Monday, December 27, 2021

John Beaumont

John Beaumont (1583―1627) is an English poet. He studied at Oxford, and settled at Grace-Dieu Priory in Leicestershire, England, in 1605 to manage his family’s estates after the death of his elder brother. His younger brother, Francis Beaumont, established himself as a dramatist.

One of Sir John Beaumont’s great achievements was the poem in twelve books The Crown of Thorns, which he worked on for many years, although it was never published. The poem was much admired by those who read it; the manuscript was believed to be lost, until quite recently when it was discovered in the British Library, and identified as Beaumont’s.

His other books include The Metamorphosis of Tobacco (1602), and Bosworth Field (1629). He helped establish the heroic couplet as a common form in English poetry. Through court connections he was made a baronet in January 1626.

Of The Epiphany

Fair eastern star, that art ordained to run
Before the sages to the rising sun,
Here cease thy course, and wonder that the cloud
Of this poor stable can thy Maker shroud:
Ye heavenly bodies glory to be bright,
And are esteemed as ye are rich in light;
But here on earth is taught a different way,
Since under this low roof the Highest lay;
Jerusalem erects her stately towers,
Displays her windows, and adorns her bowers:
Yet there thou must not cast a trembling spark—
Let Herod’s palace still continue dark.
Each school and synagogue thy force repels,
There pride, enthroned in misty errors, dwells;
The temple where the priests maintain their quire
Shall taste no beam of thy celestial fire.
While this weak cottage all thy splendour takes,
A joyful gate of every chink it makes.
Here shines no golden roof, no ivory stair,
No king exalted in a stately chair,
Girt with attendants, or by heralds styled;
But straw and hay enwrap a speechless child.
Yet Sabæ’s lords before this babe unfold
Their treasures, offering incense, myrrh, and gold.
The crib becomes an altar; therefore dies,
Nor ox nor sheep, for in their fodder lies
The Prince of Peace, who, thankful for his bed,
Destroys those rites in which their blood was shed:
The quintessence of earth, he takes and fees,
And precious gums distilled from weeping trees;
Rich metals and sweet odours now declare
The glorious blessings which his laws prepare:
To clear us from the base and loathsome flood
Of sense, and make us fit for angels’ food;
Who lift to God for us the holy smoke
Of fervent prayers, with which we him invoke,
And try our actions in that searching fire
By which the seraphims our lips inspire.
No muddy dross pure minerals shall infect,
We shall exhale our vapours up direct:
No storms shall cross, nor glittering lights deface,
Perpetual sighs, which seek a happy place.

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, December 20, 2021

John Banister Tabb

John Banister Tabb (1845―1909) is a Virginia-born poet. He served in the Confederate army, and was imprisoned by the Union army for eight months. In 1884 he was ordained as a priest. He also taught English and Greek for many years at St. Charles College in Maryland.

His poems appeared in such publications as The Atlantic Monthly, and Harper’s Monthly, and later appeared in several volumes of his own poems. From the time he was fourteen his eyesight was poor, and later in life he went completely blind ― which makes his attention to the visual in the following poem noteworthy.

English poet Alice Meynell compiled A Selection from the Verses of John B. Tabb in 1906.

The Light Of Bethlehem

'Tis Christmas night! the snow,
A flock unnumbered lies:
The old Judean stars aglow,
Keep watch within the skies.

An icy stillness holds
The pulses of the night:
A deeper mystery infolds
The wondering Hosts of Light.

Till, lo, with reverence pale
That dims each diadem,
The lordliest, earthward bending, hail
The Light of Bethlehem!

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, December 13, 2021

Christina Rossetti*

Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830—1894) is one of the Victorian era’s finest poets. Born in England, into an artistic family, the youngest daughter of an Italian refugee, poet and scholar ― she was educated at home by her mother, who cultivated intellectual and artistic excellence in her children, as well as an abiding faith.

Christina Rossetti had wanted to join the work of Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War, but instead served as a visiting parish nurse to the poor; she later volunteered a good deal of her time at the St. Mary Magdalene Penitentiary in Highgate, a charitable institution for the reclamation of fallen women.

In 1861, her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti sent her now famous poem “Goblin Market” to the art critic John Ruskin with the hope that he would recommend it for publication. Ruskin believed the poem was “unpublishable” for reasons which now demonstrate he had misjudged both the public and the value of Christina’s originality. Despite this, her poems began to find publication, and her book Goblin Market and Other Poems was published by Macmillan in 1862, to critical acclaim.

In 1874 she began publishing her books of devotional prose, through which can be seen explicitly much of what she expressed, almost cryptically, through the concise style of her poems. In her discussions of natural and biblical images, she expounds her symbolic view of the world.

The final poetry collection Rossetti had published in her lifetime, Verses (1893), consists of 331 poems of faith.

Before The Paling Of The Stars

Before the paling of the stars,
Before the winter morn,
Before the earliest cockcrow
Jesus Christ was born:
Born in a stable,
Cradled in a manger,
In the world His hands had made
Born a stranger.

Priest and king lay fast asleep
In Jerusalem,
Young and old lay fast asleep
In crowded Bethlehem:
Saint and Angel, ox and ass,
Kept a watch together,
Before the Christmas daybreak
In the winter weather.

Jesus on His Mother's breast
In the stable cold,
Spotless Lamb of God was He,
Shepherd of the fold:
Let us kneel with Mary maid,
With Joseph bent and hoary,
With Saint and Angel, ox and ass,
To hail the King of Glory.

