Monday, November 28, 2022

Peter Cooley

Peter Cooley is Professor of English Emeritus at Tulane University, in New Orleans, and is former Poet Laureate of Louisiana. He serves as poetry editor for Christianity and Literature.

His eleven poetry books include: The Company of Strangers (1975), Sacred Conversations (1998), Divine Margins (2009), and his most-recent poetry collection The One Certain Thing. (2021, Carnegie Mellon University Press). This book of elegies, written in the wake of the sudden death of his wife of fifty years, has been described as a “three-part conversation between the speaker, his wife, and God.”

The following ekphrastic poem first appeared in The Christian Century. This link provides an image of the Fra Angelico painting that inspired the poem.

Fra Angelico, The Annunciation, 1437–1446

Light from my chosen star will come to me
in morning prayer, but only if I beg,
desperate like the unfortunate I met
yesterday morning, New Orleans 8 a.m.
corner Claiborne and Carrollton.
He lifted both palms up, that’s how I pray
we’re brotherbodies Fate estranged—
I’m sure the stars pray in dazzling choirs
or singly, hands clasped to their chests
like Fra’s angel, kneeling, left knee bent,
facing Mary, supernal light gracing the porticos.
This visit that might have changed the world.

If only I could transcribe the painting’s beautifuls!
But here I am, exhausted as if I’d spent the night
sleeping in the park the way he has to,
ashamed of the comparison but praying this
on one knee beside my bed, asking myself,
asking the morning star and you and You,
why did I drive by, not giving him a dime?
How dare I try to compare myself, twice,
to the angel, to him, both, I’m twice-ashamed.
And, say it, afraid, twice-afraid to write this.

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 Wipf & Stock.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Richard Jones*

Richard Jones is an accomplished poet, who has been the editor of the journal Poetry East ever since he founded it in 1980. He has taught at DePaul University in Chicago since 1987, and is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, including The Blessing: New & Selected Poems (2000, Copper Canyon).

His latest collection is Stranger on Earth (2018, Copper Canyon). Andrew Jarvis wrote in the New York Journal of Books that most of these prose poems are “…derived from memories, and Jones utilizes his memories of family, history, and culture to craft poems full of clear images and rich detail…” He says the “concept of beauty, and all things beautiful, is explored in the majority of these poems…” and points out that Marcel Proust’s philosophy ― “Life of every day is supremely important” ― is central to the book.

Back in 2007 when a number of artists (including poets B.H. Fairchild and Sydney Lea) were asked by Image to express why they believe in God, Richard Jones responded straight-forwardly,
----------“I believe in God because the poetry of the scriptures
----------revealed him to me. By God’s grace I opened the Bible
----------and discovered his near and palpable presence. Now, when
----------I read, illuminated by the Spirit, I give thanks as I find
----------myself abandoning my own limited understanding to seek
----------his perfect will…”

The Manifestation

The night of the Perseid shower,
thick fog descended
but I would not be denied.
I had put the children to bed,
knelt with them,
and later
in the quiet kitchen
as tall red candles
burned on the table between us,
I’d listened to my wife’s sweet imprecations,
her entreaties to see a physician.
But at the peak hour—
after she had gone to bed,
and neighboring houses
stood solemn and dark—
I felt no human obligation
and went without hope into the yard.
In the white mist
beneath the soaked and dripping trees,
I lifted my eyes
into a blind nothingness of sky
and shivered in a white robe.
I couldn’t see the outline
of the neighbor’s willows,
much less the host of streaking meteorites
no bigger than grains of sand
blazing across the sky.
I questioned the mind, my troubled thinking,
and chided myself to go in,
but looking up,
I thought of the earth
on which I stood,
my own
scanty plot of ground,
and as the lights passed unseen
I imagined glory beyond all measure.
Then I turned to the lights in the windows—
the children’s nightlights,
and my wife’s reading lamp, still burning.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Richard Jones: 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 Wipf & Stock.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Robert B. Shaw

Robert B. Shaw is the author of What Remains to Be Said: New and Selected Poems (2022, Pinyon) which includes verse from his seven earlier collections. He is Professor Emeritus of English at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, and has taught at both Harvard and Yale. The two poetry-related nonfiction books he has written ― The Call of God: The Theme of Vocation in the Poetry of Donne and Herbert (1981), and Blank Verse: A Guide to Its History and Use (2007) ― parallel Shaw’s poetic work.

When interviewed by Ryan Wilson for Literary Matters he said, “I haven’t very often made religious sentiments paramount in my work, but because they have shaped my view of existence, they are there to be found in more than a few poems. I think that in certain pieces my view of nature can broadly be termed sacramental. I may not have intended that in every case when I sat down to write, but it is what emerged.”

The last of the “new” poems in What Remains to Be Said concludes with the following hope concerning his poems:
----------"Let them give homage to the Word
----------"by whom the leaves of life are stirred.
----------"What I write now, let them say then.
----------"And let the last word be Amen.

The following poem first appeared in The Hudson Review, subsequently in The Best American Poetry 1998, in his 1999 collection Below The Surface, this year in the new anthology Christian Poetry in America Since 1940, and in his new volume What Remains to Be Said.

A Geode

What started out a glob of molten mud
hawked up by some Brazilian volcano
back in the Pleistocene is now a rock
of unremarkable appearance, brown
as ordinary mud and baseball-size.
Picking it up produces a surprise:
besides a pleasant heftiness, a sound
of sloshing can be noticed. Vapors caught
within its cooling crust were liquified,
and linger still: a million-year-old vintage.
Although one might recall the once ubiquitous
snowstorm-in-a-glass-globe paperweights,
this offers us no view inside to gauge
the wild weather a shake or two incites.
Turbulence masked by hard opacity . . .
If we could, which would we rather see?—
age-old distillate, infant tears of the earth,
or gem-like crystal of the inner walls
harboring them like some fair reliquary?
To see the one we'd have to spill the other.
Better to keep it homely and intact,
a witness to the worth of hiddenness,
which, in regard to our own kind, we call
reticence, and in terms of higher things,
mystery. Let the elixir drench unseen
the facets that enshrine it, world without end.

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 Wipf & Stock.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Ruth Pitter*

Ruth Pitter (1897—1992) is a British poet who published eighteen collections, and received many honours, including the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 1955. In 1974 she became one of the twelve living writers honoured with the title Companion of Literature by the Royal Society of Literature.

She did not embrace poetic modernism — so popular in her day — and because of this has been largely overlooked in ours. Fellow formalist poet Philip Larkin included four of her poems in The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse (1973) — and she has been lauded by several poets and critics. Elizabeth Jennings said in the introduction to Ruth Pitter’s Collected Poems (1996, Enitharmon) that her poetry shows “an acute sensibility and deep integrity.”

Since the wrestling between critics for influence continues, only time will tell whether Ruth Pitter will gain new popularity, or slip into obscurity. Kathleen Raine has expressed she believes Pitter’s poetry “will survive as long as the English language, with whose expressiveness in image and idea she has kept faith, remains.”

The following poem is from Pitter’s book A Trophy of Arms (1936) and is the title poem in a new critical edition of her collected poems, edited by Don W. King (2018, Kent State University Press).

Sudden Heaven

All was as it had ever been—
The worn familiar book,
The oak beyond the hawthorn seen,
The misty woodland’s look:

The starling perched upon the tree
With his long tress of straw—
When suddenly heaven blazed on me,
And suddenly I saw:

Saw all as it would ever be,
In bliss too great to tell;
For ever safe, for ever free,
All bright with miracle:

Saw as in heaven the thorn arrayed,
The tree beside the door;
And I must die—but O my shade
Shall dwell there evermore.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Ruth Pitter: 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 Wipf & Stock.

Monday, October 31, 2022

Thomas Traherne*

Thomas Traherne (1637—1674) was largely unknown as a poet at the time of his death — or even two hundred years after his death. Two manuscripts containing poetry and prose, at first thought to be by Henry Vaughan, were discovered in the winter of 1896—97, and were almost published as such. By 1903 the poems had been identified as Traherne’s and were published under his name.

There’s no evidence William Blake was familiar with Traherne’s lines —
-----"In all Things, all Things service do to all:
-----And thus a Sand is Endless, though most small.
---------- And every Thing is truly Infinite,
---------- In its Relation deep and exquisite."
which seem to pre-echo “Auguries of Innocence” — however, this similarity says much about the depth of Traherne’s originality of thought and poetic vision.

His philosophical/theological priorities were also expressed in his Christian Ethicks (1675): “He that would not be a stranger to the universe, an alien to felicity, and a foreigner to himself, must know God to be an infinite benefactor, all eternity, full of treasures, the world itself, the beginning of gifts, and his own soul the possessor of all, in communion with the Deity.”

Critical interest in Traherne continues, as further manuscripts come to light. A project known as “The Oxford Traherne” — a planned 15-volume critical edition of Thomas Traherne’s works commissioned by Oxford University Press — is planned to begin production in 2024.

The novelist Marilynne Robinson has the following poem appear in her novel Jack (2020, FSG) which is the fourth novel in the series that began with her Pulitzer Prize winner Gilead (2004). The book’s title-character receives the first ten lines of this poem on a slip of paper, from a woman whose interest in him is both curious to him and revitalizing.

For Man To Act As If His Soul Did See

For Man to Act as if his Soul did see
The very Brightness of Eternity;
For Man to Act as if his Love did burn
Above the Spheres, even while it's in its Urne;
For Man to Act even in the Wilderness,
As if he did those Sovereign Joys possess,
Which do at once confirm, stir up, enflame,
And perfect Angels; having not the same!
It doth increase the value of his Deeds,
In this a Man a Seraphim exceeds.
To Act on Obligations yet unknown,
To Act upon Rewards as yet unshewn,
To keep Commands whose Beauty's yet unseen,
To Cherish and retain a Zeal between
Sleeping and waking; shews a constant care,
And that a deeper Love, a Love so rare,
That no Eye Service may with it compare.
The Angels, who are faithful while they view
His Glory, know not what themselves would do,
Were they in our Estate! A Dimmer Light
Perhaps would make them erre as well as We
And in the Coldness of a darker Night
Forgetful and Lukewarm Themselves might be.
Our very Rust shall cover us with Gold,
Our Dust shall sprinkle while their Eyes behold
The Glory Springing from a feeble State,
Where meer Belief doth, if not conquer Fate
Surmount and pass what it doth Antedate.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Thomas Traherne: 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 Wipf & Stock.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Graham Hillard

Graham Hillard is the founding editor of Cumberland River Review, and for fifteen years has taught creative writing and contemporary literature at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville. He is also a regular contributor to the Washington Examiner and National Review. This spring he joined the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

His poetry collection, Wolf Intervals, has just appeared through Cascade Books as part of the Poiema Poetry Series. I’m pleased to have assisted Graham as his editor.

New York poet Eleanor Lerman has written, “In these sharply crafted poems, Graham Hillard challenges the reader to examine how nature both blesses and infects the human soul. Fields and forests, orchards and cities, wolves and children: all are caught in the dance between humanity and the natural world.”

The following poem is from Wolf Intervals. Another of the poems from this new book can be read at Poems For Ephesians.

Sunday Sermon

So here again we come with all our sins
Broad blown, stinking to heaven. We concede
The good in one another fitfully,
Neglect what we have promised, turn away
When turning inward might occasion pain.
Like beasts of burden that each year must pull
A little harder to advance their load,
We put our backs into the work. We call
This love and are not wrong to do so. When
The pastor climbs into the pulpit, I
Give you my hand, this palm and grip that you
Have known so well, that used to fairly throb
With certainty and youth. Your other hand
Now grasps the bulletin, that blank expanse
Where sermon notes are tucked into the soil
Of each believer’s comprehension, such
As it is. Hebrews 4:15 will be
Our text today: Christ tempted so completely
That he is able to commiserate
With all His lowly flock. We know the verse,
Accept the truth of it, yet even minds
That God is sanctifying can be prone
To wander, as the hymnist says. An hour
Or two will see us safely home, reduced
From holiness to all the cognizance
Of age: that bodies shrink and sag and turn
Against themselves; that muscles atrophy;
That we could live another forty years
Inside these prisons, bound to one another
By habit, love, commitment, and a fear
That neither of us cares to name. Your notes
Have nearly filled the page by now, and I
Can’t help but glance at your neat letters, like
A line of clerics leaning to one side.
Christ stooped into the muck with his creation.
Temptation came his way, but did he taste
What we discover daily? If I could
Contribute to your jottings I might add
A line or two. He knew our sorrows. But
He never married. He never grew old.

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 Wipf & Stock.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Edith Lovejoy Pierce (1904―1983) is an English poet who, as a newlywed, moved to Illinois with her American husband in 1929. She is the author of several poetry collections including In This Our Day (1944), Therefore Choose Life (1947, Harper & Brothers), and White Wake in the Sea (1966). She also translated the prayer book With the Master: A Book of Meditations (1943) by Philippe Vernier.

