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.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Marjorie Stelmach*

Marjorie Stelmach is the former director of the Howard Nemerov Writing Scholars Program at Washington University in St. Louis. Her seventh collection The Angel of Absolute Zero has just appeared from Cascade Books’ Poiema Poetry Series. This is the second of her books from that series, which is edited by (yours truly) D.S. Martin. Another recent book, Walking the Mist appeared from the Ashland Poetry Press.

Poet Jane O. Wayne says of Stelmach’s new book: “In The Angel of Absolute Zero, Marjorie Stelmach leads us into a quiet realm arising out of both personal experience and reading. Whether she ponders a loon’s call or the secret origins of the cobalt blue in Chartres Cathedral’s windows, her discoveries and wise observations enrich the poems. Every image apt, every word in place, Stelmach’s beautiful book gives us the pure pleasure of her music and insights.”

Every one of these poems has previously found a home in such literary journals as, Beloit Poetry Review, The Cresset, Hudson Review, and Prairie Schooner.

The following poem first appeared in Terrene and is also from The Angel of Absolute Zero.

The Psalm of the Luna Moth

-----After a Luna moth egg hatches, the caterpillar moves
-----through five instars, eating constantly, then weaves
-----a cocoon from which it emerges mouthless. As an adult,
-----it flies only at night, and lives only long enough to mate―
-----a few days at most.


Those innumerable feet
seemed so useful
in my youth,

but looking back, I see
it was a life spent crawling,
chewing.

Then, you called me.

-----Here am I.

You freed me, first, from hunger
and the sorrow of my plodding,
and now,

in fields of luminous dusk,
beneath a silken beckoning
of stars,

you have given me wings

and coupled my heart
to the moon.

Lord of Light, I have felt
my wings beset
by the forces

of your suddenness,
your swerves and lifts, your
sheer drops.

And now,
having come into the fullness
of my longing, once again

I hear your voice.

-----Here am I.

Eagerly, I spread my wings
and all my previous lives
before you

to ask what you,
in the sweep of your reckless love,
will make of me next.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Marjorie Stelmach: 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, May 9, 2022

Ursula Bethell*

Ursula Bethell (1874—1945) is a New Zealand poet whose legacy lives on. She was born in England, moved to Christchurch in her childhood, and seemed to alternate her residence between New Zealand and England every few years. This was before such journeys were simplified by air travel. In the late 1890s she studied music and painting in Geneva, but chose instead a career in social work, particularly with the Anglican church.

Her poetry didn’t arise until her years of settled life beginning in 1924, when she and a friend bought a bungalow together, and she worked to establish its garden. She wrote a total of only three collections ― although for several years the work of another poet had been thought to be the early writing of Ursula Bethell.

Bethell’s poetry does live on. One of her clearer faith-declarations “At the Lighting of the Lamps” has been set to music by the “Ursula Bethell writer in residence at the University of Canterbury” Philip Norman for the Christchurch City Choir.
-----“Were you not wont, early illumined Christians,
-----To sing, at the time of lamp-lighting, hymns of confident praise?...
-----Because the All-wise, All-merciful, All-compassionate
-----Father of Lights, in whom is no shadow of turning,
-----Has laid the foundations of all universes secure…”

The following poem, which expresses her generation’s attitude concerning appropriate Sunday behaviour, appeared in From a Garden in the Antipodes (1929, Sidgwick & Jackson).

Sabbath

A fine day, but one for reasoned abstention.
Tempt me not sturdy mattock, nor you, cunning trowel,
Nor you, keen-edged secateurs!
Perhaps with finger and thumb one might venture?
But no! desist now, you scheming brain-cells,
And rest, hand, primeval tool.
Rather, recumbent on this sunny grass-slope,
My mind shall meditate upon divine husbandry,
And ponder emblems, allegories, parables —
The vine, the scattered seed, the threshing flail.
And think of peace flowing like that mighty river
And justice, standing fast like those great mountains,
And for similitude of the soft blue above me
Pitifulness. Tender mercy.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Ursula Bethell: 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, May 2, 2022

Charlotte Brontë*

Charlotte Brontë (1816—1855) is a Victorian poet, who — although the third of six children — is remembered as the eldest of the three Brontë sisters. Along with Emily and Anne, she released a collection of poetry in 1846. Charlotte’s poems in this collection are primarily narrative.

After the success of her novel Jane Eyre (1847), she shifted her full attention to writing fiction. Most writers will focus their efforts where they are finding success; Charlotte’s shift toward fiction also parallels the changing interests of the reading public during the 1830s and ‘40s.

Although Jane Eyre was criticized by the religious in Victorian England, Brontë responded in the preface to the second edition: “Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last. To pluck the mask from the face of the Pharisee, is not to lift an impious hand to the Crown of Thorns.”

Literary scholar Karen Swallow Prior says, “As she strives to create a sense of self within a set of conditions in which almost nothing is a given, Jane does so as a committed Christian… Even the heavy Romantic influences are transformed by Brontë’s Christian faith.”

Charlotte Brontë’s other novels are Shirley (1849) and Villette (1853). Her posthumously published fiction includes the earlier novel The Professor, and her story Emma, (not to be confused with the Jane Austen novel) which Charlotte had barely started, yet has been completed at various times by other writers.

Evening Solace

The human heart has hidden treasures,
In secret kept, in silence sealed;—
The thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures,
Whose charms were broken if revealed.
And days may pass in gay confusion,
And nights in rosy riot fly,
While, lost in Fame's or Wealth's illusion,
The memory of the Past may die.

But there are hours of lonely musing,
Such as in evening silence come,
When, soft as birds their pinions closing,
The heart's best feelings gather home.
Then in our souls there seems to languish
A tender grief that is not woe;
And thoughts that once wrung groans of anguish
Now cause but some mild tears to flow.

And feelings, once as strong as passions,
Float softly back—a faded dream;
Our own sharp griefs and wild sensations,
The tale of others' sufferings seem.
Oh! when the heart is freshly bleeding,
How longs it for that time to be,
When, through the mist of years receding,
Its woes but live in reverie!

And it can dwell on moonlight glimmer,
On evening shade and loneliness;
And, while the sky grows dim and dimmer,
Feel no untold and strange distress—
Only a deeper impulse given
By lonely hour and darkened room,
To solemn thoughts that soar to heaven
Seeking a life and world to come.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Charlotte Brontë: 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, April 25, 2022

Brian Volck

Brian Volck seems to lead two lives ― at least two lives. In one manifestation he is a pediatrician who has served at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, has provided pediatric care at the Indian Health Service hospital on the Navajo Reservation, and brought medical teams to Central America.

He is also a writer whose poetry collection Flesh Becomes Word (2013) was published by Dos Madras Press. Scott Cairns has said of this book, “These are poems of deep humility, of wide and deep learning, of abiding and strenuous faith—and pervasive joy.”

Volck’s passions for writing and healthcare come together in his published essays, in Reclaiming the Body: Christians and the Faithful Use of Medicine (2006, Brazos Press) which he co-wrote with Joel Shuman, and his memoir Attending Others: A Doctor’s Education in Bodies and Words (2016, Cascade Books).

He received his MFA from Seattle Pacific University, his MD from Washington University in St. Louis, and is currently completing a Master’s degree in theology from St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. All of these connections now draw him to divide his time between Cincinnati, his home in Baltimore, and the landscape he loves in the American Southwest.

The following poem is from Flesh Becomes Word.

Having Crossed the Sea

(Exodus 15)

I have seen them, dead along the shore,
their bloated faces still ripe with hate.
And there was one I stopped at to kick—
kick him fiercely and hard in the face
the way they kicked my now dead husband
who wept at making bricks without straw—
but I found no joy in what I did.

Yesterday, we had cause to rejoice,
seeing Israel’s enemies crushed
between walls of leveling water
cast on them by our great God’s right hand.
But as we sang praises to heaven
in sight of their still floating corpses,
the cloud column swelled, grew darker, and
the rain fell: softly at first, and then
in great salt drops, so like tears, I wept
to learn one might mourn enemy dead
who were, after all, God’s children, too.

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, April 18, 2022

Jill Peláez Baumgaertner*

Jill Peláez Baumgaertner is an influential Christian poet. As long-serving poetry editor for The Christian Century she has given voice to many worthy poets, encouraging them, and sharing their work with us. She is also past president of the Conference on Christianity and Literature. Her first poetry collection since What Cannot Be Fixed (2014, Poiema/Cascade) arrives this month ― From Shade To Shine from Paraclete Press.

She has edited two anthologies, Imago Dei: Poetry from Christianity and Literature (2012), and the forthcoming anthology Taking Root in the Heart which draws poems from The Christian Century.

In her academic career, Baumgaertner came to the English faculty of Wheaton College, in 1980, from Valparaiso University; she later served as Wheaton’s Dean of Humanities and Theological Studies (2001―2017), and has now retired.

Both of these poems are from her new book.

Easter, Before It’s Noticed

The garden in the deep night
after God’s rapt silence
has no breath. No echo even
in the vacant tomb which no one
yet has visited, no one seen.
and yet everywhere his breathing,
the turn begins, the blanket
of sunrise in mist stretches
to swaddle the earth,
gouged and waiting.

Easter

In the tomb
his cheek ashens,
the silence stiffens.
When will his cells enliven,
his blood begin its orbit,
his skin pinken?
When will he flex and rise
into the dawn of new time?

He quickens, infused with tempo,
his heartbeat
breaking through the grave’s secrets
crushing the silence,
trampling death.

And he rises.
he rises indeed,
light blazing.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Jill Peláez Baumgaertner: 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, April 11, 2022

John Robert Lee*

John Robert Lee is one of the significant younger St. Lucian contemporaries of the late Nobel laureate Derek Walcott. Lee’s most recent collection, Pierrot (2020, Peeple Tree) marks his seventieth year, and shares his reflections on his life’s journey and the departures into death of both friends and cultural heroes.

The Pierrot figure, according to his publisher’s website, is “the sad clown, holy fool of literary tradition, the suffering artist who connects to Christ in his most human incarnation as Man of Sorrows, and he is also the Pierrot Grenade of Caribbean carnival…Sometimes Pierrot is an archetypal figure, sometimes he may be thought to be Lee himself.”

In a recent interview Lee stated, “You know, I am actually a Baptist elder and pastor in my church, a practicing Christian, for over forty years.” In his younger days, he says, he walked with Rastafari, but that he left them for religious reasons.

The following is from The Passion and Resurrection Canticles.

Gethsemani

What commenced in the other garden begins to end here,
in the shadow of an olive mill by a black brook.

“Behold, We have become like one of them, to bear
their sorrows and their griefs.” Let the wheel break
this Fruit on every tooth and tread. Bruise
the Seed under the trampling heel of the Bull
of Bashan. Pour the sweating barrel
of this agony into the cupping palms of God.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about John Robert Lee: first post.

Another John Robert Lee poem was recently posted at Poems For Ephesians.

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, April 4, 2022

Ann Weems

Ann Weems (1934―2016) is a Presbyterian writer, who lived in St. Louis for more than fifty years. She is known for her devotional poetry, and liturgical texts which were used in worship services. She wrote seven books, several of which are books of poems including Kneeling in Jerusalem (1993) and Psalms of Lament (1999) ― both published by John Knox Press.

One of her greatest aches was when her son Todd was murdered on his 21st birthday. Her friend Walter Brueggemann asked her. “Will Rachel finally be comforted?” Ann responded, “No. Not until God wipes away every tear from our eyes.”

She was a Presbyterian elder, and “a noted writer, speaker, liturgist and worship leader.” Her mother had been a writer of historical novels and children’s books, and her father a Presbyterian minister.

The Way to Jerusalem is Cluttered

The way to Jerusalem
is cluttered
with bits and pieces of our lives
that fly up and cry out,
wounding us as we try
to keep upon this path
that leads to Life.
Why didn’t somebody tell us
that it would be so hard?
In the midst of the clutter,
the children laugh
and run after stars.
Those of us who are wise
will follow,
for the children will be the first
to kneel in Jerusalem.

