Monday, August 19, 2019

Paul Mariani*

Paul Mariani is an emeritus professor of English at Boston College. He holds a unique place as a biographer of poets — including having written books about Wallace Stevens, John Berryman, Gerard Manley Hopkins, William Carlos Williams, and Robert Lowell. His biography of Hart Crane, The Broken Tower, is the basis for the James Franco biopic of the same name, which was released in 2012.

He has had seven volumes of poetry published, including Epitaphs for the Journey: New, Selected, and Revised Poems (Poiema Poetry Series/Cascade Books) — on which I served as Paul’s editor. In September, he is to receive the inaugural Flannery O'Connor Lifetime Achievement Award at Loyola University in Chicago.

Mariani has published other significant books as well, including the spiritual memoir Thirty Days: on Retreat with the Exercises of St. Ignatius (2003, Penguin). His most recent book, The Mystery of It All: The Vocation of Poetry in the Twilight of Modernism, is newly published by Paraclete Press.

The following poem recently appeared in America.

What Happened Then

Do we understand what happened then?
The few of us in that shuttered room,
lamps dimmed, afraid of what would happen
when they found us? The women back
this morning to tell Peter what they’d seen.
Then these two back from Emmaus.
And now here he was. Here in the room with us.
Strange meeting this, the holes there
in his hands and feet and heart.
And who could have guessed a calm like this
could touch us. But that was what we felt.
The deep relief you feel when the one
you’ve searched for in a crowd appears,
and your unbelieving eyes dissolve in tears.
For this is what love looks like and is
and what it does. “Peace” was what he said,
as a peace like no other pierced the gloom
and descended on the room.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Paul Mariani: 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, August 12, 2019

Thomas of Celano

Thomas of Celano (c.1185—c.1265) is famous for his biographies of Francis of Assisi, the first of which was written at the request of Pope Gregory IX. He joined the Franciscans around 1215, and was acquainted with Francis personally. He is considered a likely author for a life of Clare of Assisi as well.

Thomas is also believed to be the author of the following Latin hymn — Dies Irae — which has been set to music for the Requiem Mass by many including Mozart and Verdi. It is unusual in that it was written in rhyme, which was not common for Latin in the classical period.

I have taken the liberty of slightly modernizing the following English version, which was translated by William J. Irons.

Day of Wrath (Dies Irae)

Day of wrath, O day of mourning!
See fulfilled the prophet's warning:
Heaven and earth in ashes burning.
Wondrous sound the trumpet flings,
Through earth's sepulchers it rings,
All before the throne it brings.
O what fear man's bosom rends
When from heaven the Judge descends
On whose sentence all depends.

Death is struck and nature quaking;
All creation is awaking,
To its Judge an answer making.
Lo, the book, exactly worded,
Wherein all has been recorded;
So shall judgment be awarded.
When the Judge His seat attains,
And each hidden deed arraigns,
Nothing unavenged remains.

What shall I, frail man, be pleading,
Who for me be interceding
When the just are mercy needing?
King of Majesty tremendous,
Who does free salvation send us,
Fount of pity, then befriend us!
Righteous Judge, for sin's pollution
Grant your gift of absolution
Ere the Day of Retribution.

Faint and weary you have sought me,
On the cross of suffering bought me;
Shall such grace be vainly brought me?
Think, good Jesus, my salvation
Caused your wondrous incarnation;
Leave me not to sin's damnation!
Guilty now I pour my moaning,
All my shame with anguish owning:
Hear, O Christ, your servant's groaning!

Bows my heart in meek submission,
Strewn with ashes of contrition;
Help me in my last condition!
Worthless are my prayers and sighing;
Yet, Good Lord, in grace complying,
Rescue me from fires undying.
You the sinful woman saved;
You the dying thief forgave;
And to me true hope vouchsaved!

With your favored sheep then place me,
Nor among the goats abase me,
But to your right hand upraise me.
While the wicked are confounded,
Doomed to flames of woe unbounded,
Call me, with your saints surrounded.
To the rest you did prepare me
On your cross; O Christ, upbear me!
Spare, O God, in mercy spare me.

