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.