Monday, August 30, 2021

Walter Wangerin Jr.*

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

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

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

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

Sacred

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

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

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

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Walter Wangerin Jr.: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Adélia Prado*

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

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

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

Guide

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

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Adélia Prado: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock.

Monday, August 16, 2021

John Norris

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

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

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

Hymn to Darkness

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

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

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

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

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

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

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Karen An-hwei Lee

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

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

The following poem first appeared in Christian Century.

Songs of Comfort

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

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Rowan Williams*

Rowan Williams is a Welsh poet who served as Archbishop of Canterbury from 2002 to 2012. Prior to this appointment he was Bishop of Monmouth and Archbishop of Wales. His earlier career was that of an academic at both Oxford and Cambridge, and subsequently he has served (until last September) as Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge.

His most-recent poetry collection is The Other Mountain (2014, Carcanet). His earlier books ― After Silent Centuries (1994) and Remembering Jerusalem (2001) ― were brought together in The Poems of Rowan Williams (2002) which also includes some newer poems. His New and Collected Poems will appear from Carcanet in November.

Door

The Lord is Always Liminal

A book falling open, the sliced wood
peels apart, jolting for a moment
over the clenched swollen muscle:
so that, as the leaves fall flat
side by side, what we read is the two
ragged eyes each side of a mirror,
where the wrinkles stream off sideways,
trail down the cheeks, awash with tears,
mucus, mascara. Split the wood
and I am there, says the unfamiliar
Lord, there where the book opens
with the leaves nailed to the wall
and the silent knot resolved by surgery
into a mask gaping and staring, reading
and being read. Split the wood; jolt
loose the cramp, the tumour, let the makeup run,
the sap drain, the door swing in the draught.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Rowan Williams: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock.