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.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Adam Zagajewski*

Adam Zagajewski (1945―2021) is one of Poland’s most celebrated poets. He was born in Lvov, Poland, but in the wake of WWII his family was forced to move west as territories shifted and Lvov became part of the Ukraine. His early writing was protest poetry, which led to his works being banned by Poland’s communist leaders in 1975. Later his focus transitioned to “night, dreams, history and time, infinity and eternity, silence and death.” He died on March 21st in Krakow, Poland.

Although he identified himself as a Catholic ― “a failed Catholic” ― he was not at home in the Catholic Church in Poland, which he called a disaster, where the majority of bishops are not even Christian, and where sermons bring political messages. In an interview with Catholic Herald last year he said:
----------But if you ask me what use can my readers make out of the
----------religious accent of my poems, well, it is not my business
----------to comment on this. If you are a serious poet you embark
----------on a search and you never know what you find at the end.
----------The idea of the search is for me the capital element in my
----------work. It is very hard to define oneself if the substance of
----------what you do is the quest, because it goes towards something
----------that you can’t define, something that does not have a strong
----------shape. Search is in searching, not in strong definitions.

The following poem is from Unseen Hand (2014, Farrar, Straus and Giroux) translated by Clare Cavanagh.

First Communion

Gliwice, Piramowicz Street

Dark gray houses and triangular bay windows,
near a little park with German statues
(pseudo-baroque from the thirties).
Mrs. Kolmer took my picture there
right after my First Communion
against the backdrop of a freshly laundered sheet:
I'm that chubby child. Earnest,
upright, candle in hand.
I'm a beginning Catholic,
who struggles to tell good from evil,
but doesn't know what divides them,
especially at dawn and dusk, when
for a long moment the light wavers.
The poplar leaves in the garden are black,
the light is black, the homes are black,
the air's transparent, only the sheet is white.
Color photos will come later
to mute the contrasts and perhaps permit
an ordinary life, splendid holidays,
even a second communion.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Adam Zagajewski: 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 17, 2021

Bedřich Bridel

Bedřich Bridel (1619―1680) is a Czech baroque writer, poet, and missionary. He was educated in Prague, joined the Jesuit order in 1637, was ordained a priest around 1650, and worked in the Jesuit printing office. Besides his own original works, which were for religious education, Bridel also translated German and Latin texts into Czech. He spent the last twenty years of his life in mission work in Bohemia. He died of the plague in 1680.

The following poem was translated into English, for a forthcoming Kingdom Poets anthology, by Rhina P. Espaillat (with Henry R. Cooper Jr.). The anthology is edited by Burl Horniachek and will appear as part of the Poiema Poetry Series (Cascade Books). This is the first translation of this poem into English.

What Is God? Man?

Three-cornered and three-sided, you
are both triangular and round;
A spherical abyss far too
immeasurably deep to sound;
you are justice, but with no
plumb line, cord, or bounden duty.
Ageless, unadorned you go,
clad in wholly perfect beauty.

Flawless beauty that you are,
and happy beyond every joy,
greater than all love by far,
your purity without alloy
is too clean for time to touch you,
age deface you, force defy,
treasure own you, or death clutch you:
eternal, you can never die.

You are what perfect truth there is.
Since only perfect things can be,
all things, and man, as things are his,
wants to be yours eternally.
You are earth, but still unploughed;
you are the ocean, but still dry,
where no storm blows wild and loud.
You are god, most great, most high.

The unexplained is your disguise:
the unkindled, smokeless flame;
wind—the air on which you rise;
the sea without its seashore frame;
a valley waiting for its hill;
the sun without its morning gleam
or sunset glow; and strangely still,
that flowless interrupted stream.

You are roses with no thorn;
sourceless well; beginning; ending;
all as it was when newly born;
flawless love that needs no mending;
wine unfermented; grapes unpressed;
book without words that makes no sound;
sound not yet voice, still unaddressed;
you everywhere, as yet unfound.

Grove are you, but with no shade;
pure gold mined without the tailing;
beauty no cosmetic made;
glorious throne behind its veiling;
heaven by the light of day;
sea without the waves grown wild;
health that keeps disease away;
laughter, but serene and mild.

You’re a garden with no hedge;
speech without tongue; and without rind
you are fruit; you are the edge
of the abyss no sight can find,
where I drown, dark in that light,
under the homeland that I love:
wholly immersed, and out of sight,
far from all that lives above.

Now I ask, What is my god?
Everything here confuses me!
I wander; everything seems odd.
I’m baffled by the deity.
I can’t make sense of god: however
I prod my mind to comprehend,
however hard I try, I never
pursue god’s nature to the end.