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, March 28, 2022

Muriel Nelson

Muriel Nelson lives near Seattle and is the author of three poetry books — Part Song (1999, Bear Star Press) and the chapbooks Most Wanted (2003), and Please Hold (2021). She has taught at Pierce College and Muckleshoot Tribal College — both in Washington State. Her poems have been extensively published in American literary journals.

One writer, Patricia Corbus, said, “In Please Hold there’s melody, jazzy dissonance, flashes of tonal change, freshness of sound and image.” This observation fits with Nelson’s background, since she studied music at Willamette University, and has received her Master of Musicology from the University of Illinois. She also received her MFA in Writing from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina.

The following poem first appeared in The Christian Century.

Instead—musings on Psalm 42

If Herbert Howells hadn’t held a tune
in his ear as bombs kept falling on London,
if he hadn’t argued with himself—like
or as?—and come up with a tie (both),
if he hadn’t let his melody make more
of his awkward choice than the psalmist’s point,
we wouldn’t have the flowing rhythm of “Like as
the Hart” to carry us now, or occasion for our choir
to stop rehearsing and hear a pastor
muse that the ancients followed the hart (the heart)
which could sense unseen water (a diviner)
and lead a thirsty soul in hopes for a spring
into graceful deerlike ways of lifelong longing.

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, March 21, 2022

John O’Donnell

John O’Donnell is a Dublin barrister, poet and writer whose most recent collection is his Sunlight: New and Selected Poems (2018, Dedalus Press) which includes poetry from his three previous collections. His awards include the Hennessy Award for Poetry, the Ireland Funds Prize, and the SeaCat National Poetry Prize. O’Donnell’s short fiction has also garnered awards, and has been gathered into his first fiction collection Almost the Same Blue (2020, Doire Press).

He has written several poems from the perspective of various characters who encountered Jesus in the gospels, including: “Jairus” whose daughter Christ raised from the dead, “A Wedding Guest” about the marriage at Cana, and “Some Other Country” which is from the perspective of Pilate.

The following poem which first appeared in Poetry Ireland Review is another written as an expression of a story from the life of Christ.

The Storm

We should have seen it coming, I suppose,
but we were dog-tired when we left, and skies
seemed clear, the sun’s work done, sinking astern.
He’d flaked out down below, missing his turn
to steer ― and who could blame him wanting peace
from days of heat and dust, and everywhere
excited hordes, clamouring for a piece
of him. A shame to wake him, but we were
in real trouble, too late to shorten sail,
heaving waves swamping the decks, the boom of gale
enough to raise the dead. I slapped his face:
‘We’re going down! Don’t you care?’ He blinked, then stared
as if he’d come back from another place
to wind and water, waiting for his word.

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, March 14, 2022

Joseph Addison*

Joseph Addison (1672―1719), the son of an eminent clergyman, is an English poet, essayist, playwright and politician. His first book, Account of the Greatest English Poets (1694), and his translation of Virgil’s Georgics appeared while he was still a student at Magdalen College, Oxford. His early success drew the admiration of his peers, and the attention of wealthy benefactors.

A commission to write a poem for the Battle of Blenheim (The Campaign) also impressed the Earl of Halifax, which led to a position within his government. Addison not only served as a member of parliament, but rose to the position of Secretary of State in 1717. Although his play Cato was a literary influence on the American Revolution ― George Washington having sponsored a performance of Cato for the Continental Army at Valley Forge ― Addison is best known today for his essays.

The following is just one of several hymns penned by Addison.

How Are Thy Servants Blest, O Lord!

How are Thy servants blest, O Lord!
How sure is their defense!
Eternal wisdom is their guide,
Their help Omnipotence.

In foreign realms, and lands remote,
Supported by Thy care,
Through burning climes they pass unhurt,
And breathe in tainted air.

When by the dreadful tempest borne
High on the broken wave,
They know Thou art not slow to her,
Nor impotent to save.