*This is the fourth Kingdom Poets post about Christina Rossetti: first post, second post, third 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, December 6, 2021

Anne Brontë*

Anne Brontë (1820―1849) is one of the famous Brontë sisters who lived in Haworth, Yorkshire as the daughters of a country parson. Little is known about Anne’s life ― as distinct from that of her older sisters Charlotte and Emily. While quite young Emily and Anne created a fictitious island called Gondal, which they wrote stories and poems about.

From 1839 to 1845, Anne served as a governess, which provided much insight for her into the lives of a wider range of people ― giving her the perspective from which to write her first novel, Agnes Grey (1847). Her poetry and fiction was at first overshadowed by that of her sisters.

An examination of her output, however, shows Anne to be a subtle and sophisticated writer. She is concerned with character, morality, and faith, and yet does not resort to easy answers to difficult issues. Since the publication of W. T. Hale's study, Anne Brontë: Her Life and Writings (1929), Anne has been increasingly seen as a significant 19th century novelist.

Music on Christmas Morning

Music I love—but ne’er a strain
Could kindle raptures so divine,
So grief assuage, so conquer pain,
And rouse this pensive heart of mine;
As that we hear on Christmas morn,
Upon the wintry breezes borne.

Though darkness still her empire keep,
And hours must pass, ere morning break;
From troubled dreams, or slumbers deep,
That music kindly bids us wake:
It calls us, with an angel’s voice,
To wake, and worship, and rejoice.

To greet with joy the glorious morn,
Which angels welcomed long ago,
When our redeeming Lord was born,
To bring the light of Heaven below;
The powers of darkness to dispel,
And rescue Earth from death and hell.

While listening to that sacred strain,
My raptured spirit soars on high;
I seem to hear those songs again
Resounding through the open sky,
That kindled such divine delight,
In those who watched their flocks by night.

With them, I celebrate His birth;
Glory to God, in highest Heaven,
Good will to men, and peace on Earth,
To us a Saviour King is given;
Our God is come to claim His own,
And Satan’s power is overthrown!

A sinless God, for sinful men,
Descends to suffer and to bleed;
Hell must renounce its empire then;
The price is paid, the world is freed,
And Satan’s self must now confess,
That Christ has earned a right to bless.

Now holy peace may smile from Heaven,
And heavenly truth from earth shall spring:
The captive’s galling bonds are riven,
For our Redeemer is our King;
And He that gave His blood for men
Will lead us home to God again.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Anne Brontë: 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, November 29, 2021

Evelyn Mattern

Evelyn Mattern (1941―2003) is known as a social activist who worked as a lobbyist and organizer for the North Carolina Council of Churches. She was born and grew up in Philadelphia, where she joined the convent of the sisters of Immaculate Heart of Mary. She completed her doctorate in literature at the University of Pennsylvania in 1969, and moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, to teach English at St. Augustine's University ― an historically black school.

She wrote two books for Ave Maria Press: Blessed Are You: The Beatitudes of Our Survival (1994) and Why Not Become Fire? Encounters with Women Mystics (1999). A collection of her poetry and prose ― Ordinary Places, Sacred Spaces ― with artwork by Helen David Brancato, appeared from the Calgary publisher Bayeux Arts in 2005.

The following poem first appeared in Sojourners in December 1986.

Advent

This bright blue first day of December
a tail wind brings my bike to town,
passing a pilgrimage of pick-up trucks
trailing five floats for the parade.
Styrofoam reindeer on crepe paper snow
pull that empty sleigh of sturdy foil
wrapping paper.
Coming home I pass the small black church,
in the head wind hear the choir,
patched cars parked on the grassless lawn,
trying out "Messiah" to the organ thumps.
Not through the wind or the fire
but the still small voice
of the whisper in the night
from the woman on the mule
to the man in the road
God speaks.

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, November 22, 2021

Julia Spicher Kasdorf*

Julia Spicher Kasdorf is a Pennsylvania poet who has published four collections. She has also authored the essay collection The Body and the Book: Writing from a Mennonite Life, and the biographical study, Fixing Tradition: Joseph W. Yoder, Amish American.

Her latest poetry project is a significant departure from her earlier work. Shale Play: Poems and Photographs from the Fracking Fields (Pennsylvania State University Press), which she wrote in collaboration with Steven Rubin. She is a Liberal Arts Professor of English at Penn State University, and he is a documentary photographer, who is a Professor of Art (also at Penn State).

“I’m a Mennonite ― I can’t understand anything first without understanding its history,” Kasdorf told a friend and interviewer. She had been teaching a course in documentary poetry, when she and her husband took a motorcycle ride through Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. Seeing the impact of fracking on the people and the landscape led her to want to document what is happening without coming down on either side of the debate.

The documentary approach to poetry also comes through in her other poetry books ― Sleeping Preacher, Eve’s Striptease, and Poetry in America ― particularly when she takes on the role of an observer of rural Mennonite or Amish life.

The following poem is from her third collection Poetry In America (Pittsburgh).

Sometimes It’s Easy To Know What I Want

On a road that cuts through the richest, non-irrigated land
in the nation, according to some Lancaster, PA, natives,

a minivan slowed, and a woman with a good haircut yelled,
Do you want a ride, or are you walking because you want to?

I didn’t reply because my life felt so wrecked―
no matter the reason, either you get this or you don’t―

wrecked in the way that makes gestures of tenderness
devastating, like the time I showed up in Minnesota, brittle

with sorrow, and the professor sent to fetch me
asked if I wanted heat in the seat of his sports car

or the local apple he’d brought in case I arrived hungry.
I didn’t know people make seats to hold a body in radiance

like the merciful hand of God. The apple was crisp and cold
and sweet. Maybe I looked in his eyes and shook his hand

in both of mine when I left, I don’t remember. Months later,
he sent an empty seed packet, torn open, lithographed

with a fat, yellow annual no one grows any more, flamboyant
as Depression-era glassware. That was all, thank you.