The quote that predominantly comes up next to her name on the internet is “We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day.” Pierce is also known for her pacifism.

The following poem first appeared in the September 1945 issue of Poetry, and is from Therefore Choose Life.

The Tongue of the Snake

Then spoke with the tongue of the snake
A voice from the camouflage tree:
"Remember the likeness of me?
Remember the story I told?
The first word to worship is 'take,'
The next to bow down to is 'hold."'

Like the purr of a soothing refrain:
"The fairest of all words is 'eat.'"
The eyes were the color of meat.
Sliding heavy as liquified lead,
It had wheels within wheels for a brain,
And it hissed: "There is fruit overhead."

"The apples are bitter and hot."
Its scales had the rattle of steel.
"The apples are ripe for a meal."
Its stripes were as vivid as flak.
"They either explode or they rot
Explode when they drop in your track."

It straightened itself like a rod
Then plunged like a piston to earth.
"The apples are golden in worth,
And no one can taste them in vain.
If you want to be knowing as God,
The apples are worth all the pain."

Its scales had the thunder of drums.
"What matter the blood and the sweat?
What mater the sword at the gate?"
Hypnotic its eye, as a gem.
"If you want to throw God when he comes,
The apples are ripe on the stem."

Its length like a languor of oil
Slid back to the camouflage tree.
"Remember the likeness of me?"
The dollar leaves rustled in dread.
"Take care that the apples don't spoil.
Beware! There is fruit overhead."

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 Wipf & Stock.

Monday, October 10, 2022

John Clare*

John Clare (1793―1864) is a self-educated rural poet who in 1820 caught the attention of the literary elite in London. He had been raised on folk ballads, and was influenced by poets such as Scotland’s James Thomson.

He is best known for his detailed descriptions of nature and of farm life, which celebrate God as the creator and sustainer of all we see ― as can be seen in this exerpt from "Nature's Hymn to the Diety":

-----All nature owns with one accord
-----The great and universal Lord:
-----Insect and bird and tree and flower ―
-----The witnesses of every hour ―
-----Are pregnant with this prophecy
-----And 'God is with us', all reply.
-----The first link in the mighty plan
-----Is still ― and God upbraideth man.

After Clare’s initial grand reception, and top-selling first book, the fashion for peasant poets evaporated, and his subsequent collections were virtually ignored. This change in fortune was hard on him, both financially and emotionally.

As his place as a celebrated poet slipped away, he also found the lifestyle he was raised to vanishing. The enclosure movement in Britain took common land, the public was free to grow crops or graze cattle on, and privatized it for use by the aristocracy. These things, plus Clare’s financial and family difficulties, led to bouts of depression and delusions.

Theologically John Clare sided with the Arminian Wesleyans ― particularly disliking Calvinism ― though remaining loyal to the Anglican church. He was appreciative of the Evangelical movement, and it’s focus on caring for the poor ― which he benefitted from in his own life.

In 1841 he was officially declared insane, and spent the rest of his life at St. Andrew’s Asylum, Northampton ― where some believe he wrote his best poetry.

Autumn

The thistledown’s flying, though the winds are all still,
On the green grass now lying, now mounting the hill,
The spring from the fountain now boils like a pot;
Through stones past the counting it bubbles red-hot.

The ground parched and cracked is like overbaked bread,
The greensward all wracked is, bents dried up and dead.
The fallow fields glitter like water indeed,
And gossamers twitter, flung from weed unto weed.

Hill-tops like hot iron glitter bright in the sun,
And the rivers we’re eying burn to gold as they run;
Burning hot is the ground, liquid gold is the air;
Whoever looks round sees Eternity there.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about John Clare: 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 Wipf & Stock.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Evangeline Paterson*

Evangeline Paterson (1928—2000) is an Irish poet, who grew up in Dublin, and at various points in her life lived in Ireland, Scotland, and England. Irish, English, and American poets she described as influential for her include, Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot, Geoffrey Hill, and Seamus Heaney.

She has been noted to be insightful in her observations of people — painting poetic portraits by skilfully expressing the particularities of individual people’s lives. In an interview in 1989 she humbly responded to a question relating to this by saying,
-----“I don't know that poets are more aware than most people,
-----except in spots. I don't imagine I'm more perceptive than
-----any other woman who has lived a long time and read a lot
-----and watched people a lot, except when the poetic function
-----takes over. It's like the shutter of a camera opening, and
-----letting in one flash of really penetrating insight, which
-----is then taken in and worked over by the inner chemistry
-----until a poem comes out. In between these moments of vision,
-----I think we're just as stupid as the rest of humanity.”

Earlier this year, Matthew Stewart contributed a piece to Wild Court (King’s College, London) entitled “‘Marginalised and Pigeonholed’: a re-evaluation of Evangeline Paterson;” he argues there that Paterson “merits wider critical recognition as one of the most outstanding poets of her generation.” He goes on to lament that since the appearance of her New and Selected poems Lucifer, with Angels (1994, Dedalus), her later poems have not been collected into a volume which would make her work more accessible to readers today.

The following poem is from her book Deep Is The Rock (1966).

Lament

Weep, weep for those
Who do the work of the Lord
With a high look
And a proud heart.
Their voice is lifted up
In the streets, and their cry is heard.
The bruised reed they break
By their great strength, and the smoking flax
They trample.
Weep not for the quenched
(For their God will hear their cry
And the Lord will come to save them)
But weep, weep for the quenchers
For when the Day of the Lord
Is come, and the vales sing
And the hills clap their hands
And the light shines
Then their eyes shall be opened
On a waste place,
Smouldering,
The smoke of the flax bitter
In their nostrils,
Their feet pierced
By broken reed-stems…
Wood, hay, and stubble,
And no grass springing.
And all the birds flown.
Weep, weep for those
Who have made a desert
In the name of the Lord.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Evangeline Paterson: 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 Wipf & Stock.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Matthew E. Henry

Matthew E. Henry (also known as MEH) is a Boston poet and educator. His books include the Colored page (2022, Sundress Publications), Teaching While Black (2020, Main Street Rag) and the chapbook Dust & Ashes (2020, Californios Press). He says his “writing shines a black-light on the bed of education, race, relationships, religion, and everything else you’re not supposed to discuss in polite company.”

He is also the Editor-in-Chief of The Weight Journal, which showcases the best from teen writers, and is an associate poetry editor for Pidgeonholes.

