Monday, December 2, 2019

Brett Foster*

Brett Foster (1973―2015) is a poet and Renaissance scholar who was serving as an Associate Professor of English at Wheaton College, at the time of his death. His scholarly writing includes Shakespeare’s Life (2012), Shakespeare Through the Ages: The Sonnets (2009), Shakespeare Through the Ages: Hamlet (2008), and Rome (2005).

The following comment about Brett Foster from Alan Jacobs, author of The Narnian, was reported in the Chicago Tribune:
-----"As a poet, he was still growing when he died, which is one
-----of the saddest things of all. The poems he wrote in the
-----aftermath of his diagnosis were the most powerful and intense
-----he had ever written, and I grieve when I think about what
-----sorts of things he might have written had he been given more
-----time. But in everything he wrote and in everything that he did,
-----there was an exceptional generosity of spirit."

A new poetry collection ― which Brett had largely completed before his death ― Extravagant Rescues was published this summer from Triquarterly Books.

The following poem is from his collection from The Garbage Eater (2011, Triquarterly).

The Advent Calendar


Through the ear the Word of God,
pressed on cardboard, impregnates
with dignity the sleeping Mary,
whose child, the creed says,
“was conceived by the Holy Spirit.”

So the Church Fathers saw it,
and for portraits such as this you love
their resourceful escapes, the saving
image in the face of language.

It’s true, mystery is captured
by the world we know, but does it
then diminish? No clever gesture meant
to cover, no Vatican fig leaf,
these constructions drive belief

to necessary crisis. They give dimension,
savagely, and manifest the questions
given up on. Take away the stars
and glitter from this Advent calendar

(found along a sidewalk sale in June,
dollar ninety-nine), what remains
are rows of squares. You’re left
with only days, bare and perforated,
a liturgy of doors, perfect symbol.

Don’t days, after all, amount to this,
lined up, surreptitious? You open
and examine them, you count them
and you count them down.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Brett Foster: first post, second 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, November 25, 2019

Joanne Epp

Joanne Epp is a Winnipeg poet ― originally from Saskatchewan ― whose first full-length collection, Eigenheim, appeared from Turnstone Press in 2015. She has also published a chapbook, Crossings (2012). The name Eigenheim is the German term for “one’s own home.” It is also the name of a small community in Saskatchewan, and the Mennonite Church located there.

In an interview with Canadian Mennonite University she said, “[O]ne of the things I love about poetry [is] that compressed energy that you can get,” She continued, “I think a lot about what being a poet really is… It has seemed to me that being attentive is an essential part of the poet’s work... It has to come out of a love for the world.”

She is connected with a rich circle of Christian poets in Winnipeg, including Sarah Klassen, Sally Ito, Burl Horniachek, Luann Hiebert, and Angeline Schellenberg.

Joanne Epp is assistant organist at St. Margaret’s Anglican Church.

Fugue on the Magnificat

Pachelbel and rain, dim light
on organ keys. Shadows
in the rafters, ribs
of an upside-down ship
parting the water. Down the panes
of pebbled glass, drip by drop,
eighth notes in steady quick-step.
I’m practicing someone else’s prayers,
a means to sharpen my own longing
for that constant love to which
each phrase of counterpoint gives answer.
Rain crescendos to fullness, a deep Amen
on pedal notes that re-echo in the woodwork.
I hold the last long chord, close the book.
Tomorrow I’ll return, repeat
and repeat the task.
Each progress a beginning.

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, November 18, 2019

Jacob Stratman

Jacob Stratman is an Oklahoma poet whose poems have appeared in such journals as Christian Century, Plough Quarterly, Rock & Sling, and The Windhover. He is professor of English at John Brown University in Arkansas, and is chair of the division of Humanities and Social Sciences. He is the editor behind Lessons in Disability: Essays on Teaching with Young Adult Literature (2015) and Teens and the New Religious Landscape (2018) both from McFarland Publishing.

His first poetry collection has just appeared as part of the Poiema Poetry Series from Cascade Books. What I Have I Offer With Two Hands is a collection of poems offering advice to his young sons, but advice they are probably not yet ready to receive. I am privileged to have edited this collection along with the poet. The following poem is from this collection.

For When My Sons Yell At God

Jonah Leaving the Whale Jan Breughel the Elder. Oil on panel (38 x 56 cm) ca. 1600

“It is a childish work—the whale has the head of a dog and Jonah looks suspiciously fresh.”
---www.artbible.info

In candied red, the white-bearded
prophet emerges, hands still clasped in prayer,
clean, really clean, maybe too clean, first-day-
of-school clean, baptism clean. Perhaps it is
a childish painting, the punished coming up
for air after a three-day, divine timeout,
his begging and pleading inside this flesh
box, sincere or not, but he’s out, old and fresh
in a world around him, Breughel is sure
to make clear, swirling blue-black and solid
brown—the earth’s bruising, perhaps a wish
of yellow, healing in the distance, a light
faded behind the eye’s focus. The dogfish
eyes, big and rolling back. The mouth open

like the cave, like the tomb, like the brown creek
carp we refuse to touch, hate to catch, squishy
and formless but counted nonetheless. But
Jonah will dirty himself again after Nineveh,
under the vine, cussing at God telling
God His own business, and he will forget
the welcoming red, the fresh fruit color
of that cloak—the thin (or thinning) clearing
in the background beyond sea and storm,
even the mouth as exit, as release.
He will soon forget to consider how
suspicious it is for a man like him
sitting in death’s darkness for three days
to come out so clean, so bright, so forgiven.