Thank you, oh thanks so much, I finally told the woman
framed by a minivan window, but yes, I do want to walk.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Julia Spicher Kasdorf: 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, November 15, 2021

Pádraig J. Daly*

Pádraig J. Daly is a Dublin poet and Augustan priest whose numerous poetry books include The Last Dreamers: New & Selected Poems (1999), The Other Sea (2003), Afterlife (2010) and God in Winter (2015). His most-recent collection is A Small Psalter (Scotus Press).

His work also includes translations of other poets’ writing from Irish and Italian. I highlighted his translations of Jacopone da Todi here at Kingdom Poets back in October.

In The Furrow, Madeleine Lombard said, “The language of Daly’s poetry is pared down, stripped bare, distilled to its essence, and there is not one unnecessary word, not one single distraction from either the ideas themselves or their poetic expression” ― which is high praise, indeed!

The following excerpts are from the title poem of his new poetry book.

from A Small Psalter

14.

I begged for faith and clarity
That my words might be storm-lanterns
For flounderers in uproarious seas.

But You have left me swinging still
From faith to numbness;
And back again.

I look for You
But wait must to be found.

26.

My Own, who hide
In the light and shadow of the world
And in the plunging ravines of the heart:

Lost in labyrinths of reason,
Few and fewer find You;

And we who do
Have but stumbling words to voice our certainty.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Pádraig J. Daly: 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, November 8, 2021

Siegfried Sassoon

Siegfried Sassoon (1886―1967) is primarily known as a poet of WWI. Even so, he continued writing for the rest of his life, including the faith-inspired poetry of his latter years.

He shocked Britain when ― on July 30th, 1917 ― his editorial “A Soldier’s Declaration” was read in the British House of Commons, and the next day appeared in The London Times. Such a statement was enough to have him court-martialled or even shot ― but how do you execute a war hero who’d been decorated with the Military Cross, for voicing the much-supported opinion that by that time the war should be over? The alternative had him treated for shell shock at Craiglockhart War Hospital, which is where he first met Wilfred Owen.

Sassoon caused shockwaves in his personal life after the war ― having affairs with male writers, and then, suddenly in 1933, marrying high-society girl Hester Gatty, who was nineteen years younger than he was. Similarly, he caused a stir when he converted to Roman Catholicism in 1957.

This transition was spurred by an initial letter from Mother Margaret Mary McFarlin, superior of the Convent of the Assumption in Kensington Square, London, saying she discerned a “yearning for God” in his poetry. The two became close friends.

The following poem is from his book The Path to Peace (Stanbrook Abbey Press, 1960).

Awaitment

Eternal, to this momentary thing ―
This mind ― Thy sanctuary of stillness bring.
Within that unredeemed aliveness live:
And through Thy sorrowless sacrament forgive.
-------Let me be lost; and lose myself in Thee.
-------Let me be found and find my soul set free.

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, November 1, 2021

Andrew Marvell*

Andrew Marvel (1621—1678) is an English Metaphysical poet, who in the years following his death was best known for his satirical prose and verse. In the 1640s he was a royalist sympathizer, but later became a supporter of Cromwell and Parliament ― even becoming a member of Parliament, himself. He was a Puritan, a friend of John Milton, and an opponent of Catholicism.

Marvell’s poem “To His Coy Mistress” ― “perhaps the most famous ‘persuasion to love’ or carpe diem poem in English” ― eloquently praises the woman his protagonist desires, encouraging her to not delay accepting his wooing. And yet, as the Poetry Foundation suggests, “Everything we know about Marvell’s poetry should warn us to beware of taking its exhortation to carnality at face value.” Several alternatives are suggested before concluding, “The persona’s desire for the reluctant Lady is mingled with revulsion at the prospect of mortality and fleshly decay, and he manifests an ambivalence toward sexual love that is pervasive in Marvell’s poetry.”

It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that his lyrical poems came out from under the shadow of his political writing. In 1921, T.S. Eliot published an essay in the Times Literary Supplement in which he struggled to define the quality in Marvell’s poetry that sets it apart ― wit and magniloquence, perhaps, in part ―
-------“The quality which Marvell had, this modest and certainly
-------impersonal virtue ― whether we call it wit or reason, or
-------even urbanity ― we have patently failed to define. By
-------whatever name we call it, and however we define that name,
-------it is something precious and needed and apparently extinct;
-------it is what should preserve the reputation of Marvell.”

Bermudas

Where the remote Bermudas ride
In th’ ocean’s bosom unespy’d,
From a small boat, that row’d along,
The list’ning winds receiv’d this song.

What should we do but sing his praise
That led us through the wat’ry maze
Unto an isle so long unknown,
And yet far kinder than our own?
Where he the huge sea-monsters wracks,
That lift the deep upon their backs,
He lands us on a grassy stage,
Safe from the storm’s and prelates’ rage.
He gave us this eternal spring
Which here enamels everything,
And sends the fowls to us in care,
On daily visits through the air.
He hangs in shades the orange bright,
Like golden lamps in a green night;
And does in the pomegranates close
Jewels more rich than Ormus shows.
He makes the figs our mouths to meet
And throws the melons at our feet,
But apples plants of such a price,
No tree could ever bear them twice.
With cedars, chosen by his hand,
From Lebanon, he stores the land,
And makes the hollow seas that roar
Proclaim the ambergris on shore.
He cast (of which we rather boast)
The Gospel’s pearl upon our coast,
And in these rocks for us did frame
A temple, where to sound his name.
Oh let our voice his praise exalt,
Till it arrive at heaven’s vault;
Which thence (perhaps) rebounding, may
Echo beyond the Mexic Bay.

