Monday, September 20, 2021

Karol Wojtyla

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

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

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

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

Actor

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

Girl Disappointed in Love

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

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

Monday, September 13, 2021

Margaret Avison*

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

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

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

On a Maundy Thursday Walk

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

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

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

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

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

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

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Margaret Avison: first post, second post.

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

Monday, September 6, 2021

John the Apostle

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

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

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

From The Gospel of John

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

2 The same was in the beginning with God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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