Monday, August 2, 2021

Rowan Williams*

Rowan Williams is a Welsh poet who served as Archbishop of Canterbury from 2002 to 2012. Prior to this appointment he was Bishop of Monmouth and Archbishop of Wales. His earlier career was that of an academic at both Oxford and Cambridge, and subsequently he has served (until last September) as Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge.

His most-recent poetry collection is The Other Mountain (2014, Carcanet). His earlier books ― After Silent Centuries (1994) and Remembering Jerusalem (2001) ― were brought together in The Poems of Rowan Williams (2002) which also includes some newer poems. His New and Collected Poems will appear from Carcanet in November.

Door

The Lord is Always Liminal

A book falling open, the sliced wood
peels apart, jolting for a moment
over the clenched swollen muscle:
so that, as the leaves fall flat
side by side, what we read is the two
ragged eyes each side of a mirror,
where the wrinkles stream off sideways,
trail down the cheeks, awash with tears,
mucus, mascara. Split the wood
and I am there, says the unfamiliar
Lord, there where the book opens
with the leaves nailed to the wall
and the silent knot resolved by surgery
into a mask gaping and staring, reading
and being read. Split the wood; jolt
loose the cramp, the tumour, let the makeup run,
the sap drain, the door swing in the draught.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Rowan Williams: 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, July 26, 2021

Novica Tadić*

Novica Tadić (1949—2011) is a Serbian poet who lived most of his life in Belgrade. He has been honoured with several important Serbian literary awards such as the Laureat Nagrade.

Canadian composer Michael Matthews, who set six of Tadic’s poems to music, said, “Tadić depicts a dark and sardonic and unsettling Boschian world, yet within that world I find both innocence and lyricism, and a strangely expressive beauty…” His poems are frequently nightmarish, written in light of the atrocities the Balkan Peninsula experienced in the twentieth century.

His collection The Devil’s Pal (2008) is a book of poems focussed on death ― described in Serbia National Review as “fragments of a prayer.” Its final poem, “Prayer for a Not Shameful Death” says,
-------My Creator and my Lord, I have small tombs on the tips of my
-------fingers. This is where I have buried all my wishes. Only one more
-------is still alive: give me, Omnipotent One, a quick and easy death.
-------Send it to me as soon as possible, so I wouldn’t be a shame to my
-------angel. Praise You in heavens. Praise You who care of me too.


The following poem, translated by Charles Simic, is from the collection The Horse Has Six Legs (Graywolf Press).

Antipsalm

Disfigure me, Lord. Take pity on me.
Cover me with bumps. Reward me with boils.
In the fount of tears open a spring of pus mixed with blood.
Twist my mouth upside down. Give me a hump. Make me crooked.
Let moles burrow through my flesh. Let blood
circle my body. Let it be thus.
May all that breathes steal breath from me,
all that drinks quench its thirst in my cup.
Turn all vermin upon me.
Let my enemies gather around me
and rejoice, honoring You.

Disfigure me, Lord. Take pity on me.
Tie every guilt around my ankles.
Make me deaf with noise and delirium. Uphold me
above every tragedy.
Overpower me with dread and insomnia. Tear me up.
Open the seven seals, let out the seven beasts.
Let each one graze my monstrous brain.
Set upon me every evil, every suffering,
every misery. Every time you threaten,
point your finger at me. Thus, thus, my Lord.
Let my enemies gather around me
and rejoice, honoring You.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Novica Tadić: 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, July 19, 2021

Kenneth Steven

Kenneth Steven is a Scottish writer and broadcaster, known particularly for his poetry. He has also written novels, and books for children.

The Scottish landscape features prominently in his work, especially the rocky western islands. He has said, “I just know that faith and poetry have a kinship within my life.” The island of Iona, which he calls his “spiritual home,” looms large within his poetry; so much so that Paraclete Press has just released a collection that draws all of his related poems together ― Iona: New and Selected Poems (2021).

Together with his wife, photographer Kristina Howard, he leads retreats to Iona each October, exploring the Celtic Christian path.

Of Steven’s book Coracle, John F. Deane said, “Here is poetry of rare honesty, touching on the vital needs of the spirit in our age and manifesting a profound awareness of ― and concern for ― the world about us…”

Kenneth Steven’s BBC Radio 4 documentary on the island of St Kilda won a 2006 Sony Award. He has recently been commissioned to write and present a new series of programs on Scottish islands for BBC Radio 3’s The Essay.

Listen

Silence still lives in the spaces they have not paved;
out of reach of the traffic of an age
that does not sleep, that has forgotten God.
It is somewhere down back roads
where swallows ripple-curve the held air
among blossomings of trees,
where the wind does not need to be.
These are the places to which
one puts one’s ear like a child,
for listening is to be a child again ―
small enough to understand
what silence means.

Posted with permission of the poet.

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, July 12, 2021

William Cowper*

William Cowper (1731—1800) is an important English poet — considered the most-popular poet of his generation. In 1779, Cowper (pronounced Cooper) and his good friend the evangelical curate John Newton published the book Olney Hymns, which consisted primarily of Newton’s compositions, but also around 68 of Cowper’s, such as his well-known hymn, “Oh, For a Closer Walk with God.” His poetry collection Poems by William Cowper, of the Inner Temple appeared in 1782.

He suffered from mental illness throughout his adult life, which prevented him getting married on two occasions, and interfered with his being appointed to the House of Lords. In further bouts of madness and nightmares he came to believe that God had rejected him. When Mary Unwin, a widow to whom he had once been engaged, died in December 1796, Cowper sank into a despair from which he never recovered.

Sonnet to William Wilberforce, Esq.

Thy country, Wilberforce, with just disdain,
Hears thee, by cruel men and impious, called
Fanatic, for thy zeal to loose the enthralled
From exile, public sale, and slavery's chain.
Friend of the poor, the wronged, the fetter-galled,
Fear not lest labour such as thine be vain!
Thou hast achieved a part; hast gained the ear
Of Britain's senate to thy glorious cause;
Hope smiles, joy springs, and though cold caution pause
And weave delay, the better hour is near,
That shall remunerate thy toils severe
By peace for Afric, fenced with British laws.
Enjoy what thou hast won, esteem and love
From all the just on earth, and all the blest above!

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about William Cowper: 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, July 5, 2021

Carla Funk

Carla Funk is a Canadian poet of Mennonite heritage. who was raised in the central British Columbia community of Vanderhoof. She has taught in the University of Victoria’s Faculty of Arts, and served from 2006 to 2008 as the inaugural Poet Laureate for Victoria, British Columbia. The most-recent of her five poetry collections are Gloryland (2016) and Apologetic (2010) both from Turnstone Press.

She has recently found success as a memoir writer as well with her book Every Little Scrap and Wonder: A Small-Town Childhood (2019, Greystone Press). This will soon be followed by her new memoir Mennonite Valley Girl: A Wayward Coming Of Age, which will appear in September.

In an interview with Ann van Buren for the Katonah Poetry Series, Carla says that the heritage of growing up in an evangelical Mennonite church “was something I tried to shake off for a long time.” Her husband, conversely, when they married was an atheist with no experience of religion. After he became interested in exploring faith, she says, “Somewhere along the way we found that there was mystery in the world and that was part of the pursuit of faith and spirituality.”

Psalm from the Dollhouse

The hearth is cold. The mantle clock, unchiming.
Piano locked and lidded in the den.
Windows shuttered, slack-hinged, bent.
Through grey slats, a fence of splintered pine,
shadows where the ivy greened and climbed
towards the attic bedroom’s unmade bed.
Pitched in corners and under chairs, cobweb
dust, moth husk, old flies. Nothing left alive.
Reach down a hand to set things right in me.
Room by room, sweep through. Make true the crooked door.
Gather up the figure lying facedown on the floor,
and blow the ashes from her eyes. Let her see
the table’s feast. Let her drink. Let her eat
and then walk singing to the star-washed street.