Thus sung they in the English boat
An holy and a cheerful note,
And all the way, to guide their chime,
With falling oars they kept the time.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Andrew Marvel: first post.

Another Andrew Marvell poem was recently featured at Poems For Ephesians.

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, October 25, 2021

Pennar Davies

Pennar Davies (1911―1996) is a Welsh poet who in his latter, most-productive years exclusively wrote in the Welsh language. He was educated at University of Wales, Oxford, and Yale; he became a Congregational minister in Cardiff, and subsequently a professor of Church History. He took on the name Pennar, which is a stream running through Mountain Ash where he was born. He authored four poetry collections and four further books. His hymn “All Poor Men and Humble” (translated by Katharine Emily Roberts) appears in eleven hymnals. There are also several biographical books available about him, including a biography by Dawn Dweud, Saintly Enigma by Ivor Thomas Rees, and his autobiography Diary of a Soul.

He was a member of the separatist political party Plaid Cymru, became the Literary Editor for The Welsh Nationalist paper where he published work by R.S. Thomas, and was a significant advocate for Welsh-language broadcasting.

His son Dr. Meirion Pennar followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a leading Welsh language academic, translator and poet.

When I Was a Boy

When I was a boy there was a wonderous region
the other side of the mountain:
the sun livelier there, in its prime;
the moon gentler, its veil of enchantment
resting chastely on hill and dale;
the night like a sacrament,
the dawn like young love,
the afternoon like sliding on the Sea of Glass,
the evening like a respite after mowing;
the faces of ordinary folk like china dishes
and their voices like the soliloquy of countless waters
between the source and the sea,
and the people sons and daughters of old,
princes and countesses in the court;
and all the lines of nature, thought, society
and talent and will and sacrifice
and the saving and the wretchedness and the peace,
all the lines of venture, claim compassion,
meeting at eye level there
in an unvanishing vanishing point
called Heaven
and all on the other side of the mountain
in Merthyr, Troed-y-rhiw and Aber-fan
before I crossed the mountain
and I saw.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

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, October 18, 2021

Brad Davis*

Brad Davis is the author of three poetry collections: Opening King David (2011), Still Working It Out (2014), and his new book Trespassing On the Mount of Olives (Poiema/Cascade, 2021). Similar to how his first book consisted of poems in conversation with the Psalms, his new book’s poems are in conversation with the gospels. He has taught creative writing at the College of the Holy Cross, Eastern Connecticut State University, The Stony Brook School, and Pomfret School, where he served as school chaplain.

Marjorie Maddox has said of this new collection, “…Through persona poems and first-person narratives, the contemporary and biblical intersect with insight and humor. . . . What follows are spiritual and social examinations: ‘How to clear out a self from a self,’ how to protect the environment, how to face doubt and mortality, and, ultimately, how to ‘do whatever he tells you,’ even if that means, according to Davis, writing poems. Thank God for the latter.”

I am honoured to be the editor of the Poiema Poetry Series, and to have worked with Brad Davis on both Still Working It Out, and Trespassing On the Mount of Olives.

The following poem first appeared in Ekstasis, and is from his new poetry book.

The Generative Influence of Q on John’s Gospel

Luke 5:1–11

The fragment is on the mark.
Whoever wrote it down got it right,
and I should know.
From a boat offshore,
my younger self watched it happen:
the crowd pressing upon the Teacher
as he taught on the beach;
he commandeering Peter’s boat
and telling him to put out into deep water;
we rolling our eyes
when he instructed Peter to let down his net,
yet then having to help him land
that crazy haul of fish;
and finally back on the beach, the Teacher
announcing, From now on, you will catch men.
Ever since it was entrusted to me,
I have treasured this fragment,
holding it as first among the other fragments
I keep rolled in a scrap of leather.
And there’s a new reason I hold it dear.
Early last Sabbath, the rains dampening
my eagerness for eldership here in Ephesus,
I unrolled the fragment
to refresh my sense of commissioning—
you will catch men—
when suddenly the words
turned themselves inside out
and I became dizzy, like that day
in the upper room with the Spirit-fire.
Suddenly the crowd on the beach
listening to Jesus teach the word of God
became a crowd on a beach
listening to God.
I felt myself melt, as if into a glorious light.
Then later in the day words occurred to me—
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was—

along with a compulsion
to write them down
and follow them with other words.
And it was as though I were once again
following Jesus up some rocky path
between small towns on the way to Jerusalem.
I’m telling this to all of you
because the idea these words convey
will be called blasphemous.
I may suffer for having written them.
But I know and trust their source,
and when I’m done they must
be sent around to all the Teacher’s friends.
Which makes me nervous
how even they will receive them,
for none of the others have spoken as plainly
of the Teacher in this way—
as the great I AM. So I have awakened you,
the moon still bright above the city,
because I want you to sit with me and pray
as I write what I will write.
You know how tired I become by early afternoon,
and how I have needed your help
shepherding our little flock here in Ephesus.
Well, now I will need you even more
to help complete the new work. Please,
someone bring me my pen, ink, and parchment.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Brad Davis: first post, second 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, October 11, 2021

Elizabeth Barrett Browning*

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806―1861) is one of the nineteenth century’s greatest poets. She was outspoken against many abuses of human rights ― including against slavery, and the reliance upon slave labour on her family’s Jamaican sugar plantations. She also boldly expressed her Christian faith, and spoke out against issues such as child labour, even though these were not popular with many readers.