MEH is the first-place winner of the first annual poetry contest from Fare Forward for his poem “Say Jonah was right and grace is wasted.” This win earned him the privilege of judging this year’s contest. I am delighted to say that, through blind judging, he selected my poem “Two Types of Ibeks” as this year’s winner.

The following MEH poem first appeared in New York Quarterly Magazine, and will appear in a forthcoming collection.

Say God is the Tough in the Prison Yard

Say God is the tough in the prison yard
you’ve decided to take out. He’s the one
to help you make a strong name for yourself.
once He rises from bench-pressing twelve times
your sopping-wet weight, you make your move—bump
His stone shoulder, spinning yourself around.
He walks on unfazed. you square up, talk shit
about His momma, His unknown daddy.
you pluck His beard, spit in His face, punch Him
in the chest. slowly, He exhales, locks eyes,
shanks Himself in the side—sharpened toothbrush
sinking to the bristles—then walks away.
stumbling back from blood, you’re forced to wonder
what He would be willing to do to you.

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 Wipf & Stock.

Monday, September 19, 2022

David Lyle Jeffrey

David Lyle Jeffrey is a Canadian-born medievalist and scholar, living in Texas, who served as Distinguished Professor of Literature and Humanities at Baylor University for many years. He has authored numerous books relating to the Bible, history, art, and literature, and was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 1996.

Besides serving at Baylor, Jeffrey has taught at numerous other schools including University of Ottawa, University of Rochester, University of Hull (UK), and University of Victoria. He has been a visiting professor for graduate programs at Regent College, The University of Notre Dame, The Institute for Christian Studies (University of Toronto), Peking University, and Adjunct Professor of Art History at Augustine College.

His recent books include In the Beauty of Holiness: Art and the Bible in Western Culture (2017, Eerdmans), and Scripture and the English Poetic Imagination (2019, Baker Academic), both of which consider understandings made possible by works of artistic imagination. He has also written two poetry collections, Translations, and his newest book A Testament of Witness (2022, Resource Publications).

As curator for the poetry for the Crossings Arts Exhibition ― which appeared in anticipation of Easter during March and April, 2022 ― I was pleased to have David Lyle Jeffery contribute a poem. Each poem accompanied a work of visual art, reflecting on the Biblical Stations of the Cross, found at outdoor displays in central Toronto. Here is a video of him reading his poem “Christ Crucified”.

The following poem is from A Testament of Witness.

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

So, a master of Torah, honored by the Council,
Need not apply? But a scoundrel like the tax collector
In your story, appearing contrite for his many sins—
His kind of outcast can inherit? Really, Rabbi,
This is outrageous, a calumny against heaven and Temple.
Who would want to be part of such a kingdom
If riff-raff the likes of that man were let in?
Such as they are poor in spirit for good reasons.

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 Wipf & Stock.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Joshua Sylvester

Joshua Sylvester (1563―1618) is best known for his popular translation of the creation epic Divine Weekes and Workes by the French Huguenot poet Guillaume de Salluste du Bartas. This book influenced many English poets, including John Milton.

This was an ambitious project to undertake, considering that Sylvester ― the son of a clothier in Kent ― had to dedicate his time to trade; he was highly involved with The Company of Merchant Adventurers of London, exporting cloth around the world.

Even though his poetic output was small, he was a popular poet of his day. He received a part-time pension as a poet at the court of Henry Frederick, the Prince of Wales around 1606.The Sacred Workes of that Famous Poet Silvester: Gathered into one volume was published in London in 1620.

The Father

Alpha and Omega, God alone:
Eloi, My God, the Holy-One;
Whose Power is Omnipotence:
Whose Wisdom is Omniscience:
Whose Being is All Sovereign Bliss:
Whose Work Perfection’s Fullness is;
Under All things, not under-cast;
Over All things, not over-placed;
Within All things, not there included;
Without All things, not thence excluded:
Above All, over All things reigning;
Beneath All, All things aye sustaining:
Without All, All containing sole:
Within All, filling full the Whole:
Within All, nowhere comprehended;
Without All, nowhere more extended;
Under, by nothing over-topped:
Over, by nothing under-propped:

Unmoved, Thou movest the World about;
Unplacated, Within it, or Without:
Unchanged, timeless, Time Thou changest:
The unstable, Thou, still stable, rangest;
No outward Force, nor inward Fate,
Can Thy dread Essence alterate:

Today, Tomorrow, yesterday,
With Thee are One, and instant aye;
Aye undivided, ended never:
Today, with Thee, endures forever.

Thou, Father, madest this mighty Ball;
Of nothing thou createdest All,
After the Idea of thy Mind,
Conferring Form to every kind.

Thou wert, Thou art, Thou wilt be ever:
And Thine Elect, rejectest never.

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 Wipf & Stock.

Monday, September 5, 2022

Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen*

Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen (1919—2004) is one of Portugal’s best-loved writers. She was born in the northern city of Porto, but moved to Lisbon for university and made it her home. In 1964, she was given the Grand Prize of Poetry by the Portuguese Society of Writers, and has since received numerous other honours.

Her early poems, from the 1947 collection Dio do Mar (Day of the Sea), are highly lyrical mood-pieces, reflecting on gardens and seascapes. Poems from this book, and her 1977 collection O Nome das Coisas (The Name of the Things), appear in the bilingual collection The Perfect Hour (2015, Cold Hub Press). Thirty years separates the publication of these Portuguese collections, and so there’s quite a contrast between the two sections. The latter poems are more philosophical, and sometimes political. They come at the end of almost 50 years of repressive governments, and the Carnation Revolution of 1974. Andresen was elected to the Constituent Assembly in 1975 representing the Socialist Party.

Although filled with fine poems, The Perfect Hour is not representative of the more than 20 poetry collections Andresen published, but merely brings together translations from two diverse books by a translator who died young. Two earlier books translating Andresen’s poetry into English — Marine Rose (1987, Black Swan) and Log Book (1997, Carcanet) — are also available. She has also had her poetry translated into Chinese, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Swedish.

The following poems were translated by Colin Rorrison, with final editing by Margaret Jull Costa, and are from The Perfect Hour.