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, November 11, 2019

G.A. Studdert Kennedy*

G.A. Studdert Kennedy (1883―1929) is a poet who served as an army chaplain on the Western Front in World War I ― which ended 101 years ago, today. Although he was born in England, he always maintained that he was an Irishman, due to his parentage; his father being born in County Dublin, but serving as vicar of St. Mary’s, Quarry Hill, in Leeds.

During the war he was very supportive of the British war effort. He received the Military Cross ― his citation reading:

-----“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He showed
-----the greatest courage and disregard for his own safety in
-----attending to the wounded under heavy fire. He searched shell
-----holes for our own and enemy wounded, assisting them to the
-----dressing station, and his cheerfulness and endurance had a
-----splendid effect upon all ranks in the front line trenches,
-----which he constantly visited.”

After the war, however, he became an outspoken pacifist.

Waste

Waste of muscle, waste of brain,
Waste of patience, waste of pain,
Waste of manhood, waste of health,
Waste of beauty, waste of wealth,
Waste of blood and waste of tears,
Waste of youth’s most precious years,
Waste of ways the saints have trod,
Waste of glory,
Waste of God.
War!

‘My Peace I Give Unto You’

Blessed are the eyes that see
-----The things that you have seen.
Blessed are the feet that walk
-----The ways where you have been.
Blessed are the eyes that see
-----The agony of God,
Blessed are the feet that tread
-----The paths His feet have trod.
Blessed are the souls that solve
-----The paradox of pain,
And find the path that, piercing it,
-----Leads through to peace again.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about G.A. Studdert Kennedy: 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, November 4, 2019

Anne Brontë

Anne Brontë (1820―1849) is the youngest of the Brontë sisters. Their father was an evangelical Anglican priest who was appointed Rector of Haworth in Yorkshire shortly after Anne’s birth. Her mother died when Anne was barely a year old.

She wrote under the pseudonym of Acton Bell ― contributing 21 poems to a book of verse published in 1846 by the three sisters, which went unnoticed. She went on to publish two novels ― Agnes Grey (1847) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848). Anne’s novels sold well, perhaps due to the association in the minds of the public with her sisters’ successful novels ― Emily’s Wuthering Heights and Charlotte’s Jane Eyre (both published in 1847). She fell ill with tuberculosis late in 1848, and died by the following May.

The Penitent

I mourn with thee and yet rejoice
That thou shouldst sorrow so;
With Angel choirs I join my voice
To bless the sinner's woe.
Though friends and kindred turn away
And laugh thy grief to scorn,
I hear the great Redeemer say
'Blessed are ye that mourn'.

Hold on thy course nor deem it strange
That earthly cords are riven.
Man may lament the wondrous change
But 'There is joy in Heaven'!

The post this past week at Poems For Ephesians is also about Anne Brontë.

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, October 28, 2019

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872—1906) was one of the earliest black poets to gain wide attention in the United States. He couldn’t afford to go to college, and so took a job as an elevator operator in Dayton, Ohio. His first book Oak and Ivy (1893) was self-published, and he paid for it by selling copies to elevator riders for $1.

He soon moved to Chicago, where he was befriended by Frederick Douglass, who called him — “the most promising young colored man in America.”

His second book Majors and Minors (1895, Hadley & Hadley) appeared as his poems were receiving publication, in The New York Times and other major newspapers and magazines. A number of the poems in these collections were written in dialect, and were, at the time, the poems that drew attention to him.

His third book, was published by Dodd, Mead, & Company — and led to a six-month reading tour of England in 1897 — a company he subsequently published his poetry and fiction through.

He died from Tuberculosis when he was just 33.

We Wear the Mask

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

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, October 21, 2019

Gwyneth Lewis

Gwyneth Lewis is a Welsh poet who completed her studies at Cambridge, Harvard, Columbia, and Oxford. She writes both in English and Welsh; her first English-language collection Parables & Faxes (1995) won the Aldeburgh Festival Prize. She was appointed as the first National Poet of Wales for 2005/2006.

Her words “In these stones horizons sing” appear in six-foot letters on the face of the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff — along with a message in Welsh which has been translated as “Creating truth like glass from inspiration's furnace” — reflecting cultural aspirations for the people of Wales.

She has written two non-fiction books: Sunbathing in the Rain: A Cheerful Book about Depression (2002), and Two in a Boat: A Marital Rite of Passage (2005).

Gwyneth Lewis’s poetry collection Sparrow Tree (2011, Bloodaxe) won the Roland Matthias Poetry Award (which is awarded for poetry from Wales in English). It is the source for the following poem.

Philosophy

"Knitting's like everything," it's tempting to say.
No. Knitting's like knitting. Sure, there's cosmology

in Norwegian sweaters with vertical stars,
but as science that doesn't get us far.

If space is made of superstrings
then God's a knitter and everything

is craft. Perhaps we can darn
tears in the space-time continuum

and travel down wormholes to begin
to purl in another dimension's skein.

But no. There are things you can't knit:
a spaceship. A husband, though the wish

might be strong and the softest thread
would be perfect for the hair on his head,

another, tougher, that washes well
for his pecs and abdominals. You can stitch a soul

daily and unpick mistakes,
perform some moral nip and tucks —

forgiveness. Look out. Your Frankenstein
might turn and start knitting you again.

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.