Monday, April 5, 2021

Margo Swiss*

Margo Swiss taught English and Creative Writing at York University for over 35 years, before her retirement in 2018. Her newest poetry collection is Second Gaze (2020, St. Thomas Poetry Series). This book takes its title, she tells us, from Richard Rohr’s The Divine Dance: "We know things in their depth only by the second gaze of love." Swiss focuses on this contemplative, spiritual way of looking, enabling us to see things as they truly are.

Since the anticipated launch event at St. Thomas’s Anglican Church in Toronto was blocked because of the pandemic, a video of her reading from the book may be viewed here.

The following poem is from her 2015 collection The Hatching of the Heart (Poiema/Cascade). It is also included in the current issue of Faith Today.

Easter Conversations

“they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here but is risen: remember how he spoke unto you when he was yet in Galilee”----------------------------------------------Luke 24. 5-6; 10-11

Jesus Christ knows flesh,
bodies speaking, always did
do what his Father said
His mother’s hard labour first,
in time his own: walked his talk, then
was crossed, tombed, shut up for good
dead (it was said)
until
He heard his Father say, rise
be born again this day.


“It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary, the mother of James, and the other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles. And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.”

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Margo Swiss: 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, March 29, 2021

G.K. Chesterton*

G.K. Chesterton (1874—1936) is an important Christian intellectual, known for his fiction including The Man Who Was Thursday (1908), and his popular mystery stories featuring Father Brown (a character misappropriated by a recent TV series) which were published between 1910 and 1936.

He is the author of more than eighty books, including poetry, plays, novels, short stories, essays, theology, and apologetics. He was also a newspaper columnist, and a radio personality on the BBC.

T.S. Eliot said of Chesterton, “His poetry was first-rate journalistic balladry...” He also highly praised Chesterton’s novels and his nonfiction book Charles Dickens: A Critical Study (1906).

The Calvary

In the dark of this cloud-laden even
Still upraised, son of man, still alone
Yea, 'mid empires still shifting and breaking
This place is thine own.

All thrones are left fallen and naked
All treasures corrupt and all gains
O Prince of four nails and a gibbet
Thy Kingdom remains.

On an age full of noises and systems
Where comfortless craze follows craze
Where the passions are classified forces
Where man is a phrase.

On an age where the talkers are loudest
From thy silence, thy torment, thy power
O splendour of wrath and of pity
Look down for an hour.

Go hence: To your isles of the blessèd
Go hence, with the songs that you sing:
For this is the kingdom of pity
And Christ is the king.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about G.K. Chesterton: 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, March 22, 2021

Denise Levertov*

Denise Levertov (1923—1997) is an American poet, who was born in Britain. She received many awards, including the Robert Frost Medal, and the Conference on Christianity & Literature Lifetime Achievement Award in Poetry. Most of her 24 poetry collections were published through New Directions. She taught at several universities including Brandeis, MIT, Tufts, and Stanford. In 1989 she moved to Seattle, and taught part time at University of Washington.

Although her father was an Anglican priest, she was an agnostic up until her conversion to Christianity in 1984 ― which she described as a gradual move from regretful scepticism to Christian belief. In a 1990 essay she referred to the work of the artist, as work that "enfaiths," and said the imagination is “the chief of human faculties," and it must be "by the exercise of that faculty that one moves toward faith, and possibly by its failure that one rejects it as delusion."

The following poem is from The Stream & the Sapphire (1997), a collection of her poems on religious themes.

What the Fig Tree Said

Literal minds! Embarrassed humans! His friends
were blurting for Him
in secret: wouldn’t admit they were shocked.
They thought Him
petulant to curse me!—yet how could the Lord
be unfair?—so they looked away,
then and now.
But I, I knew that
helplessly barren though I was,
my day had come. I served
Christ the Poet,
who spoke in images: I was at hand,
a metaphor for their failure to bring forth
what is within them (as figs
were not within me). They who had walked
in His sunlight presence,
they could have ripened,
could have perceived His thirst and hunger,
His innocent appetite;
they could have offered
human fruits—compassion, comprehension—
without being asked,
without being told of need.
My absent fruit
stood for their barren hearts. He cursed
not me, not them, but
(ears that hear not, eyes that see not)
their dullness, that withholds
gifts unimagined.