Like the murmur

Like the murmur of the sea inside a shell
The divine whispers through the universe
Something emerges: a primordial plan

With furious rage

With furious rage I accuse the demagogue
And his capitalism of words

For it should be known that the word is sacred
That from far far away a people have brought it
And placed in it their trusting soul
From far far away since the beginning
Man knew himself through words
And named the stone the flower the water
And everything emerged because he spoke

With furious rage I accuse the demagogue
Who puffs himself up with the aid of words
And out of words makes power and pastime
And as he did with the wheat and the land
He transforms words into money.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen: 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 Wipf & Stock.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Pantycelyn

Pantycelyn (1717―1791) is the bardic name taken by the Welsh poet and hymnist William Williams. He was one of the leaders of the 18th-century Welsh Methodist Revival, and known as “The Sweet Songster” because of his many influential hymns written in the Welsh language. The statue of Pantycelyn pictured may be found in Cardiff City Hall.

Another poetic genre, besides hymn-writing, favoured by William Williams was the elegy; he wrote several elegies in memory of Methodist leaders and other well-known Christians. He also wrote original prose works, and translated others from English.

To English-speakers his best-known hymn is “Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah” which is often used on official state occasions including at the funeral of Princess Diana, and at the weddings of both of her sons. Outside of church use, it is commonly referred to as the “Welsh Rugby Hymn,” because it is frequently sung by the crowd at rugby matches in Wales.

The following poem was translated from the Welsh by Tony Conran (who was profiled here two years ago). It is included in the forthcoming anthology To Heaven's Rim: The Kingdom Poets Book of World Christian Poetry, Beginnings to 1800 ― edited by Burl Horniachek.

The Love of God

Always across the distant hills
I’m looking for you yet;
Come, my beloved, it grows late
And my sun has almost set.

Each and every love I had
Turned unfaithful to me at length;
But a sweet sickness has taken me
Of a love of mightier strength.

A love the worldly don’t recognise
For its virtue or its grace,
But it sucks my liking and desire
From every creature’s face.

O make me faithful while I live,
And aimed level at thy praise,
Let no object under the sky
Take away my gaze!

But pull my affections totally
From falsities away
To the one object that keeps faith
And shall for ever stay.

Nothing under the blue air now
Would make me want to live
But only that I’ll know the joys
That the courts of God can give.

Relish and appetite have died
For the flowers of the world that fall:
Only a vanity without ebb
Is running through it all.

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 Wipf & Stock.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Frederick Buechner

Frederick Buechner (1926―2022) is an American novelist and writer of memoir, theology, essays, sermons, and some poetry ― who died this past Monday, August 15th. He was a Presbyterian minister, although he never pastored a church, and a novelist who authored 39 books, including Lion Country (1971), a finalist for the National Book Award, and Godric (1980), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The poet James Merrill was one of his childhood friends, and the novelist John Irving was one of his students.

In the Washington Post, Cecelia Holland wrote of Buechner’s 1987 novel Brendan ― “In our own time, when religion is debased, an electronic game show, an insult to the thirsty soul, Buechner’s novel proves again the power of faith, to lift us up, to hold us straight, to send us on again.”

In April of 2004, at the Festival of Faith & Writing, I heard him speak and read from some of his books, including his novel The Son of Laughter, which is about the life of Jacob. Once the festival was through, my friends and I hadn’t had enough, so we went to hear him preach at Grand Rapids, Michigan’s Central Reformed Church. There he spoke about Thomas’s confession of Christ in John 20. He told us, we have to imagine ourselves into Bible stories, and considering Thomas was known as “The Twin” Buechner said, “I am the other twin ― unless I miss my guess ― and so are you.”

Found

Maybe it’s all utterly meaningless.
Maybe it’s all unutterably meaningful.
If you want to know which,
pay attention to
what it means to be truly human
in a world that half the time
we’re in love with
and half the time
scares the hell out of us…

The unexpected sound of your name on somebody’s lips.
The good dream.
The strange coincidence.
The moment that brings tears to your eyes.
The person who brings life to your life.

Even the smallest events hold the greatest clues.

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 Wipf & Stock.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Henry King

Henry King (1592―1669) is one of the poets T.S. Eliot identified as among the metaphysical poets, calling him familiarly Bishop King. King became Bishop of Chichester in 1642, but had his living, his library, and the rectory taken from him by the Parliamentary forces who had ceased power. He was reinstated at Charles II’s restoration in 1660.

Henry King’s father was the influential John King, Bishop of London who died in 1621. Rumours circulated at that time of a deathbed conversion to Catholicism, which Henry refuted in a sermon.

Henry King was friends with such poets as Ben Jonson, Izaak Walton, and John Donne ― eventually serving as Donne’s literary executor. King is primarily known today for “The Exequy,” an elegy written at the death of his first wife in 1624.

A poetry collection Poems, Elegies, Paradoxes, and Sonets, appeared under his name in 1657, although not prepared by him, and containing some poems that are not his. A selection entitled Poems and Psalms was published in 1843. His body is buried in Chichester Cathedral.

A Penitential Hymn

Hearken O God unto a Wretches cries
Who low dejected at thy footstool lies.
Let not the clamour of my heinous sin
Drown my requests, which strive to enter in
At those bright gates, which always open stand
To such as beg remission at thy hand.
Too well I know, if thou in rigour deal
I can not pardon ask, nor yet appeal:
To my hoarse voice, heaven will no audience grant,
But deaf as brass, and hard as adamant
Beat back my words; therefore I bring to thee
A gracious Advocate to plead for me.
What though my leprous soul no Jordan can
Recure, nor floods of the lav'd Ocean
Make clean? yet from my Saviours bleeding side
Two large and medicinable rivers glide.
Lord, wash me where those streams of life abound,
And new Bethesdas flow from every wound.
If I this precious Lather may obtain,
I shall not then despair for any stain;
I need no Gileads balm, nor oil, nor shall
I for the purifying Hyssop call:
My spots will vanish in His purple flood,
And Crimson there turn white, though washed with blood.
See Lord! with broken heart and bended knee,
How I address my humble suit to Thee;
O give that suit admittance to thy ears
Which floats to thee not in my words but tears:
And let my sinful soul this mercy crave
Before I fall into the silent grave.

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 Wipf & Stock.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Karen An-hwei Lee*

Karen An-hwei Lee is an American poet whose fifth collection has just appeared from Poiema/Cascade. What makes Duress unique is how throughout the collection Lee makes subtle references to what we all experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic. As you read you’ll encounter cellist Yo-Yo Ma playing an impromptu concert for those lined up to get their vaccine (“Songs of Comfort”), and passing mentions of mask wearing, video conferencing, and pandemic isolation. Duress is, however, not so much about the pandemic as it is of human experience during our season of pandemic.

