
plumb line, cord, or bounden duty.
Ageless, unadorned you go,
clad in wholly perfect beauty.

Flawless beauty that you are,
and happy beyond every joy,
greater than all love by far,
your purity without alloy
is too clean for time to touch you,
age deface you, force defy,
treasure own you, or death clutch you:
eternal, you can never die.

You are what perfect truth there is.
Since only perfect things can be,
all things, and man, as things are his,
wants to be yours eternally.
You are earth, but still unploughed;
you are the ocean, but still dry,
where no storm blows wild and loud.
You are god, most great, most high.

The unexplained is your disguise:
the unkindled, smokeless flame;
wind—the air on which you rise;
the sea without its seashore frame;
a valley waiting for its hill;
the sun without its morning gleam
or sunset glow; and strangely still,
that flowless interrupted stream.

You are roses with no thorn;
sourceless well; beginning; ending;
all as it was when newly born;
flawless love that needs no mending;
wine unfermented; grapes unpressed;
book without words that makes no sound;
sound not yet voice, still unaddressed;
you everywhere, as yet unfound.

Grove are you, but with no shade;
pure gold mined without the tailing;
beauty no cosmetic made;
glorious throne behind its veiling;
heaven by the light of day;
sea without the waves grown wild;
health that keeps disease away;
laughter, but serene and mild.

You’re a garden with no hedge;
speech without tongue; and without rind
you are fruit; you are the edge
of the abyss no sight can find,
where I drown, dark in that light,
under the homeland that I love:
wholly immersed, and out of sight,
far from all that lives above.

Now I ask, What is my god?
Everything here confuses me!
I wander; everything seems odd.
I’m baffled by the deity.
I can’t make sense of god: however
I prod my mind to comprehend,
however hard I try, I never
pursue god’s nature to the end.

What kind of night awaits me now,
I’m wondering, untangling such
imponderable thoughts as how
great god is? And more—so much!
I’m purified enough to think
such thoughts, to laugh like this, and be
ready to drown in them, and sink
while pondering divinity!

Posted with permission of the translators.

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 10, 2021

Laura Reece Hogan

Laura Reece Hogan is a California poet who is a professed Third Order Carmelite. Her chapbook O Garden-Dweller appeared from Finishing Line Press in 2017. I referred to that book as “a twenty-first century Song of Songs,” and said, “She carries us down the path to her desired destination with lovely alliteration and internal rhyme. The aptness of her word-choice delights again and again, and the subtlety of her images encourages us to dwell there.”

She is one of the poets who is included in my anthology In A Strange Land: Introducing Ten Kingdom Poets (2019, Poiema/Cascade). Her first full-length poetry collection Litany of Flights is the first place winner of the inaugural Paraclete Poetry Prize competition. One of the poems from her new book first appeared in the web journal Poems For Ephesians.

The poetry in this new collection is conspicuously a poetry of place. It's populated with scrub jays, and glows with the ominous approach of California wild fires. The following poem is also from Litany of Flights (2020, Paraclete Press).

Fusion

After Salvador Dali’s Christ of Saint John of the Cross

1.
Uncrucified arms a sculpted triangle,
Not-thorns a crown of chestnut hair,
Splendid. The light of the world, head

bowed, radiates. The pigments flare,
suffuse gold fire:
he cannot be dimmed.

2.
John of the Cross, the friar or fire,
in love with the living flame of love
prayed to be a bonfire

of this Light. Unreservedly he selects
this angle, a wick of a man longing
for his lightning strike.

3.
In Dali’s cosmic dream, Christ
blazes as the nucleus of the universe,
a moment which bears all,

scintillating atoms caught under
the brush, a death reversed by creator.
Gaze on him, resplendent, join

these your atoms to his, and ignite.

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 3, 2021

William Stafford*

William Stafford (1914 —1993) is a prolific American poet whose first poetry collection appeared when he was 46 years old. Two years later his Traveling Through the Dark (1962) won the National Book Award. His poetry is characterized by a simple accessible style ― understated, restrained, and unforced. His work often investigates the relationship between humanity and the natural world.

He was a disciplined writer who didn’t think anyone need experience writer’s block. He said, “A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as he is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them.”

He was a pacifist who was part of the small Christian denomination the Church of the Brethren. One of his collections Scripture of Leaves was published through the Brethren, and although he taught for most of his career at Lewis & Clark College in Oregon, he did teach for one year at their Indiana school, Manchester College.

Assurance

You will never be alone, you hear so deep
a sound when autumn comes. Yellow
pulls across the hills and thrums,
or the silence after lightning before it says
its names― and then the clouds' wide-mouthed
apologies. You were aimed from birth:
you will never be alone. Rain
will come, a gutter filled, an Amazon,
long aisles― you never heard so deep a sound,
moss on rock, and years. You turn your head―
that's what the silence meant: you're not alone.
The whole wide world pours down.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about William Stafford : 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.