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, August 5, 2019

William Blake*

William Blake (1759—1827) is a London poet, and artist — often categorized with the English romantic poets, even though he was such a unique figure. During his lifetime he did not receive the recognition of Wordsworth and Coleridge, and he spent most of his life in London rather than the idyllic Lake District.

He spoke out against injustice. In such poems as “London” and “The Chimney Sweeper” from his Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794) he shone a light on the plight of the poor climbing boys. He was critical of both church and state whose self-interest encouraged this exploitation. A Christian politician, Lord Shaftesbury, did much to end this practice through laws limiting child labour (1833) and finally the Chimney Sweepers Act (1875). Blake’s poetry was a voice crying in this wilderness.

Blake was very clearly a Christian, as expressed in his own writing, but he also believed he received visions right from the time he was a child. He said that many of his poems and images were inspired by angelic messengers.

You Don’t Believe

You don't believe — I won't attempt to make ye, and that
You are asleep — I won't attempt to wake ye.
Sleep on! sleep on! while in your pleasant dreams
Of Reason you may drink of Life's clear streams.
Reason and Newton, they are quite two things;
For so the swallow and the sparrow sings.

Reason says `Miracle': Newton says `Doubt.'
Aye! that's the way to make all Nature out.
`Doubt, doubt, and don't believe without experiment':
That is the very thing that Jesus meant,
When He said `Only believe! believe and try!
Try, try, and never mind the reason why!'

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about William Blake: 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, July 29, 2019

Chris Anderson

Chris Anderson is a professor emeritus of English at Oregon State University. His 14 books include three poetry collections; the newest is You Never Know (2018, Stephen F. Austin University Press). He describes himself as “a believer and a walker in the woods”. He is also an ordained Catholic deacon.

In his book Light When It Comes: Trusting Joy, Facing Darkness, and Seeing God in Everything (Eerdmans, 2016) he writes, “We all have moments…that move us somehow, that seem to mean something we can’t quite put into words, but we are embarrassed by them or we doubt them or in the rush of things that happen to us each day we forget about them.” His book’s purpose, as the subtitle expresses, is to encourage us to trust such moments because they can lead us to God.

Paul Willis has described “a shimmering strangeness that marks the presence of the holy” in Anderson’s poetry. His website is: www.deaconchrisanderson.com

With an Intimate Friend

With an intimate friend
you don’t always have to be intimate.
Especially in the morning.
You can just sit together
drinking coffee. Reading the paper.
So it is with prayer.
He the front page, you the sports.

Posted with permission of the poet. This post was suggested by Charles Wood.

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 22, 2019

Daffyd ap Gwilym

Daffyd ap Gwilym (c.1315—c.1350) is a Welsh poet, born into an aristocratic family. About 170 of his poems survive, although others have also been attributed to him in the past.

In a day when Welsh court poets kept themselves out of their verse, he made himself (or a fictionalized version of himself) the focus of his poetry — perhaps due to the influence of French poets. He wrote praise for rich patrons, and poems of erotic love and nature — “The Girls of Llanbadarn” being a shameless, youthful, self-mocking lament at being rejected by the girls he sees in church.

Two rival Welsh communities claim to be his burial place. It is thought that Daffyd ap Gwilym may have been a victim of the Black Death. Besides what the poet tells us, little is known about him. The sculpture pictured is found in Cardiff City Hall.

The Skylark

The lark’s special hours of prayer
Spiral up from its house each day,
world’s early bird, spate of gold song,
Heavenwards, April’s porter.

Graceful voice, melody’s helmsman,
Sweet path, lovely labour is yours,
Shaping song above hazel groves,
Grey wings’ gracious achievement.
Yours the spirit, precious task,
And high-flown speech for preaching,
Strong song from the fount of faith,
Privileged in God’s presence.
Aloft you soar, cai’s own power,
And aloft you sing each song.
Bright spell near the wall of stars,
Zenith’s long circling journey,
Full measure, you have mounted
High enough: the prize is yours.

Let every good creature praise
Its Creator, pure bright Ruler.
Cease not, thousands hear it, it’s worthy,
To praise God as He decrees.
Love’s author’s way, where are you?
Clear sweet voice, in grey-brown garb.
Yours is pure cheerful singing,
Melody-maker, russet muse.
Chanter of heaven’s chapel,
Fair the omen, skilful are you,
Ploughland franchise, frequent deft lyric,
Crested, and the cloak is brown.