Her care-filled yet prolific writing of these poems has produced this timely follow-up to Rose is a Verb: Neo-Georgics (Slant, 2021). Scott Cairns has written, “With formal elegance and visionary comprehension, the poems of Duress prove witness to the immensity occasioned in the small, and the particularity made manifest in the endless expanse before us.”

When I return to this collection years from now, I expect to find I will not only be saying, “Yes, that’s what it was like,” but the poems will continue to speak to me of what life is like. Duress will transcend the pandemic, as most good poetry transcends the times in which it is written. Karen An-hwei Lee is Provost and Professor of English at Wheaton College in Illinois.

I am honoured to have served as the editor for Duress from which the following poem is taken.

On Quarantine Dreams

I wake in the morning, facing the risk
of viral air wafting in open spaces
such as the market, gas station, or dog park,
daring to linger at the rows of fat peaches,
in no haste to choose one with a gloved
finger, a paper mask filtering the aroma
of ripening fruit palmed in my right hand.
The daily hours slow to the rate of dough
rising in an oiled bowl, the floured wood
petitioning silently for another round
of dimpling and kneading, for dinner rolls
instead of sourdough. Praying for beloveds
while making bread, I shape, proof, and sugar
kindred spirits with pleasure. In my dreams,
the loaves of bread fly all over the globe
like satellites radioing the old solace of toast,
the fierce reassurance of butterflies winging
south for winter in the mountains, their wings
fiery and crisp as buttered rye, oblivious
to the violence inflicted by an invisible
coronavirus wreaking havoc on civilization,
a virus so small, it is barely even a living thing.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Karen An-hwei Lee: 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 Wipf & Stock.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Gerhard Tersteegen

Gerhard Tersteegen (1697―1769) is a German Pietist poet, and writer. He was influential through his sermons, hymns, poems, letters, and “reflections” ― some of which have been translated into English.

In his youth he had wanted to study theology, but couldn’t afford the tuition so he became apprenticed to a merchant. This didn’t suit him, so he worked on his own as a weaver in an isolated cottage where he would better be able to search for God. He read theological books, and became well-respected as a lay theologian. In 1727 his pursuit of solitude took a surprising turn. A revival took place and people started coming to him for spiritual guidance. He hosted home worship and prayer meetings, and became an itinerant preacher.

In addition to his own writing, Tersteegen translated French mystics and Julian of Norwich into German. Some of his hymns were translated into English by John Wesley.

The following poems are from The Spiritual Flower Garden as translated by Bill C. Hensel.

[Says] Jesus to the Soul (Part 1)

Oh, do not be disturbed, my child;
remain in your inner solitude,
with a gentle and quiet spirit
and undeluded senses.

Let come what may,
but guard your peace.

Nothing is worth
your disturbance,

for I, Jesus, am in you.

What good will the world
and all its devils
do for you?

Have peace in me
that I may rest
in you.

[Says] Jesus to the Soul (Part II)

You speak to me
that I might come to you
and prepare you;

now, stretch forth your hands
and let me make it so!

Your own will,
your own worry
your own striving,
your own work ―

all of this disturbs your peace

and makes it so that I
cannot work in you.

Only behold the little flowers
in clear, Summer weather:

they keep very still
then open their petals.

So the Sun shines upon them
and works its gentle way

and this, too, is what I would do
if only you would let me.

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 Wipf & Stock.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Hadewijch

Hadewijch (c.1200―c.1260) is a poet and Christian mystic who lived in what is now Belgium. She was head of a group of young beguines ― women who lived a life devoted to God in communal houses, although not as a religious order.

It is believed she came from a wealthy family, because her writing demonstrates a wide knowledge of theology, languages, and literature ― including French courtly poetry.

The following English version was translated by Columba Hart. The Latin, as carried over from the original Dutch poem, basically means ― "Ah, if I wish you a thousand times happiness, it would not be enough."

God Must Give us a Renewed Mind (from Vale Millies)

God must give us a renewed mind
--------For nobler and freer love,
To make us so new in our life
--------That Love may bless us
And renew, with new taste,
--------Those to whom she can give new fullness;
Love is the new and powerful recompense
--------Of those whose life renews itself for Love alone.
― Ay, vale, vale, millies ―
--------That renewing of new Love
― Si dixero, non satis est ―
--------Which renewal will newly experience.

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 Wipf & Stock.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Sarah Law

Sarah Law is a London poet who grew up in Norwich and once worked in the Julian Centre, next door to St Julian's Church. Her natural interest in the medieval anchoress Julian of Norwich was a starting point for further investigations into Christian mystics.

She is the author of several poetry collections, including her sixth: Thérèse (2020, Paraclete) in which she shares her poetic reflections on the life and writings of the Carmelite nun Thérèse of Lisieux (1873―1897). Marjorie Maddox calls the book “A biography-in-verse that brims with beauty, pain, insight, and humility…”

Sarah Law teaches at the Open University, and is editor for the online journal Amethyst Review, which focuses on new writing engaging with the sacred. Her new novel Sketches from a Sunlit Heaven is soon to appear from Wipf & Stock Publishers.

Grace Drifts Down Like Dust

Grace drifts down like dust
over the soul’s rough rocks,

settles in its crevices, scintilla
where even the light is blocked –

grace like fine flour sifting through
a grille to the lumpen heart.

I sit in the back pew (sunshine shears
into the evening church) and see

that motes are always falling –
each particle is gentler than confetti,

hallowing the human, the unready;
its glinting traces bless us unawares.

Grace is manna for an outpost life,
is unconditional and borderless –

there is only the reception of its calling,
all I can do is raise my empty hands.

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 Wipf & Stock.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Vedanyakam Sastri

Vedanyakam Sastri (1774―1864) is an Indian poet and lyricist who served as court poet in the palace of Serfoji II ― who was the ruler of the Bhonsle dynasty of the Maratha principality of Tanjore (now known as Thanjavur). His name is alternately spelled Vedanayagam Sastriar as well. He was born into a Catholic family, but embraced Protestantism at the age of twelve. Sastri’s poetry became very popular, however, many missionaries felt he went too far to contextualize Chrsitanity to the Indian culture.

His poetry draws together Christian imagery with traditional Tamil literary structures. He performed dramatic versions of stories from the creation of the world right through to the return of Christ. Some of his works include The Garland of Prayer, The Drama of the Crippled Hero of Wisdom, and Bethlehem Kuravanci.

After years of respected service to the king, several powerful individuals in the palace showed intolerance toward Christianity. Sastri, however, remained outspoken about his faith, while showing respect for the faith of others.