What kind of night awaits me now,
I’m wondering, untangling such
imponderable thoughts as how
great god is? And more—so much!
I’m purified enough to think
such thoughts, to laugh like this, and be
ready to drown in them, and sink
while pondering divinity!

Posted with permission of the translators.

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 10, 2021

Laura Reece Hogan

Laura Reece Hogan is a California poet who is a professed Third Order Carmelite. Her chapbook O Garden-Dweller appeared from Finishing Line Press in 2017. I referred to that book as “a twenty-first century Song of Songs,” and said, “She carries us down the path to her desired destination with lovely alliteration and internal rhyme. The aptness of her word-choice delights again and again, and the subtlety of her images encourages us to dwell there.”

She is one of the poets who is included in my anthology In A Strange Land: Introducing Ten Kingdom Poets (2019, Poiema/Cascade). Her first full-length poetry collection Litany of Flights is the first place winner of the inaugural Paraclete Poetry Prize competition. One of the poems from her new book first appeared in the web journal Poems For Ephesians.

The poetry in this new collection is conspicuously a poetry of place. It's populated with scrub jays, and glows with the ominous approach of California wild fires. The following poem is also from Litany of Flights (2020, Paraclete Press).

Fusion

After Salvador Dali’s Christ of Saint John of the Cross

1.
Uncrucified arms a sculpted triangle,
Not-thorns a crown of chestnut hair,
Splendid. The light of the world, head

bowed, radiates. The pigments flare,
suffuse gold fire:
he cannot be dimmed.

2.
John of the Cross, the friar or fire,
in love with the living flame of love
prayed to be a bonfire

of this Light. Unreservedly he selects
this angle, a wick of a man longing
for his lightning strike.

3.
In Dali’s cosmic dream, Christ
blazes as the nucleus of the universe,
a moment which bears all,

scintillating atoms caught under
the brush, a death reversed by creator.
Gaze on him, resplendent, join

these your atoms to his, and ignite.

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, May 3, 2021

William Stafford*

William Stafford (1914 —1993) is a prolific American poet whose first poetry collection appeared when he was 46 years old. Two years later his Traveling Through the Dark (1962) won the National Book Award. His poetry is characterized by a simple accessible style ― understated, restrained, and unforced. His work often investigates the relationship between humanity and the natural world.

He was a disciplined writer who didn’t think anyone need experience writer’s block. He said, “A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as he is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them.”

He was a pacifist who was part of the small Christian denomination the Church of the Brethren. One of his collections Scripture of Leaves was published through the Brethren, and although he taught for most of his career at Lewis & Clark College in Oregon, he did teach for one year at their Indiana school, Manchester College.

Assurance

You will never be alone, you hear so deep
a sound when autumn comes. Yellow
pulls across the hills and thrums,
or the silence after lightning before it says
its names― and then the clouds' wide-mouthed
apologies. You were aimed from birth:
you will never be alone. Rain
will come, a gutter filled, an Amazon,
long aisles― you never heard so deep a sound,
moss on rock, and years. You turn your head―
that's what the silence meant: you're not alone.
The whole wide world pours down.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about William Stafford : 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, April 26, 2021

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens (1812―1870) is perhaps the 19th century’s best-known novelist. His most celebrated books include: Oliver Twist (1839), A Christmas Carol (1843), David Copperfield (1850), A Tale of Two Cities (1859), and Great Expectations (1861). He began as a journalist, and took the chance of having his first novel published serially; the success of The Pickwick Papers established his career, and led to all of his novels first appearing in this way.

Dickens in the 1840s wrote The Life of Our Lord, a book to express his faith to his children. In it he expressed his disapproval of Roman Catholicism, 19th century evangelicalism, and populist fads of spiritualism ― all of which he saw as deviations from true Christian teaching. Unfortunately, he was better at critiquing others, than himself. In 1857 he met a young actress with whom he had an affair. He hushed his critics by taking control of the periodicals he was associated with.

Despite his inconsistency, he used his influence to draw attention to the important issues of his day. He was greatly concerned with issues of poverty and exploitation, speaking out against capital punishment, and championing better living and working conditions for the poor, sanitation, housing, education, workplace safety, and trade unions.

The following poem expresses Dickens’ understanding of the gospel.

A Child’s Hymn

Hear my prayer, O heavenly Father,
Ere I lay me down to sleep;
Bid Thy angels, pure and holy,
Round my bed their vigil keep.

My sins are heavy, but Thy mercy
Far outweighs them, every one;
Down before Thy cross I cast them,
Trusting in Thy help alone.

