Monday, July 16, 2018

Mary Karr*

Mary Karr has just released her fifth poetry collection Tropic of Squalor from HarperCollins. This is her first book of poetry since Sinners Welcome (2006). Despite her passion for poetry, she is best known for her trilogy of memoirs, the most-recent of which is Lit (2009). She has also written The Art of Memoir (2015), a book about how to write memoirs. Karr is the Peck Professor of Literature at Syracuse University, where she's taught for more than 25 years.

She is one of the poets celebrated in my anthology The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry(available here) and through Amazon.

The following poem first appeared in Commonweal, and is from Tropic of Squalor.

The Devil's Delusion

I lie on my back in the lawnchair to study
the trees claw up toward heaven.
They have all the sap I lack.
It’s doubt I send rivering cloudways
in great boiling torrents, as if all creation
were a bad stage set I could wave
-----------------------------------------------way away,
then I could cast my dark spells in a blink
and a flaming fingersnap—and
a universe de Mare pops up
so I win the everlasting argument against all
that was or will or tiredly is.
As if my soul would not in that blink
be obliterate. As if, as kids say.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Mary Karr: 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, July 9, 2018

Langston Hughes*

Langston Hughes (1902—1967) is the leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Throughout his life he struggled with the attraction he felt for Christian faith and the beauty it poured into black American culture, in contrast with the uses religion is so often put to that have nothing to do with God.

His written output includes novels, plays, short fiction, non-fiction and especially poetry. He felt it important to write for children, such as in his poetry collection The Dream Keeper and Other Poems (1932), about the culture of Black America, and about Christian faith. Hughes "gospel-singing play" Tambourines To Glory premiered on Broadway in 1963. The play was controversial in that it also took on issues of hypocrisy within the Black church.

In the following poem, Langston Hughes uses a black persona, perhaps as a way of expressing his own deep desires without identifying them as his own.

Moan

I'm deep in trouble,
Nobody to understand,
---Lord, Lord!

Deep in trouble,
Nobody to understand,
---O, Lord!

Gonna pray to ma Jesus,
Ask him to gimme His hand.
---Ma Lord!

I'm moanin', moanin',
Nobody cares just why.
---No, Lord!

Moanin', moanin',
Feels like I could die.
---O, Lord!

Sho, there must be peace,
Ma Jesus,
Somewhere in yo' sky.
---Yes Lord!

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Langston Hughes: 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, July 2, 2018

Amy Clampitt

Amy Clampitt (1920—1994) is a poet whose attention to the particularities of our world could not help but bring her into reflections of God. She was born in Iowa to parents who were Quakers. She wrestled with faith and doubt all her life, being distrustful of organized religion. In the 1970s she became an "intense" Episcopalian, and — according to her friend, the poet, Mary Jo Bang — eventually came to "some sort of private peace with her enduring inconsistencies." She was always pleased hearing God's works praised, and right from the start was deeply influenced by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Clampitt lived most of her life in New York City. She worked as a secretary for Oxford University Press, and as a reference librarian at the Audubon Society. She began writing poetry when she was in her forties, and it wasn't until 1978 that her first poem appeared.

The following is from her first book of poems, The Kingfisher (1983).

The Sun Underfoot Among the Sundews

An ingenuity too astonishing
to be quite fortuitous is
this bog full of sundews, sphagnum-
lined and shaped like a teacup.
----------------------------------------A step.
Down and you’re into it; a
Wilderness swallows you up:
ankle-, then knee-, then midriff-
to-shoulder-deep in wetfooted
understory, an overhead
spruce-tamarack horizon hinting
you’ll never get out of here.
----------------------------------------But the sun
among the sundews, down there,
is so bright, an underfoot
webwork of carnivorous rubies,
a star-swarm thick as the gnats
they’re set to catch, delectable
double-faced cockleburs, each
hair-tip a sticky mirror
afire with sunlight, a million
of them and again a million,
each mirror a trap set to
unhand unbelieving,
----------------------------------------that either
a First Cause said once, “Let there
be sundews,” and there were, or they’ve
made their way here unaided
other than by that backhand, round-
about refusal to assume responsibility
known as Natural Selection.
----------------------------------------But the sun
underfoot is so dazzling
down there among the sundews,
there is so much light
in the cup that, looking,
you start to fall upward.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

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 25, 2018

Laura Battiferri

Laura Battiferri (1523—1589) is an Italian poet of the Renaissance. Her two published books are The First Book of Tuscan Works (1560), and The Seven Penitential Psalms…with Some Spiritual Sonnets (1564). When her young husband, who was a court organist, died, she expressed her sorrow through her poetry. In 1550 she married, the sculptor, Bartolomeo Ammannati — whom she was married to for the rest of her life.