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, June 28, 2021

Paul Murray

Paul Murray is a Dominican priest and poet. He grew up at the foot of the Mountains of Mourne in Northern Ireland, in a house facing the sea. He has lived in Rome since 1994, where he teaches the literature of the mystical tradition ― Catherine of Siena, and John of the Cross, as well as Thomas Aquinas ― at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (a.k.a. The Angelicum).

Murray has written more than a dozen books, besides his poetry titles. Two of his poetry books, The Absent Fountain, and These Black Stars (both published by Dedalus Press) have been combined into the single volume, Stones and Stars (2013). His new collection Moling in Meditation: A Psalter for an Early Irish Monk will be published this year from St. Augustine's Press.

The following poem is from the special issue of Poetry Ireland Review (#112 Name And Nature: ‘Who Do You Say That I Am’) which was edited by John F. Deane.

O Merciful One

When without hope, without aim,
we find ourselves turning and turning
on the outermost rim
of the circumference of our own lives ―

When our hearts are cold, our minds
no longer open to the conviction
of the unseen
or to the sources of that conviction ―

When words which were fiery
once, electrifying the mind and heart,
now seem but a mimicry of
flame, a dazzle of frozen sparks,

burn us with your fire of truth,
with your flame of love.

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, June 21, 2021

Marianne Moore*

Marianne Moore (1887―1972) is a Presbyterian whom the Poetry Foundation calls, “One of America’s foremost poets." In 1918 she moved to New York City, and became an assistant at the New York Public Library. Her poems had started appearing in journals, and then her first collection, Poems (1921), was put together and published by H.D. without her knowledge.

She was widely admired by other poets. In 1925 William Carlos Williams wrote an essay about her, saying that through her particular focus, “in looking at some apparently small object, one feels the swirl of great events.”

T.S. Eliot, wrote in the introduction to her Selected Poems (1935), “Living, the poet is carrying on that struggle for the maintenance of a living language, for the maintenance of its strength, its subtlety, for the preservation of quality of feeling, which must be kept up in every generation … Miss Moore is, I believe, one of those few who have done the language some service in my lifetime.”

And John Ashbery, expressed on the back of the Penguin edition of her Complete Poems (1967), “More than any modern poet, she gives us the feeling that life is softly exploding around us, within easy reach.”

The following poem arises from the opening of Psalm 1.

Blessed Is The Man

who does not sit in the seat of the scoffer―
-------the man who does not denigrate, depreciate, denunciate;
-------------who is not “characteristically intemperate,”
who does not “excuse, retreat, equivocate; and will be heard.”

(Ah, Giorgione! there are those who mongrelize
-------and those who heighten anything they touch; although it may
-------------------well be
-------------that if Giorgione’s self-portrait were not said to be he,
it might not take my fancy. Blessed the geniuses who know

that egomania is not a duty.)
-------“Diversity, controversy; tolerance”―that “citadel
-------------of learning” we have a fort that ought to armor us well.
Blessed is the man who “takes the risk of a decision”―asks

himself the question: “Would it solve the problem?
-------Is it right as I see it? Is it in the best interests of all?”
-------------Alas. Ulysses’s companions are now political―
living self-indulgently until the moral sense is drowned,

having lost all power of comparison,
-------thinking license emancipates one, “slaves who they themselves
-------------------have bound.”
-------------Brazen authors, downright soiled and downright spoiled, as
-------------------if sound
and exceptional, are the old quasi-modish counterfeit,

mitin-proofing conscience against character.
-------Affronted by “private lies and public shame,” blessed is the author
-------------who favors what the supercilious do not favor―
who will not comply. Blessed the unaccommodating man.

Blessed the man whose faith is different
-------from possessiveness―of a kind not framed by “things which
-------------------do appear”―
-------------who will not visualize defeat, too intent to cower;
whose illumined eye has seen the shaft that gilds the sultan’s tower.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Marianne Moore: 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.