Her 11,000-line epic poem Aurora Leigh (1856) ― which is described as a novel in blank verse ― tells the story of the young woman, Aurora, who aspires to be a poet. One important focus of the story is the difficulty for women to have artistic ambitions, due to the restrictive expectations of women’s roles, and limited opportunities for education. Browning saw it as the most mature of her works. The critic John Ruskin called Aurora Leigh the greatest long poem of the nineteenth century.

The opening setting for Aurora Leigh is Florence, where Elizabeth and her husband Robert Browning primarily lived from 1846 until her death.

From Aurora Leigh ― Book VII

And truly, I reiterate, . . nothing's small!
No lily-muffled hum of a summer-bee,
But finds some coupling with the spinning stars;
No pebble at your foot, but proves a sphere;
No chaffinch, but implies the cherubim:
And,–glancing on my own thin, veined wrist,–
In such a little tremour of the blood
The whole strong clamour of a vehement soul
Doth utter itself distinct. Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
More and more, from the first similitude.

*This is the fourth Kingdom Poets post about Elizabeth Barrett Browning: first post, second post, third 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, October 4, 2021

Jacopone da Todi

Jacopone da Todi (ca. 1230―1306) is an Italian poet and Franciscan friar. The existence of hundreds of manuscripts of his Laud, point to the popularity of these poems. They were written in his Umbrian dialect of Italian. Along with many beautiful poems of rich faith, there are some expressing more extreme views, including glorifying the notion of madness for the sake of Christ. It is commonly thought that Jacopone also wrote the celebrated Latin poem “Stabat Mater Dolorosa,” although this is still in question.

He wrote many satirical poems, critical of corruption within the Catholic Church. He believed in the necessity of ascetic poverty for priests, and was critical of Pope Boniface VIII, whom he did not consider to be the legitimate pope. He was excommunicated and jailed, although later released and reinstated during his seventies by Pope Benedict XI.

Irish poet Pádraig J. Daly has just sent me a copy of the very enjoyable book, The God-Madness (2008, Dedalus Press), his translations from the Italian of several of Jacopone da Todi’s particularly devotional laud. The following poem is from this book.

Laud 82: The Siege of Love

LOVE O LOVE DIVINE,
Why have you laid siege to me?
You have fallen for me madly and cannot let me go.

From five directions you besiege me:
Through sight and hearing, taste and touch and smell.
If I emerge, I am caught: I cannot hide from you.

If I go out through my eyes, all I see is Love,
Depicted in every form, in every colour,
Reminding me over that I must live still with you.

If I go through the gate of hearing,
What does sound tell me? Sir, only of you.
I cannot exit here, for all I hear is bitter.

I cannot go through taste, since what I savour proclaims you:
Love, Love Divine! Love, Hungering Love,
You have hooked me that you might rule me!

If I go through the gate of smell,
Every creature has scent of you.
return wounded, tangled in every odour.

If I go through the gate they call touch,
I trace you in every creature;
It is madness, Love, to try to escape you.

Love, I try to flee,
Not willing to yield my heart:
But I have lost, and cannot find, myself.

If I see evil in anyone, fault or weakness,
You transform me into them and make my heart heavy.
Love I immeasurable, who is it you choose for loving?

Take me, Dead Christ; haul me from sea to sand,
Where I may grieve to see you so full of wounds,
And why it is you have been wounded? Only that I be healed.

Posted with permission of the translator.

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, September 27, 2021

Kim Hyunseung

Kim Hyunseung (1913―1975) is a Korean poet ― also known by the pen name Da Hyoung ― who was both influential as a poet and mentor. He was born in Pyongyang, North Korea, but moved with his family to Gwanju in South Korea during early childhood. He made his literary debut in 1934 with a poem in the Dong-A Ilbo newspaper.

He founded the literary journal, New Literature in 1951, and taught creative writing at Chosun University in the 1950s. He was a faithful Christian all his life.

A 40th anniversary memorial service was held in 2015 at Soongsil University featuring readings of Kim’s work and a musical setting of several of his poems.

The following was translated by Cho Young-Shil.

Autumn Prayer

In Autumn
let me pray . . .
Fill me with the humble mother tongue
bestowed on me at the fall of the leaves in time

In Autumn
let me love . . .
Embrace one only—
Plow this fertile
hour for the most beautiful fruit—

In Autumn
let me be solitary . . .
My soul,
like a raven who’s come through the sinuous waters
and the valley of lilies
to alight on a sapless bough

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, September 20, 2021

Karol Wojtyla

Karol Wojtyla (1920―2005) is better known as Pope John Paul II. He was born in Poland and became the first non-Italian pope in 500 years. At the time of his death he had served in this role for 26 years.

When he was 21, Wojtyla co-founded a theatre and worked as an actor, but he gave this up to become a priest. Even so, he continued to write extensively, including poetry and plays. He also became a full university professor in philosophy and theology. He was particularly drawn to the writings of John of the Cross. His own poetry has been described as “…philosophically visionary, mystical and metaphysical.”

In her book, Wind From Heaven: John Paul II ― The Poet Who Became Pope, Monika Jablonska says, “Chronologically, Karol Wojtyla was first a writer, then a Catholic priest, and finally the pope…” She considers his writings to have contributed significantly to his selection as pope.