*This is the fourth Kingdom Poets post about Denise Levertov: first post, second post, third 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, March 15, 2021

Luke (Joseph A. Brown)

Luke (also known as Joseph A. Brown) is a Professor in the Department of Africana Studies at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, where he has taught since 1997. He is the author of The Sun Whispers, Wait: New and Collected Poems (2009, Brown Turtle Press).

Originally from East St Louis, Illinois, Joseph A. Brown became ordained to the priesthood in 1972. Some of his other books include To Stand on the Rock: Meditations on Black Catholic Identity (Orbis, 1998), and Sweet, Sweet Spirit: Prayer Services from the Black Catholic Church (2006). He is now on the advisory board of Presence: a Journal of Catholic Poetry.

Lord Knows

lord knows honey
she said folding her hands
into the flowers of her apron
you got to make your
own road
--------------sometime
it was her wisdom
so i waited

coming and going
aint gonna do
when you get to be
old like me----just
going
---------aint it like
some folks----to jump
on their own backs
stead of using the road
to get somewhere fools
is fools but you aint never been
one you hear
---------------sure gonna be hard
on your mama though
but she’ll do all right
-------------------------now
before you go i wants to give you
a little something
-----------------------to help out
and i still have it
and the dollar bill
she unfolded slowly and put
into my hand

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, March 8, 2021

Susan Alexander

Susan Alexander is a poet living on Bowen Island, which is in Howe Sound, just north of Vancouver. In 2019 she won the prestigious Mitchell Poetry Prize for a suite of poems which has now been included in her new poetry collection Nothing You Can Carry (2020, Thistledown).

Her poems are often concerned with environmental issues, particularly those faced in Howe Sound. She said in a recent interview, “The most urgent concern I have is for the planet. I see the environmental crisis partly as an inability to delay gratification. We practice short-term thinking even though our species is skilled at long term planning. I often ruminate about who and what humans are and why we are trashing the earth, our home.” In a poem about what she refers to as “our petroleum sins” she writes,
Save us O Lord
----------from our sins of omission
---------------and consumption
---------------and commission.

Her first poetry collection The Dance Floor Tilts (2017) was also published by Thistledown. Early in her pursuit of poetry she extensively read the poetry of Anglican priests R.S. Thomas and George Herbert, and was motivated by their work.

Susan Alexander has recently had a poem included in my web journal Poems For Ephesians.

The following poem is from Nothing You Can Carry.

Introit

Because there is little frivolity
or vanity left on a shining dome ―
akin to an ostrich egg,
that holy object hung
among the votives of the orthodox
church, or perhaps,
the full moon ― his thoughts
must be more august,
his words more prophetic.

He is no statue, though the white
looks cool as marble. I write
upon that curved surface
with fingertips, fond lips.

This teaches me
to shed all the pretty things
that keep me from
the invisible world I am
moving towards.

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, March 1, 2021

Bobi Jones

Bobi Jones (1929―2017) is a Welsh-language poet, and very much a Welsh nationalist. Many of his poems are portraits of personified rural landscapes, and portraits of common rural folk. Although he was passionate about his evangelical faith ― writing a regular column for a Welsh-language magazine about the Christian heritage within Welsh literature ― his poetry usually remains earthbound in its focus.

In his academic career Robert Maynard Jones was chair in Welsh Language at Aberystwyth University. He is one of the most prolific writers in the history of the Welsh language.

The following poem was translated into English by Joseph P. Clancy, and is from the collection Right as Rain.

Michelangelo’s Three Vocations

Often, confronting the hard, he would haul away
-----(by shelling the deceitful covering) a hidden
person from the rock. He discovered Creation by quarrying
-----and destroying the bad. A way once closed would open.

Often, when he confronted the soft, he would put
-----something extra where flesh and blood were lacking
on the limp canvas. He would interpret the Creation
-----by adding living being through a dash of paint.

But the essence of both would have been unseen, had their sound
-----not been shaped by a sonnet. He confessed there would have been
no way for the one or the other, the subtraction or the addition,
-----to come to life from the depths of their deaths
had the resurrection by the undying Word not turned
-----his words to living love through the grave's Creation.

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, February 22, 2021

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou (1928―2014) is a popular American poet, famous for the seven autobiographies she wrote, beginning with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969) which first brought her fame.

She started her performance career as a dancer in the 1950s, touring Europe in a production of Porgy and Bess, releasing an album, and singing her own songs in the 1957 film Calypso Heat Wave. She was an active supporter of Martin Luther King Jr. after hearing him speak at a Harlem church in 1960. Years later she read one of her poems at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton.

There is a poem in circulating on the internet called “I am a Christian” falsely attributed to Angelou. She was sometimes hesitant to make such a claim, seeing it as a declaration of having achieved holiness. She did say, though,
-----“I have always tried to find myself a church. I have studied
-----everything. I spent some time with Zen Buddhism and Judaism
-----and I spent some time with Islam. I am a religious person. It
-----is my spirit, but I found that I really want to be a Christian.
-----That is what my spirit seems to be built on. I just know that
-----I find the teachings of Christ so accessible. I really believe
-----that Christ made a sacrifice and for those reasons I want to be
-----a Christian.”

Savior

Petulant priests, greedy
centurions, and one million
incensed gestures stand
between your love and me.

Your agape sacrifice
is reduced to colored glass,
vapid penance, and the
tedium of ritual.

Your footprints yet
mark the crest of
billowing seas but
your joy
fades upon the tablets
of ordained prophets.

Visit us again, Savior.
Your children, burdened with
disbelief, blinded by a patina
of wisdom,
carom down this vale of
fear. We cry for you
although we have lost
your name.

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, February 15, 2021

Shann Ray

Shann Ray is a poet and writer who teaches at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. His first poetry collection Balefire (2014) won the High Plains Book Award for poetry, and his short story collection American Masculine (2011, Graywolf) received the American Book Award. He also writes social science as Shann Ray Ferch. His work has appeared in such publications as Poetry, Esquire, and McSweeney’s, and has received numerous awards besides those already mentioned.

Shann spent part of his childhood on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Southeast Montana, which is reflected in his writing ― including in his novel American Copper, which deals with issues of the horrific colonization of the Cheyenne people.

His new poetry book Atomic Theory 7: poems to my wife and God (2020, Wipf & Stock) also features the work of visual artist Trinh Mai.

The following poem previously appeared in Diode, and is from Atomic Theory 7.

from sundown

two things dostoyevski said:
beauty will save the world
and nothing is more beautiful than Christ

tell us of your stark trees Christ
standing cold with their limbs to the sky

place our hands into the coarse black coat of winter wolves

we cannot un-name you God
what does Christ even mean
she and i cannot un-remember you

tell me of your sky a red field behind the trees
and how you drink water through rock

Lord of wonder Lord of night
where dark smudges the world rim
blast us with wind and light

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, February 8, 2021

John F. Deane*

John F. Deane is an Irish poet from Achill Island. His numerous poetry collections include Snow Falling on Chestnut Hill: New and Selected Poems (2012) and Dear Pilgrims (2018) both from Carcanet. His contributions to the art of poetry in Ireland, to the rest of the English-speaking world and even well beyond that, are significant. He has received such awards as the O’Shaughnessy Award for Irish Poetry, and has been named Chevalier, Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government. On a personal note, I have found Deane to be one of the poets who most speaks to me in recent years.

His poetry can be found in several Irish anthologies, and is one of the poets I featured in the International anthology, The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry.

In reading his book Give Dust a Tongue: A Faith & Poetry Memoir (2015, Columba) I was taken with his vision to participate in fulfilling “the need for our world and age to forge a poetry of personal encounter with Jesus” ― a significant calling, and a quest worth pursuing! He tells me that his new collection Naming of the Bones is to appear from Carcanet in November of 2021.

The following poem first appeared in The Christian Century and is from his recent collection Dear Pilgrims.

The Whole World Over

Budapest

I see him, mariner Jesus, walking on corrupted
waters of the Danube while down in silted depths
lurk the unexploded bombs of lately wars; I walk out,
hand in hand with the poem, crossing on the high

redemption bridge, to earth corrupted by tar and concrete,
where down in the darkly shiftless soil words crawl,
eyeless and eager. Between sleep and day, light
and black, I grow conscious of compelling truths—

but something in the ego-wassailing of flesh compels me
back to comfort, and something in the slippery
eel-mud of the mind eases towards sleep, though always

Jesus plods on over all the corrupted waters
heading for the unforgiving hill, for his piercing
cry of forgiveness out-into-the-outraged world.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about John F. Deane: 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, February 1, 2021

Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire (1821―1867) is a French writer whose style of prose-poems was influential for the following generation of French poets. He is also known as an art critic ― championing Delacroix ― and for his translations into French of Edgar Allan Poe. His biographers suggest that the sense of abandonment he felt during childhood, at his mother’s remarriage after his father’s death, was traumatic for him and contributed to his later excesses.

His first poetry collection The Flowers of Evil (1857) received both praise and passionate opposition, due to its scandalous content. He was prosecuted for creating an offense against public morals, which resulted in fines for himself, his publisher, and the printer.

Burl Horniachek expresses, in a new article about Baudelaire’s prose-poems in The McMaster Journal of Theology & Ministry, that for many years he believed strongly in human depravity, but not in the possibility of redemption. Horniachek says:
-----“One might wonder why Christians in particular should be
-----interested in a poet with such a reputation for Satanism
-----and blasphemy… His poetry is suffused with Christian imagery,
-----and frequently addresses serious theological issues.
-----Furthermore, it should not be a surprise that Baudelaire
-----eventually did have a sincere religious conversion to Catholic
-----Christianity later in life, well before his death bed.”

The following poem, translated by South African poet Roy Campbell, was written after Baudelaire’s conversion ―which happened four years prior to his death.

The Unforeseen

Harpagon watched his father slowly dying
And musing on his white lips as they shrunk,
Said, "There is lumber in the outhouse lying
It seems: old boards and junk."

Celimene cooed, and said, "How good I am
And, naturally, God made my looks excell"
(Her callous heart, thrice-smoked like salted ham,
Will burn in endless Hell!)

A smoky scribbler, to himself a beacon,
Says to the wretch whom he has plunged in shade —
"Where's the Creator you so loved to speak on,
The Saviour you portrayed?"

But best of all I know a certain rogue
Who yawns and weeps, lamenting night and day
(Impotent fathead) in the same old brogue,
"I will be good — one day!"

The clock says in a whisper, "He is ready
The damned one, whom I warned of his disaster.
He's blind, and deaf, and like a wall unsteady,
Where termites mine the plaster."

Then one appeared whom all of them denied
And said with mocking laughter "To my manger
You've all come; to the Black Mass I provide
Not one of you's a stranger.

You've built me temples in your hearts of sin.
You've kissed my buttocks in your secret mirth.
Know me for Satan by this conquering grin,
As monstrous as the Earth.

D'you think, poor hypocrites surprised red-handed
That you can trick your lord without a hitch;
And that by guile two prizes can be landed —
Heaven, and being rich?

The wages of the huntsman is his quarry,
Which pays him for the chills he gets while stalking
Companions of my revels grim and sorry
I am going to take you walking,

Down through the denseness of the soil and rock,
Down through the dust and ash you leave behind,
Into a palace, built in one sole block,
Of stone that is not kind:

For it is built of Universal Sin
And holds of me all that is proud and glorious"
— Meanwhile an angel, far above the din,
Sends forth a peal victorious

For all whose hearts can say, "I bless thy rod;
And blessed be the griefs that on us fall.
My soul is but a toy, Eternal God,
Thy wisdom all in all!"

And so deliciously that trumpet blows
On evenings of celestial harvestings,
It makes a rapture in the hearts of those
Whose love and praise it sings.