In Rome, Bartolomeo worked closely with Michelangelo and Giorgio Vasari. When she and her husband moved to Florence, Battiferri considered it to be an uncultured backwater, and thought her poetry would not have the opportunities she had experienced in Rome. She soon, however, found her place in Florence, gaining great popularity. She and her husband also became great financial supporters of the Jesuits.

The following poem, was translated into English by Victoria Kirkham, and is from Battiferri’s third collection, Rime, which was incomplete at the time of her death.

Spiritual Sonnet 1

Behold , Lord — and high time it is by now — I
Address to you my altered style; disdain it not, if
Ever there reached your ears a humble prayer;
Devout and pious.
How much before, alas, I sought in vain to
Make myself like the best, but only with an outer
Resemblance; as much as I esteemed earthly and
Base reward, so much I disdained the heavenly and you, my God.
Behold, Lord above, now that your pity has
Awakened this soul to its greater need, whence it
Openly sees its fault,
Repentant it prays ever for your mercy, since
With long sorrow it is manifest that whatever
Pleases in the world is a brief dream.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

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 18, 2018

Rod Jellema*

Rod Jellema (1927—2018) was born in Michigan. His poetry often circles back there although he has lived most of his adult life in the Washington, D.C. area. He founded the Creative Writing Program at the University of Maryland, where he has been Professor Emeritus of English. Jellema is known both for his original poetry, and for his translations of Frisian poetry — for which he has won the Pieter Jelles Prize and the Columbia University Translation Prize.

Rod Jellema is one of the poets included in my anthology The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry (2016), and wrote the lead poem in my anthology Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse (2017) — both available through Wipf & Stock.

This week I sent Rod an e-mail, admitting that it was high-time I posted again about his poetry. The reply came from his wife, Michele, saying — "Rod passed away four weeks ago." Here I seek to honour him, and the exceptional poetry he has written. For those who don't realize what a significant contribution he has made to Christian poetry, I would encourage you to purchase one of his poetry books today.

The following poem is from Jellema's collection A Slender Grace (2004) and is also included in Incarnality: The Collected Poems (2010) — both published by Eerdmans.

Take a Chance

If you cancel the trip to Innesfree
because it's raining, you may miss the quick
red rage of a torn leaf
before it gentles itself onto the quiet pool.

The tests warned him that his exceptional mind
was weakest for doing math, so math
is what he took up with holy awe,
forcing his dazzled way to insight.

If you always leave a nightlight burning
because as a child you got fearfully lost,
turn it off. The lights far out in the dark
are sending lifelines you never imagined.

The New Age seers, tracking the fates, may tell you
no — but take a chance. Just maybe that old
unbelievalble Yahweh really did imprint you
with enough God Image to make you free to leap.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Rod Jellema: first post

Posted with permission of Michele Jellema.

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 11, 2018

John Lydgate

John Lydgate (1370—1449) is a monk and quite prolific as a poet — actually one of England's most voluminous poets. When he was about fifteen, he became a novice at the Benedictine abbey of Bury Saint Edmunds, and later is believed to have attended Oxford University. He was greatly influenced by the work of Geoffrey Chaucer — and although he never met him, he did know the poet's son and his granddaughter. In fact, Alice Chaucer became one of his many patrons, as did the king's brother Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester.

George MacDonald shares the following poem in his anthology England’s Antiphons. There he describes Lydgate as “the monk of Bury, a great imitator of Chaucer” — which strikes me as a compliment and a criticism rolled into one; the criticism, however, is one MacDonald extends to much of fifteenth century devotional verse.

Thank God For All


By a way wandering as I went,
Well sore I sorrowed, for sighing sad;
Of hard haps that I had hent
Mourning me made almost mad;

Till a letter all one me lad,
That well was written on a wall,
A blissful word that on I read,
That always said, 'Thank God for all.'