When his poems (including these two) first appeared in Polish journals Wojtyla was a parish priest and auxiliary bishop in Krakow, who wrote using the pseudonym Andrzej Jawien. These poems have been translated by Jerzy Peterkiewicz, and are from The Place Within: The Poetry of Pope John Paul II (Random House).

Actor

So many grew round me, through me,
from my self, as it were.
I became a channel, unleashing a force
called man.
Did not the others crowding in, distort
the man that I am?
Being each of them, always imperfect,
myself to myself too near,
he who survives in me, can he ever
look at himself without fear?

Girl Disappointed in Love

With mercury we measure pain
as we measure the heat of bodies and air;
but this is not how to discover our limits―
you think you are the center of things.
If you could only grasp that you are not:
the center is He,
and He, too, finds no love―
why don't you see?
The human heart―what is it for?
Cosmic temperature. Heart. Mercury.

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, September 13, 2021

Margaret Avison*

Margaret Avison (1918—2007) is one of Canada’s most-celebrated poets. She received the Governor General’s Award twice ― for her collections Winter Sun (1960) and No Time (1990) ― was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1984, received the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2003 for Concrete and Wild Carrot, and the Leslie K. Tarr Award (2005) for outstanding contribution to Christian writing in Canada. Her archives are held at the University of Manitoba.

I had the privilege of contributing twice to presentations she gave at a writers’ conference near her home in downtown Toronto ― first in November of 2003 where I read a few of her poems for her (including the one in this post) as extended readings were becoming taxing for her ― and again one year later when I interviewed her. That interview (which I believe is the last she ever gave) appeared in Image, and was later included in her autobiography I Am Here And Not Not-There (2009, The Porcupine’s Quill).

The following poem is from her collection Concrete and Wild Carrot (2002, Brick Books). It also appears in my anthology The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry (2016, Poiema/Cascade).

On a Maundy Thursday Walk

The Creator was
walking by the sea, the
Holy Book says. Finely-tuned
senses — flooded with
intense awareness — tested
a clear serene constancy.

Who can imagine it, sullied
as our senses are? Faulty as are even our
most excellent makings?

The perfection of
created Being, in the perfect
morning was born from the walker-by-the-sea's
imagination. At a word —
the hot smell of sunned rock, of
the sea, the sea, the sound of lapping, bird-calls,
the sifting sponginess of sand
under the sandals, delicate.
April light—all, at a word
had become this almost-
overwhelming loveliness.

Surely the exultation —
the Artist
Himself immersed in
His work, finding it flawless —
intensified the so soon
leaving (lifted out of
mortal life for good
forever).

That too eludes
us who disbelieve that we
also shall say goodbye to
trees and cherished friends and
sunsets and crunching snow
to travel off
into a solo death.

How much more, that
(suffering this
creation to go under
its Maker, and us all)
He, the Father of love, should stake it all
on a sufficient
indeed on an essential
pivot.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Margaret Avison: first post, second 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, September 6, 2021

John the Apostle

John the Apostle (c. 6 AD―c. 100 AD) is one of Christ’s original twelve disciples, and the author of the Gospel of John, three New Testament epistles, and the Book of Revelation. In his gospel, John frequently refers to himself simply as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” He and his brother James, the sons of Zebedee and Salome, were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee, and were referred to by Jesus as "Boanerges" that is "sons of thunder". The two brothers, along with Peter, formed Christ’s inner circle.

John was the only one of the disciples who remained at the foot of the cross, along with the women, to witness the death of Jesus. He is also the only disciple, according to tradition, to die of natural causes ― each of the others (besides Judas) dying as martyrs. John had been exiled to the Isle of Patmos, as part of the persecution of Christians under the Emperor Domitian, and there received his vision which he records in the Book of Revelation.

In the following opening to John’s Gospel (King James Version), the John mentioned is John the Baptist, not John the Apostle.

From The Gospel of John

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word
was with God, and the Word was God.

2 The same was in the beginning with God.

3 All things were made by him; and without him
was not any thing made that was made.

4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness
comprehended it not.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the
Light, that all men through him might believe.

8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness
of that Light.

9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man
that cometh into the world.

10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him,
and the world knew him not.

11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power
to become the sons of God, even to them that believe
on his name:

13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh,
nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,
(and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten
of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

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, August 30, 2021

Walter Wangerin Jr.*

Walter Wangerin Jr. (1944―2021) is the author of more than 40 books, and served as a Lutheran pastor, and as a professor at Evansville University and later at Valparaiso University ― both in Indiana. His novel Book of the Dun Cow (1978) rocketed him into the spotlight, enabling him to write a wide variety of books across his career.

He has participated as a member of the Chrysostom Society, which includes (or included at various points) such fine writers as Madeleine L’Engle, Luci Shaw, Robert Siegel, John Leax, Doris Betts, Paul Willis, Jeanne Murray Walker, Eugene Peterson and Philip Yancey.

Yancey said in an August 9th memorial piece for Christianity Today, “As both a sermonizer and an artist, with graduate degrees in theology and English, Walt lived with the constant tension of how best to express themes of grace and the Cross. As a pastor, he found that story conveys truth most effectively and profoundly.”

Walter Wangerin Jr. lived with cancer for more than fifteen years, before dying on August 5th 2021. The following poem is from his collection On an Age-Old Anvil (Cascade Books, 2018).

Sacred

The wild geese lace the sky
flying north,
flying to the arctic
to lay and brood
the egg of creation.

The ancient Irishman
laying windrows with his scythe
looks up with a blue, rheumy eye.
He drops the cutting blade
and raises reverential hands.

Once it was a Dove,
the Holy Ghost descending.
Now it is the wild goose
flying.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Walter Wangerin Jr.: 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, August 23, 2021

Adélia Prado*

Adélia Prado is a leading Brazilian poet whose career was launched amid praise from modernist Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade, who suggested that St. Francis is dictating verses to a housewife in Minas Gerais; he said, “Adélia is lyrical, biblical, existential; she makes poetry as naturally as nature makes weather.” She is the first member of her family to attend university, completing degrees in Philosophy and Religious Education from the University of Divinópolis.

Idra Novey has said, “There is never a day that can’t be improved with a few lines by Adélia Prado.” In 2014 Prado was honoured with The Griffin Lifetime Achievement Award.

The following poem was translated from Portuguese by Ellen Doré Watson and appears in her book, The Mystical Rose: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2014).

Guide

Poetry will save me.
I feel uneasy saying this, since only Jesus
is Saviour, as a man inscribed
(of his own free will)
on the back of the souvenir crucifix he brought home
from a pilgrimage to Congonhas.
Nevertheless, I repeat: Poetry will save me.
It's through poetry that I understand the passion
He had for us, dying on the cross.
Poetry will save me, as the purple of flowers
spilling over the fence
absolves the girl her ugly body.
In poetry the Virgin and the saints approve
my apocryphal way of understanding words
by their reverse, my decoding the town crier's message
by means of his hands and eyes.
Poetry will save me. I won't tell this to the four winds,
because I'm frightened of experts, excommunication,
afraid of shocking the fainthearted. But not of God.
What is poetry, if not His face touched
by the brutality of things?

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Adélia Prado: 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, August 16, 2021

John Norris

John Norris (1657―1712) is an English philosopher, theologian, and metaphysical poet. An important concern for him was to try to prove the existence and immortality of the soul ― which I suspect are outside the range of things objectively provable. He was a philosophic opponent of John Locke, however, he and Locke corresponded with each other for many years. Locke even put in a good word for Norris, which led to his rectorship at Bemerton, Wiltshire. Eventually though, the two men quarrelled and expended considerable ink in refuting one another’s views.

Many of Norris’s best-known poems appeared in A Collection of Miscellanies (1687) which includes various writings; by 1730 a ninth edition was printed. One of his most popular books Christian Blessedness was published in 1690.

During the last twenty years of his life he wrote extensively, and lived the quiet life of a country parson in Bemerton, Wiltshire ― which had been the home of George Herbert.

Hymn to Darkness

Hail thou most sacred venerable thing!
What Muse is worthy thee to sing?
Thee, from whose pregnant universal womb
All things, even Light thy rival, first did come.
What dares he not attempt that sings of thee,
Thou first and greatest mystery?
Who can the secrets of thy essence tell?
Thou like the light of God art inaccessible.

Before great Love this monument did raise,
This ample theatre of praise.
Before the folding circles of the sky
Were tuned by Him who is all harmony.
Before the morning stars their hymn began,
Before the council held for man.
Before the birth of either Time or Place,
Thou reign'st unquestioned monarch in the empty space.

Thy native lot thou didst to Light resign,
But still half of the globe is thine.
Here with a quiet, and yet aweful hand,
Like the best emperors thou dost command.
To thee the stars above their brightness owe,
And mortals their repose below.
To thy protection Fear and Sorrow flee,
And those that weary are of light, find rest in thee.

Tho light and glory be th' Almighty's throne,
Darkness in His pavilion.
From that His radiant beauty, but from thee
He has His terror and His majesty.
Thus when He first proclaimed His sacred Law,
And would His rebel subjects awe,
Like princes on some great solemnity,
H' appeared in's robes of State, and clad Himself with thee.

The blest above do thy sweet umbrage prize,
When cloyed with light, they veil their eyes.
The vision of the Deity is made
More sweet and beatific by thy shade.
But we poor tenants of this orb below
Don't here thy excellencies know,
Till Death our understandings does improve,
And then our wiser ghosts thy silent night-walks love.

But thee I now admire, thee would I choose
For my religion, or my Muse.
'Tis hard to tell whether thy reverend shade
Has more good votaries or poets made,
From thy dark caves were inspirations given,
And from thick groves went vows to Heaven.
Hail then thou Muse's and Devotion's spring,
'Tis just we should adore, 'tis just we should thee sing.

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, August 9, 2021

Karen An-hwei Lee

Karen An-hwei Lee is an American poet, novelist and translator. Her first poetry collection, In Media Res (Sarabande Books, 2004), won the Norma Faber First Book Award and the Kathryn A. Morton Prize. She has translated the poetry and prose of twelfth century Chinese poet Li Qingzhao in her book Double Radiance (2018), and she has published two science-fiction novels. She is Provost and Professor of English at Wheaton College.

Lee’s fourth poetry book, Rose is a Verb: Neo-Georgics (2021), has just appeared from Wipf & Stock/Slant Books. Virgil’s poetic sequence Georgics is one of the inspirations behind these “Neo-Georgics” which reflect on relationships between the planet, the human, and the divine. Eric Pankey has said of this new collection, “ In the midst of such an innovative poetry, such a radical experimentation, what a surprise it is to find this kind and confident guide to take us on this journey. I cannot resist her pure and radiant voice, cannot help but follow where she leads.” Pankey's allusion to Dante is not lost on us.

The following poem first appeared in Christian Century.