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, January 25, 2021

Franz Werfel

Franz Werfel (1890―1945) is one of the leading writers of pre-Nazi Austria. When his first poetry collection appeared in 1911, he befriended such German-speaking Jewish writers as Max Broad and Franz Kafka at Prague’s Café Arco. He soon moved to Leipzig, and during the war to Vienna.

Werfel was born into a Jewish family in Prague, though was influenced profoundly by his Czech nanny who secretly took him to Roman Catholic masses. He found himself in the no man’s land between the two religions, finding Judaism forbidding, but being drawn to the piety of the nanny he affectionately called Babi. The light she was for his life appears again and again in his writing, although in his early work he explored many religions.

In the 1920s he produced historic pieces ― Verdi: A Novel of the Opera, and plays such as Juarez and Maximilian. His 1928 play, Paul Among the Jews, combined his fascination with history and his conflicted interest in both his heritage and Christianity. For more than ten years, Franz Werfel had an affair with Alma, the widow of composer Gustav Mahler, before she agreed finally to marry him in 1929 on the condition that he renounce Judaism.

Franz and Alma, fled from the Nazis during WWII ― first to Paris, and then to Lourdes on their way to America. Werfel became fascinated with the story of Bernadette, which he vowed to make his next priority. Werfel’s best-selling novel The Song of Bernadette (1941) became a Hollywood film in 1943 ― starring Jennifer Jones, who won the Best Actress Oscar in the role. Franz Werfel was officially baptized into the Catholic Church shortly before his death.

The Snowfall

Oh the slow fall of snow,
Its unending blanketing swirl!
Yet my mind's eye was giving shape
To what couldn't be kept hidden,
That in the white drifts each fleck
Is known, weighed, counted.

Oh you spinning dancing flakes,
Your tiny souls and personalities
Withstand gravity, weightlessness, wind,
In your coming and going
I see your destinies glide down,
Which you begin, fulfill, begin ...

This one falls soft and like wool,
The next is crystal and tenacious,
The third's a clenched fist of struggle.
Yet their white realm disperses by morning,
Thus one doesn't die from the rest,
And they dissolve into the purest drop shapes.

Oh the world's slow falling snow,
That race's dense, blanketing swirl!
It perishes and not one fate melts alone.
We melt, but we are left behind
When death, the way spring wind thaws, overtakes
Us drops and comes together home in the womb.

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, January 18, 2021

Angeline Schellenberg*

Angeline Schellenberg is a Winnipeg poet, and the author of the new collection Fields of Light and Stone (2020, University of Alberta Press). The poems are, as Don McKay says, “acts of remembrance that are all the more poetic for being scrupulously plainspoken…” He also describes them as “a series of love letters to the dead” which says a lot of how Angeline Schellenberg, in these poems, commemorates her Mennonite grandparents, while thoughtfully considering the heritage they passed down to her. Her first full-length collection, Tell Them It Was Mozart, was published by Brick Books in 2016.

Although I was already well aware of her poetry, I only first met Angeline Schellenberg in Winnipeg in 2019 at the inaugural Faith In Form arts conference, which was organized by Burl Horniachek.

The following poem is from Fields of Light and Stone.

Generations

1586: as far back
as the Mennonite database
can take me.

All I find: the surname Voht,
a town called Culm.

My great-great-great-
great-great-great-
great-great-great-

great-great-grandfather
had a daughter
who had a baby.
And on it goes.

What chases us down a family tree?
A high forehead?
A voice? A fear?

What drives me to scratch
the earth for these four-letter
kernels?

Voht’s daughter named her son
Hans―God is gracious,
a promise I can translate.

But I cannot hear
the plea it answered.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Angeline Schellenberg: 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, January 11, 2021

Andrew Lansdown*

Andrew Lansdown is one of Australia’s most-significant poets. The newest of his 15 poetry collections has just appeared as part of the Poiema Poetry Series from Cascade Books ― Abundance: New & Selected Poems. I am honoured to have edited this important collection with Andrew, and am pleased to be able to help expand his influence in North America. In Australia his poetry has won a number of prestigious awards, including the Western Australian Premier’s Book Award (twice), and the Adelaide Festival of Arts’ John Bray National Poetry Award.