And yet I read furthermore —
Full good intent I took there till:
Christ may well your state restore;
Nought is to strive against his will; it is useless.
He may us spare and also spill:
Think right well we be his thrall, slaves.
What sorrow we suffer, loud or still,
Always thank God for all.

Though thou be both blind and lame,
Or any sickness be on thee set,
Thou think right well it is no shame — think thou.
The grace of God it hath thee gret.
In sorrow or care though ye be knit, snared.
And world's weal be from thee fall, fallen.
I cannot say thou mayst do bet, better.
But always thank God for all.

Though thou wield this world's good,
And royally lead thy life in rest,
Well shaped of bone and blood,
None the like by east nor west;
Think God thee sent as him lest; as it pleased him.
Riches turneth as a ball;
In all manner it is the best in every condition.
Always to thank God for all.

If thy good beginneth to pass,
And thou wax a poor man,
Take good comfort and bear good face,
And think on him that all good wan; did win.

Christ himself forsooth began —
He may renew both bower and hall:
No better counsel I ne kan am capable of.
But always thank God for all.

Think on Job that was so rich;
He waxed poor from day to day;
His beasts died in each ditch;
His cattle vanished all away;
He was put in poor array,
Neither in purple nor in pall,
But in simple weed, as clerks say, clothes: learned men.
And always he thanked God for all.

For Christ's love so do we;
He may both give and take;
In what mischief that we in be, whatever trouble we
He is mighty enough our sorrow to slake. be in.
Full good amends he will us make,
And we to him cry or call: if.
What grief or woe that do thee thrall,
Yet always thank God for all.

Though thou be in prison cast,
Or any distress men do thee bede, offer.
For Christ's love yet be steadfast,
And ever have mind on thy creed;
Think he faileth us never at need,
The dearworth duke that deem us shall;
When thou art sorry, thereof take heed,
And always thank God for all.

Though thy friends from thee fail,
And death by rene hend their life,
Why shouldest thou then weep or wail?
It is nought against God to strive: it is useless.

Himself maked both man and wife —
To his bliss he bring us all: may he bring.
However thou thole or thrive, suffer.
Always thank God for all.

What diverse sonde that God thee send,
Here or in any other place,
Take it with good intent;
The sooner God will send his grace.
Though thy body be brought full base, low.
Let not thy heart adown fall,
But think that God is where he was,
And always thank God for all.

Though thy neighbour have world at will,
And thou far'st not so well as he,
Be not so mad to think him ill, wish.
For his wealth envious to be:
The king of heaven himself can see
Who takes his sonde, great or small;
Thus each man in his degree,
I rede thank God for all. counsel.

For Christ's love, be not so wild,
But rule thee by reason within and without;
And take in good heart and mind
The sonde that God sent all about; the gospel.
Then dare I say withouten doubt,
That in heaven is made thy stall. place, seat, room.
Rich and poor that low will lowte, bow.
Always thank God for all.

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 4, 2018

Jay Parini

Jay Parini has authored dozens of books. His New and Collected Poems 1975—2015 appeared from Beacon Press in 2016. His novels often look into historic characters, such as The Passages of H.M. (about Herman Melville), and The Last Station (about Leo Tolstoy); the latter was adapted into an Academy Award nominated film. He has written many literary biographies, such as of John Steinbeck and Robert Frost. His book Jesus: The Human Face of God (2013) invites readers into his personal quest for knowing Jesus. He has also written non-fiction books such as Why Poetry Matters (2008).

Parini has been on the faculty of Middlebury College in Vermont since 1982. The film version of his novel Benjamin’s Crossing which he and his wife, Devon Jersild, adapted into a screenplay, is to be released in 2018.

His Morning Meditations

My father in this lonely room of prayer
Listens at the window
In the little house of his own dreams.

He has come a long way just to listen,
Over seas and sorrow, through the narrow gate
Of his deliverance.

And he dwells here now,
Beyond the valley and the shadow, too,
In silence mustered day by dawn.

It has come to this sweet isolation
In the eye of God, the earliest of mornings
In the chambered skull, this frost of thought.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek. 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.