Songs of Comfort

The friendly cellist with a big heart, a long-time resident
of a neighboring town where I grew up, who received
bouquets from the flower shop where I trimmed roses,
said his favorite thing to do after returning from a trip
was grocery shopping, savoring the essentials of small life
away from the airports and applause: buying milk, fruit
like blessings of solace: bread, tea, local honey in a jar
slow, lovely as sarabandes, those songs without words
aired in isolation through the pandemic. After his dose,
Yo-Yo Ma plays an impromptu concert for others waiting
in the fifteen-minute interval after the shots to monitor
allergic reactions. Masked, he lifts his cello out of its case,
perhaps his favorite one named Petunia, then tightens
the horsehair bow adroitly. The cello, with its mellow
notes of melancholy mingled with hope, fills the hall,
like the light at the end of the tunnel, the residents say.
Light at the end of the tunnel. I know it must be true
because I would never put this trite sentence in a poem
otherwise. God is waiting for us to pay attention:
God is waiting in the light.

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, 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.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Gillian Allnutt

Gillian Allnutt is an English poet who was presented the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry by Queen Elizabeth II in February of 2017. She has published nine collections, including How the Bicycle Shone: New & Selected Poems (2007) and wake (2018) both from Bloodaxe Books.

In a recent review in the Church Times, Martyn Halsall said, “Gillian Allnutt’s spare, elegiac poems are like runes on bone; messages from another world” which is an apt description since her poems are often spare to the point of being obscure. He also said, “These are pilgrim poems, light-footed, and yet dedicated to spiritual quest; ambitious in their intensity; profound in their search for grace…”

The following poems are both from Lintel (2001, Bloodaxe Books).

Meditation

I said to my soul: be still and wait
where the light green sediment collects

at the lake’s near edge.
An old red lifebelt hangs in silence, sedge-

still. Still the long rope,
loosely gathered, loops

on its cast-iron post
like hope, at rest.

The Road Home

It is the road to God
that matters now, the ragged road, the wood.

And if you will, drop pebbles here and there
like Hansel, Gretel, right where

They’ll shine
in the wilful light of the moon.

You won’t be going back to the hut
where father, mother plot

the cul de sac of the world
in a field

that’s permanently full
of people

looking for a festival
of literature, a fairy tale,

a feathered
nest of brothers, sisters. Would

that first world, bared now to the word
God, wade

with you, through wood, into the weald and weather
of the stars?

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 7, 2021

Joanne Epp*

Joanne Epp has just had her second poetry collection launched by Turnstone Books, which is now being celebrated with a “blog tour” ― which is their creative take on advancing a new book during our current pandemic! The book is Cattail Skyline and is her follow-up to her earlier collection Eigenheim.

The landscape captured in these pages is predominantly the Saskatchewan of her youth, both remembered and revisited: a land of railways, buffalo rubbing stones, an ancestral cemetery, pin cherries, chokecherries, raspberries, riverbanks, treaty territory, wild strawberries, cranberries, bunchberries, saskatoon berries, and cattails. There’s also one section about the author’s trip to Cambodia in 1994 with the Mennonite Central Committee.

Epp is a Winnipeg poet who consistently speaks of her perspective on the artform. “I approach poetry as a way of expressing and giving shape to what I encounter in the world,” she said in recent interview with Poetry In Voice. “[W]hile a love of language is essential, poetry also has to come out of a love for the world.”

She serves as assistant organist at St. Margaret's Anglican Church in Winnipeg. The following poem is from Cattail Skyline.

Image in a country church

Horse Lake, Saskatchewan

Sunday, white clapboard unbearably bright.
People shading eyes as they greet
and pass inside to hear the preacher read
the Revelation of John: a lamb standing
as though it had been slain
—the paradox
we can hardly speak, the reason
we’ve come and sung, reminded again
how mystery resides in that harsh death,
the rising after, its unnerving glory. It’s here
in this small clearing—that glory, declared
in morning rays through arched windows,
shining the varnished pews;
in brightness flashing out from everything:
white doors, chrome on cars, flecks of mica
in the gravelled yard. Each waxy needle on spruce,
each trembling aspen leaf, each face.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Joanne Epp: 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, May 31, 2021

Lucy Maud Montgomery

Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874―1942) is a Canadian author, particularly famous for her 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables, and its sequels. Much of her fiction is set in Prince Edward Island ― which has become a significant focus for the island’s tourism. She went on to publish 20 novels, hundreds of short stories, and more than 500 poems. As is often the case, as her fiction increased in popularity, her poetry writing decreased.

As a poet she was greatly influenced by the Romantics, and Lord Tennyson. Her most ambitious poem “The Watchman” is a dramatic monologue reminiscent of Robert Browning, which tells the story of a Roman soldier, Maximus, who witnessed the resurrection of Christ.

The following poem first appeared in The Christian Advocate on October 1st 1908, and is from The Watchman and Other Poems (1916). John Ferns, an English professor at McMaster University, wrote in 1986 about this poem, “Perhaps it is the Biblical subject of drought or the Christian idea of rebirth that provokes the increasing use of religious language as the poem proceeds.”

After Drought

Last night all through the darkling hours we heard
The voices of the rain,
And every languid pulse in nature stirred
Responsive to the strain;
The morning brought a breath of strong sweet air
From shadowy pinelands blown,
And over field and upland everywhere
A newborn greenness shone.

The saintly meadow lilies offer up
Their white hearts to the sun,
And every wildwood blossom lifts its cup
With incense overrun;
The brood whose voice was silent yestereve
Now sings its old refrain,
And all the world is grateful to receive
The blessing of the rain.

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.