In A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Australian Poetry, Geoff Page wrote:
----------Lansdown is able to suggest very deftly and concisely
----------the so-called ‘thisness’ of things, especially things
----------in nature… Lansdown has a very sincere and direct way
----------of handling poems about his immediate family which
----------subtly suggests great tenderness without becoming
----------sentimental… They have a descriptive exactness and a
----------seeming spontaneity, combining to produce a text to
----------which one can imagine no change being made without damage.

In recent years, Lansdown has explored his fascination with Japanese poetry and culture ― writing in Japanese forms such as Haiku and Tanka, honouring Basho and other influential Japanese poets, and visiting Japan to encounter its cherry-blossom beauty and the hollow solitude of Buddhist shrines.

The following poem first appeared in The McMaster Journal of Theology & Ministry.

The Martyred Mother

i.m. Hashimoto Tecla and her children, Kyoto, 1619 AD

I speak not of the other four children
who were condemned with her, nor even of
the newest child in her womb, but only
of the smallest one bound to her bosom.

One might have imagined the rope would burn
through fast so the baby’s body would fall
away from hers—slump free from the torso
to which it was tied as if to a stake.

And yet it seems the persecutors’ cord
bore the flames better than the martyrs’ flesh.
Perhaps they had soaked that rope in water
before they wrapped it around their victims.

Still, hemp’s surely coarser, tougher than flesh.
How long would it take for flames to fray it?
Longer, I guess, than it would take to melt
fat in an infant’s cheek, a woman’s breast.

Whether wet or dry, thick or thin, that rope
held out long enough for the flames to fuse
the child to its mother’s chest, meld the two
into one greasy charred misshapen lump.

On the fumie the faithful won’t trample
the carved Madonna clasps the destined Child—
in like manner, but with bound and burned arms,
the martyred mother held her infant fast.

And in this embrace both she and the babe
defied the shogun and exposed his shame.
Their souls rode up in palanquins of smoke,
up to their Sovereign, who wept as they came.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Andrew Lansdown: 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, January 4, 2021

Reginald Heber

Reginald Heber (1783―1826) is an Anglican clergyman who served as a country parson for fifteen years before being appointed Bishop of Calcutta. While a student at Oxford University he distinguished himself as a poet, winning the Newdigate Prize ― which has since been won by such poets as Matthew Arnold, Oscar Wilde, and Andrew Motion. In 1812 Heber’s Poems and Translations appeared.

For me, his most familiar contribution is the great anthem "Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!" ― which, in the hymnal I remember from childhood, was honoured as hymn #1 and sung with great enthusiasm.

As Bishop of Calcutta, Heber took great interest in the people he served, studying the Tamil language, and using his authority to ordain as deacon the first native Indian to receive Holy Orders. In 1824 he began an extensive sixteen-month journey throughout India, which also brought him through what is now Bengladesh and Sri Lanka. He was critical of the disrespect shown by the British East India Company toward Indian people, and was concerned that few were promoted to senior positions.

Heber died suddenly in Trichinopoly, India, at the age of 42. His Narrative of a Journey Through the Upper Provinces of India: 1824–25 was published posthumously. A marble memorial was erected to him in St. Paul’s Cathedral. There is also a sculptured portrait of Heber in the inner courtyard of what was once the India Office, now the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office in London.

This poem is from The Poetical Works of Reginald Heber, D.D. Lord Bishop of Calcutta (1830, Frederick Warne).

Epiphany

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning!
---Dawn on our darkness and lend us Thine aid!
Star of the East, the horizon adorning,
---Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

Cold on His cradle the dew-drops are shining,
---Low lies His head with the beasts of the stall;
Angels adore Him in slumber reclining,
---Maker and Monarch and Saviour of all!

Say, shall we yield Him, in costly devotion,
---Odours of Edom and off'rings divine?
Gems of the mountain and pearls of the ocean,
---Myrrh from the forest or gold from the mine?

Vainly we offer each ample oblation;
---Vainly with gold would His favour secure:
Richer by far is the heart's adoration,
---Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning!
---Dawn on our darkness and lend us Thine aid!
Star of the East, the horizon adorning,
---Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

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.