The storm is laid, the winds retire,
Obedient to Thy will,
The sea, that roars at Thy command,
At Thy command is still.

From all our griefs and fears, O Lord,
Thy mercy sets us free;
While in the confidence of prayer
Our hearts take hold on Thee.

In midst of dangers, fears and death,
Thy goodness we adore;
We praise Thee for Thy mercies past,
And humbly hope for more

Our life, while Thou preservest life,
A sacrifice shall be;
And death, when death shall be our lot,
Shall join our souls to Thee.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Joseph Addison: 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, March 7, 2022

Jane Greer

Jane Greer is the author of two poetry books, whose publications are separated by more than thirty years. Bathsheba on the Third Day (1986) and her new collection Love like a Conflagration (2020).

She founded Plains Poetry Journal in 1981 ― a literary publication dedicated to promoting the poetry of the New Formalism ― which she edited until 1993. She has taught writing at Bismarck State College, and has worked for two decades as a civil servant for the state of North Dakota.

It was while sitting in a New Orleans café, that the idea for a new poem struck her, which led to Greer’s return to steadily writing verse. The following poem first appeared in First Things.

This Blue

The way the light of you
finds me through the hot,
bright unnamable blue,

that square of ancient glass
in the high apse window,
backlit at mid-day Mass:

blue should not feel like burning,
like a blazing lighthouse lamp,
so here I am, learning

this color like a child
too young for words: this blue
to seek me, self-exiled;

this blue to find me, hiding;
this blue to hold me, helpless,
in your cool fire abiding.

Just a small shard, this blue,
yet I am pierced and pinned.
For me, today, no credo: only you.

Posted with permission of the poet.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

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, February 28, 2022

David E. Poston

David E. Poston is a poet living in North Carolina who has published two chapbooks ― My Father Reading Greek (1999) and Postmodern Bourgeois Poetaster Blues (2007) ― and the full-length collection Slow of Study (2015, Main Street Rag). He taught for thirty years in public school, at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and at Charlotte’s Young Writers’ Workshop.

His poetry has appeared at Your Daily Poem. David is a book reviewer for Pedestal Magazine and is one of the core editors of Kakalak ― an anthology which began as a regional publication but has grown well beyond that.

The following poem first appeared in The Windhover.

Suffering Servant

--------------Acts 8: 26-39, Isaiah 53: 7-8
-------Oppressed and afflicted,----he did not open his mouth.


As the Ethiopian struggles
to parse the words of Isaiah,
help comes from a stranger
with a tongue of fire.

-------A lamb is led to the slaughter,
-------a sheep before its shearers------------------------is silent.


Empires come and go.
One persecutes believers,
another provides the Middle Passage—
that’s not Philip’s news.

-------He did not open his mouth.-------By a perversion
-------------------------------------------------------of justice he was taken.


Across the sea lies a promised land
with cotton fields vaster than all Egypt.
There will be new songs:
-------“Follow the Drinking Gourd”
-------“Wade in the Water”
-------“I’ll Fly Away”

There it will not be harps
hanging from the trees.

-------Who could have imagined
-------his future,-------------------cut off
------------------------------------------------from the land of the living.


Here is water, the eunuch says.
Baptize me.
So the journey begins.

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, February 21, 2022

Countee Cullen*

Countee Cullen (1903—1946) is one of the key poets of the Harlem Renaissance. In 1925 he published his first collection — Color — and entered Harvard University to earn his Masters degree. Educated in a white system, he was influenced by poets such as John Keats and Edna St. Vincent Millay; he utilized their traditional poetic forms to wrestle through the difficulties of being black in a racist society.

In the Poetry Foundation’s biography of Cullen it says, “On the subject of religion, Cullen waywardly progressed from uncertainty to Christian acceptance. Early on he was given to irony and even defiance in moments of youthful skepticism…” But later he overcame his uncertainties “in favor of Christian orthodoxy by 1929, when he published The Black Christ, and Other Poems.”

Written for the Reverend Frederick A. Cullen — who was pastor of Harlem’s largest congregation, Salem Methodist Episcopal Church, and Cullen’s adoptive father — this poem is from My Soul’s High Song: The Collected Writings of Countee Cullen.