The United Theological College in Bangalore, preserves some of the original manuscripts of his writings, as part of their collection of ancient palm-leaf manuscripts and rare books.

from Song #153

Pallavi:---------I love you, O my king
------------------A thousand praises sing!

Anupallavai:---To Jesus Christ the God of my tremendous salvation!
------------------You alone are the one who sustains me!

Saranam 1:----Word of God, Heavenly Bridegroom, Father Lord,
------------------You are the source of all life
------------------Well spring of divine joy, Sachidanandha!

Saranam 2:----King of Canaan, you who are worshipped in heaven
------------------With desire I search for you
------------------Pray and praise you.

Saranam 3:----Wasted are the years when I did not seek you
------------------Bewildered at my hapless state was I
------------------You rescued and brought home safely the abandoned
------------------Sheep that I was, do you correct me.

Saranam 4:----Praise and worship be to you
------------------O Jehovah you protected me for ever and ever
------------------I wonder I worship you
------------------The Holy Word, Christ Jesus!

Saranam 5:----You of whom man has searched from the beginning
------------------You who rejoice with us in our celebrations
------------------According to Vedanayagam’s praises
------------------I long to embrace you…

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 Wipf & Stock.

Monday, July 4, 2022

Dragan Dragojlović

Dragan Dragojlović is a Serbian poet of the Orthodox Christian faith. He has served in various official roles for the Serbian government, including as ambassador to Australia from 1997 to 2001.The title of his 2017 collection Patriarch’s Ladders, refers of the ladder to heaven, and honours the late Patriarch Pavle of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Dragojlović’s best known book, in English translation, Death’s Homeland (2008) is a collection of anti-war poems. He finds people’s religious motivations for war particularly appalling, and has emphasized “the tragic enigma of how people who believe in a loving God can murder each other…” At the Ecumenical Dialogue on Reconciliation in Belgrade in 1996 ― in his alternate role as Minister of Religions in the Serbian government ― he commented on the religious nature of the war in the former Yugoslavia: “Not that many combatants were devout believers, but they made little if any distinction between national and religious identity, nor did their religious communities encourage them to make such a distinction.”

Dragojlović has translated contemporary Chinese poet Zhao Lihong into Serbian, while his own Book of Love has been translated into Chinese.

If I Succeed in Producing a Poem

If I succeed in producing a poem
then I will not rue missing out the exhibition
of inanimate objects in sfumato technique
that brings our inner and painful side
closer to the light.

A poem need not be
similar to some paintings,
a limitless geometry of inexpressible beauty
born out of a marriage
of mutually remote words,
like the blending of colours on the canvas,
or like distant stars
that engender the sky
disclosing fragments of the principle
controlled by God.

Despite his faltering pen,
despite his self-consuming thoughts,
a poet touches upon the intangible
contained in each endless moment
as occasionally happens
on a painter’s canvas.

Essentially, the painting and the poem
are two forms of the same language
that can at times convey Perfection.

Humility forbids us to wonder
what God’s judgment of that would be.

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 Wipf & Stock.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Ben Jonson*

Ben Jonson (1572—1637) is a British playwright and poet who spent time in prison on several occasions, both for his actions and for what he had written. In 1597 he was imprisoned for alleged seditious content in the unfinished satire The Isle of Dogs which Jonson had been hired to complete — and in 1605 for the collaboration Eastward Ho! which included a joke at the king’s expense.

Early on he found popularity with such satirical plays as Every Man in His Humour (1598), and Bartholomew Fair (1614). He later became popular in the court of James I, becoming unofficial Poet Laureate in 1616; for several years after this he focused on writing masques for presentation at court.

His early poetry, like his plays, often create witty portraits exposing human follies and vices. To me, his most-engaging works for today’s readers are his rich devotional poems which express the depth of his personal faith.

Jonson admired, and was admired by, such contemporaries as John Donne, and William Shakespeare; he was also influential on the generation of younger poets that followed, including Robert Herrick, and Richard Lovelace. A large crowd of mourners attended his funeral; his body is buried at Westminster Abbey.

To Heaven

Good and great God, can I not think of thee
But it must straight my melancholy be?
Is it interpreted in me disease
That, laden with my sins, I seek for ease?
Oh be thou witness, that the reins dost know
And hearts of all, if I be sad for show,
And judge me after; if I dare pretend
To ought but grace or aim at other end.
As thou art all, so be thou all to me,
First, midst, and last, converted one, and three;
My faith, my hope, my love; and in this state
My judge, my witness, and my advocate.
Where have I been this while exiled from thee?
And whither rapt, now thou but stoop'st to me?
Dwell, dwell here still. O, being everywhere,
How can I doubt to find thee ever here?
I know my state, both full of shame and scorn,
Conceived in sin, and unto labour borne,
Standing with fear, and must with horror fall,
And destined unto judgment, after all.
I feel my griefs too, and there scarce is ground
Upon my flesh to inflict another wound.
Yet dare I not complain, or wish for death
With holy Paul, lest it be thought the breath
Of discontent; or that these prayers be
For weariness of life, not love of thee.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Ben Jonson: 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 Wipf & Stock.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Johan Nordahl Brun

Johan Nordahl Brun (1745—1816) is a poet, dramatist, and pastor. He was a Norwegian nationalist prior to Norway gaining independence from Denmark. In 1771 he wrote the song “For Norway, Birthplace of Heroes” which was banned by Danish authorities, and was considered Norway’s first unofficial national anthem. He also wrote two successful dramas, but his primary interest was to serve in the church.

As a theologian he opposed the narrow rationalism of the enlightenment. In 1804 he became bishop of Bergen. The portrait accompanying this post hangs in Bergen Cathedral.

In Heaven is Joy and Gladness

In heaven is joy and gladness,
But while I sojourn here,
So often, bowed in sadness,
I shed the bitter tear.
Here ills, always prevailing,
Distress the Saviour’s bride;
Here mirth is lost in wailing;
In heaven but joys abide.

I do not strive for pleasures
That fools pursue on earth,
I sow in tears for treasures
That have more lasting worth.
If, when my journey ends,
The sheaves I gather in,
The bliss the fool pretends
I do not yearn to win.

For I shall see my Jesus,
He is my Hope and Stay;
The cross that me oppresses
He then shall take away.
Then nothing more shall grieve me,
And no adversity
Shall of my joy bereave me;
Soon I shall Jesus see.