Keep me through this night of peril
Underneath its boundless shade;
Take me to Thy rest, I pray Thee,
When my pilgrimage is made.

None shall measure out Thy patience
By the span of human thought;
None shall bound the tender mercies
Which Thy Holy Son has bought.

Pardon all my past transgressions,
Give me strength for days to come;
Guide and guard me with Thy blessing
Till Thy angels bid me home.

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, April 19, 2021

Marguerite de Navarre

Marguerite de Navarre (1492―1549) is an outstanding figure of the French Renaissance. She was a French princess and the older sister of the French king Francis I. She was both an advocate for the arts, and for reform in the Catholic Church. Her brother was being held prisoner in Spain after having been captured during a battle in Italy. In 1525, through her diplomatic skill she managed to free him. In 1526, she married Henry II of Navarre (a small territory along what is now the border between France and Spain).

She was a prolific writer of poetry, plays and stories ― including Heptameron (a collection of short stories), the long poem Mirror of the Sinful Soul (which was translated into English by eleven-year-old princess Elizabeth ― later Elizabeth I), and The Triumph of the Lamb.

She was significantly influenced by Martin Luther, and had his writings and those of other reformers translated into French. Her intention, like Luther’s original intension, was to promote reform within the Catholic Church. Her own writing ― expressing her belief that eternal salvation was only attainable through repentance and sincere faith rather than through following the actions dictated by the Catholic Church ― was condemned by the Faculty of Theology of the University of Paris. Although her book Mirror of the Sinful Soul was judged to be heretical, King Francis intervened so it was no longer blacklisted; the faculty censors, however, managed to get her printer hanged. Because her religious writings were controversial, many only circulated in manuscript form within her lifetime.

Marguerite de Navarre was also a generous patron of the arts, including to François Rabelais and Leonardo da Vinci.

Luther’s expression of the All and the Naught ― “All” being the Creator and “Naught” the faithful Christian aware of his sins and of his being unworthy of his grace ― appear in the following poem.

The Rapture of Divine Love

Perfect love — would that it were known!
bestows a pleasure that can never end,
and every breath of bitterness is blown.
Perfect love, it is the eternal God,
which sheds abroad in hearts its charity
and raises up the whole man from the sod.
He who by love is brought to utter naught
loves only that which is naught
and thereby to wholeness he is brought.
I did not know, I would not have believed,
that love by dying can increase.
But now I know, for now I have received.

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, April 12, 2021

Julia Alvarez

Julia Alvarez is a poet and novelist who was born in New York City in 1950, but spent her early childhood in the Dominican Republic ― her parents’ native country. In 1960 her family fled to the United States because of her father’s involvement in a plot to overthrow the dictator, Trujillo.

Her poems often express the experience of an immigrant child in unwelcoming American schoolyards ― of being raised in a large, Hispanic, Catholic family ― and of her youthful desire to seamlessly fit in among peers. She portrays both her parents’ piety and inconsistency in their efforts to raise the family. At the Catholic Literary Imagination Conference, in 2015, she spoke of the importance of belonging in the community to which Christ calls ― particularly through family ― and she encouraged her hearers to find their calling.

Alvarez has written several novels, including How the García Girls Lost Their Accents (1991), and Afterlife (2020). She has also written non-fiction and children’s literature. Julia Alvarez has received many awards, including the National Medal of Arts from Barack Obama in 2013.

The following poem is from her collection The Woman I Kept To Myself (2011, Algonquin Books).

The Red Pickup

The wish I always made in childhood
before the blazing candles or when asked
what gift I wanted the Three Kings to bring
was a red pickup, which Mami vetoed
as inappropriate. And so I improvised,
trading in speed for a pair of cowboy boots,
bright red with rawhide tassels that would swing
when I swaggered into my fourth-grade class
asking for an exemption from homework
from my strict teacher, Mrs. Brown from Maine.
She called my mother weekly to complain
of my misbehaviors, among them
a tendency to daydream instead of
finding the common denominator.
(But what had I in common with fractions?
I wanted the bigger, undivided world!)
She was one more woman in a series
of dissuaders against that red pickup
in all its transformations, which at root
was a driving desire to be a part
of something bigger than a pretty girl,
the wild, exciting world reserved for boys:
guns that shot noisy hellos! in the air
and left crimson roses on clean, white shirts;
firecrackers with scarlet explosions
that made even my deaf grandfather jump.
I wanted what God wanted when He made
the world, to be a driving force, a creator.
And that red pickup was my only ride
out of the common denominator.

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, 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.