Set a course for well-known skies,
Singer, wild moorland region
One beholds you high above
Surely, when the day is longest.
When you arise to worship,
Gift bestowed by the Trinity,
Not a treetop sustains you
Above the world, you’re eloquent,
But the just Father’s graces,
His miraculous providence.

Teacher of praise dawn to darkness,
Descend, may God bless your wings.
My fair brown bird, my envoy,
And my fellow bard, if you’d go,
Bring greetings to a beauty,
Radiant her gift, Gwynedd’s moon,
And seek one of her kisses
To bring here to me, or two.
Lord of the sky’s chartless sea,
Hover by her hall yonder:
Small matter, may I be with her,
Eiddig’s anger, one morning.

For your wretched slaughter the fine
Is such that none dare slay you.
Should he try it, bold plotting,
Eiddig’s bane, you’ll stay alive:
Great the compass that’s your birdcage,
You’re so far from bow and hand.
Stamping the ground , sad the bowman,
His great aim will go awry:
Wicked his wrath, wheel above him
While he with his arrow goes by.

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, July 15, 2019

Mark S. Burrows

Mark S. Burrows is an American poet and professor living in Bochum, Germany, where he is on the faculty of Protestant University of Applied Sciences, and is Poetry Editor for Spiritus (John Hopkins University). He has translated many poets, including in the book-length collections Prayers of a Young Poet by Rilke, and Meister Eckhart’s Book of the Heart (with Jon M. Sweeney).

His poetry and translations have appeared in such publications as Christian Century, Anglican Theological Review, and Poetry. His newest book, The Chance of Home (2018, Paraclete Press), is a collection of his own poetry; it is the source for the following poem.

A Stubborn Parable

I don’t know what Nature is: I sing it.
—Fernando Pessoa

This morning, sitting in a small enclosed garden,
I notice a sprig of green clinging improbably to

a dark stone wall, its roots rising from a slender
crease where a stray seed once fell, carried by

the winds, perhaps, or some wayward bird—who
could ever tell? It somehow found an edge of soil

and held out against the thrust of winter’s snow
and ice, lifting itself up toward the sun against

an unforgiving face of stone—a parable of grit,
the resilience of song, a strong resonance of hope.

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, July 8, 2019

Ralph Erskine

Ralph Erskine (1685—1752) is a Scottish poet and chaplain. He attended Edinburgh University, and was ordained in 1711. He is remembered for his devotional writing, especially his Gospel Sonnets — poetic theological reflections, with memorable analogies, which were not structured as sonnets at all. By 1797 they had appeared in 25 editions.

One of his most interesting creations is “Meditations On Smoking Tobacco; Or, Smoking Spiritualized” — a 50-line poem of metaphoric reflections for smokers:
-----...And when the smoke ascends on high,
-----Then thou behold’st the vanity
-----Of worldly stuff,
-----Gone with a puff.
-----Thus think, and smoke tobacco...

He died at Dunfermline, where he served for many years. A larger-than-life statue of him was erected there, in front of Queen Ann Street Church, in 1849.

from The Believer's Soliloquy; Especially in Times of Desertion, Temptation, Affliction
Sect. VI. The Song of Heaven desired by Saints on Earth

…Glory to God that here we came,
And glory to the glorious Lamb.
Our light, our life, our joy, our all
Is in our arms, and ever shall.

Our Lord is ours, and we are his;
Yea, now we see him as he is:
And hence we like unto him are,
And full his glorious image share.

No darkness now, no dismal night,
No vapour intercepts the light;
We see for ever face to face,
The highest Prince in highest place.

This, this does heav'n enough afford,
We are for ever with the Lord:
We want no more, for all is giv'n;
His presence is the heart of heav'n."

While thus I laid my list'ning ear
Close to the door of heav'n to hear;
And then the sacred page did view,
Which told me all I heard was true;

Yet shew'd me that the heav'nly song
Surpasses ev'ry mortal tongue,
With such unutterable strains
As none in fett'ring flesh attains:

Then said I, "O to mount away,
And leave this clog of heavy clay!
Let wings of time more hasty fly,
That I may join the songs on high."

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.