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 Wipf & Stock.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Li Hao

Li Hao is a Beijing poet born in 1984. He is the winner of the Yulong Poetry Prize (2008) and the Beijing University Weiming Lake Poetry Prize (2007). Eleanor Goodman wrote in Words Without Borders, “He must toe a line as a younger poet living in Beijing and working for an official literary publication, careful to keep his verse free of material that might be considered proselytizing. Nevertheless, his first [officially] published collection, The Tempest, was banned [in China] and pulled from shelves not long after its publication.”

His poetry, besides having been translated into English, has been translated in Polish and various Asian languages. He is the author of two collections Returning Home, and The Tempest, as well as a mixed collection of poetry and essays, You and I. He also self-published an earlier poetry book in 2007, The Ladder of Deconstruction.

The following poem, translated by Eleanor Goodman, first appeared in Unfamiliar Riverbank: Contemporary Chinese Verse. It was described as “A poem about suffering and the Divine”.

I Want to Walk Toward the Altar of the Lord

The clamor of the dead on the wall
spin in the lobes of my lungs

the vault of heaven’s many
gears: corpulent

Leviathan of my soul,
covered in knifepoints, making the heavens

rain down iron nails. Eternal light
strikes upon the earth’s altars.

Lord, I am foolish,
I am suffering, and my body,

like a spoon, here on this earth, sweetly scoops out
my brain.

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 Wipf & Stock.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Emily Dickinson*

Emily Dickinson (1830—1886) is one of America’s best-loved poets. She was never one for simple explanations, but always a questioner — observing nature and working out her understanding of scripture in the light of all she saw and heard.

She made little effort to have her poems published, or even to be read beyond those she corresponded with. Her idiosyncratic rhythms, half-rhymes, punctuation, and capitalization — as well as how tightly her poems are edited down to their barest essence — often make them difficult for readers to quickly inhabit. Perhaps it is their uniqueness, though, that has enabled her work to reach beyond the more conventional verse of her day.

She also seems to have had no concern for how others may have viewed her — including as to whether she was a Christian or not. Although often outspoken in her questionings, she was never afraid to be seen as taking them directly to the one she calls “Our Lord.”

Savior! I’ve no one else to tell

Savior! I’ve no one else to tell —
And so I trouble thee.
I am the one forgot thee so —
Dost thou remember me?
Nor, for myself, I came so far —
That were the little load —
I brought thee the imperial Heart
I had not strength to hold —
The Heart I carried in my own —
Till mine too heavy grew —
Yet — strangest — heavier since it went —
Is it too large for you?

The Test of Love — is Death

The Test of Love — is Death —
Our Lord — "so loved" — it saith —
What Largest Lover — hath
Another — doth —

If smaller Patience — be —
Through less Infinity —
If Bravo, sometimes swerve —
Through fainter Nerve —

Accept it's Most —
And overlook — the Dust —
Last — Least —
The Cross' — Request —

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Emily Dickinson: 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 Wipf & Stock.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Eugene Warren

Eugene Warren (1941―2015) is a poet, and former chair of English and Technical Communication at Missouri S&T, where he taught for 42 years. He served as Poetry Editor for Christianity and Literature, and authored seven poetry collections, including: Christographia, Geometries of Light, and Fishing at Easter. His fascination with World Literature manifest itself in his teaching, in his promotion of many non-western poetic forms ― particularly the ghazal ― and in his own poetry.

Eugene Warren is the name he was known by until 1988 ― Warren being his adoptive father’s family name. After this he took on his birth father’s surname and became known as Gene Doty. To delightfully confuse matters further he used the pseudonym, “gino peregrini” for some of his publishing and editing activities.

Victoria Emily Jones, who blogs frequently and informatively at Art & Theology, reports that Eugene Warren’s Christographia is ― “a chapbook of thirty-two numbered poems that ‘attempt to express personal views of, & perspectives on, Christ.’ The book’s title comes from a series of sermons by the Puritan poet and preacher Edward Taylor.” The above link brings you to a poem, which Jones featured, from Christographia.

Christographia XXIV

now I come back
now I press on
now I descend
now I rise
-------------remaining
--------at the center
----------of the lovely abyss
hearing the pocket watch
tick itself mad

now I am silent
now I shout
now I sleep
now I wake
-------------spelling
--------a sentence
----------longer than time
forming words
----------that vanish into ink

the diagrams we invent
or discover,
at the mind’s edge
or core
-----------that what is inner
-----------is the form of what is outer,
-----------dream & world keys
-----------to the same lock

the charts
of word, color, number
tone
that graph precisely
the contours of mind
which are the shapes
of life
-----------its tensions, desires
-----------its silence & absence

-----------as when the stars turn
-----------at once
--------------on two axes

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 Wipf & Stock.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Sydney Lea*

Sydney Lea served as Poet Laureate of Vermont from 2011 to 2015, and won the 2021 Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts from the Vermont Arts Council. His poetry collections include: To the Bone which was co-winner of the Poets' Prize in 1998, and Six Sundays Toward a Seventh (2012) the inaugural collection in the Poiema Poetry Series.

Poet Jane Hirshfield said of his thirteenth poetry collection ― Here (2019, Four Ways Books) ― “Sydney Lea has always been a poet equally eloquent and wide-eyed before reality. This self-aware book of experience, stock-taking, and memory finds him just now, just here, a person still hopeful in the face of it all, a poet at the height of his powers.”

The following poem first appeared in AGNI and is from the collection No Doubt the Nameless (2016, Four Ways Books).

Milton’s Satan

Diabolical heat for this time of year.
There’s the whir and hiss of my fan.
A digital clock blinks on its table.
Self-will is pulsing:
I ache to fly off and find the last of our children,
gone too far away to college.
The nest is empty. It’s burned. The ceiling

of her room still shows her poster for Some Like It Hot.
It’s shriveling after long years
when Monroe looked down on a herd of plush deer
and other mild creatures
now ragged with age. I imagine imagination
might cool my soul: I wrestle to mind
a gentle meadow dotted with flowers,

the checkered shade of a hardwood stand in fall,
a small brook’s ice-jeweled pools,
and last, an unmarred quilt of snow
on our cellar bulkhead.
Such willful visions won’t hold. The meadow is scorched
and tunneled by rodents, parasites thrive
in the trees, mosquitoes will hatch from the streambed.

The snow looks pure. Mercury laces its flakes.
Her absence is bodily ache.
It throbs. It scalds. There are reasons to think of Satan,
his imperious will,
its ruinous conflagrations. Which way I fly,
the poet’s devil claims, is hell.
Satan says, Myself am hell.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Sydney Lea: 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 Wipf & Stock.