Lines to My Father

The many sow, but only the chosen reap;
Happy the wretched host if Day be brief,
That with the cool oblivion of sleep
A dawnless Night may soothe the smart of grief.

If from the soil our sweat enriches sprout
One meagre blossom for our hands to cull,
Accustomed indigence provokes a shout
Of praise that life becomes so bountiful.

Now ushered regally into your own,
Look where you will, as far as eye can see,
Your little seeds are to a fullness grown,
And golden fruit is ripe on every tree.

Yours is no fairy gift, no heritage
Without travail, to which weak wills aspire;
This is a merited and grief-earned wage
From One Who holds His servants worth their hire.

So has the shyest of your dreams come true,
Built not of sand, but of the solid rock,
Impregnable to all that may accrue
Of elemental rage: storm, stress, and shock.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Countee Cullen: 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, February 14, 2022

Robert Browning*

Robert Browning (1812—1889) is seen today, not only as one of the major poets of the 19th century, but as a celebrated romantic figure. He and the poet (then known as) Elizabeth Barrett eloped against her father’s wishes, escaping to Italy, where her health concerns had a greater chance of recovery.

It is for Robert Browning that Elizabeth wrote the famous sequence Sonnets from the Portuguese (his affectionate nickname for her, because of her olive complexion). This collection includes her Sonnet #43 — one of the most famous love poems of all time.

Robert Browning is particularly known for his lengthy dramatic poems — influenced by Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound, and in turn influencing such poets as Thomas Hardy and T.S. Eliot.

God, Thou Art Love

If I forget,
Yet God remembers! If these hands of mine
Cease from their clinging, yet the hands divine
Hold me so firmly that I cannot fall;
And if sometimes I am too tired to call
For Him to help me, then He reads the prayer
Unspoken in my heart, and lifts my care.

I dare not fear, since certainly I know
That I am in God’s keeping, shielded so
From all that else would harm, and in the hour
Of stern temptation strengthened by His power;
I tread no path in life to Him unknown;
I lift no burden, bear no pain, alone:
My soul a calm, sure hiding-place has found:
The everlasting arms my life surround.

God, Thou art love! I build my faith on that.
I know Thee who has kept my path, and made
Light for me in the darkness, tempering sorrow
So that it reached me like a solemn joy;
It were too strange that I should doubt Thy love.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Robert Browning: 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, February 7, 2022

A.M. Juster

A.M. Juster is a champion of formal verse in his work as a poet, as a translator, and as a critic. His tenth book of poetry is Wonder and Wrath (2020, Paul Dry Books). He also serves as Poetry Editor for Plough Quarterly.

As a translator he has brought to English Latin works by Petrarch, Horace, Tibullus, St. Aldelm, and Maximianus, as well as a book-length collection of John Milton’s Latin elegies. He has also translated poems from French, Italian, Chinese, and the east African language Oromo.

In 2010, Paul Mariani revealed, in the pages of First Things, A.M. Juster’s alternate identity. He is Michael James Astrue, who at the time was the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration in Washington, D.C. Mariani pointed out the subtle hint in Juster’s poem “Candid Headstone”―
-------Here lies what’s left of Michael Juster,
-------A failure filled with bile and bluster.
-------Regard the scuttlebutt as true.
-------Feel free to dance; most others do.

Juster is a Catholic, who is celebrated for his wit and finely-crafted light verse. The title of his 2016 collection, Sleaze & Slander: New and Selected Comic Verse, 1995-2015, makes this clear enough. His wit and creativity also comes through in his parody The Billy Collins Experience (2016, Kelsay Books).

Cancer Prayer

Dear Lord,

Please flood her nerves with sedatives
and keep her strong enough to crack a smile
so disbelieving friends and relatives
can temporarily sustain denial.

Please smite that intern in oncology
who craves approval from department heads.
Please ease her urge to vomit; let there be
kind but flirtatious men in nearby beds.

Given her hair, consider amnesty
for sins of vanity; make mirrors vanish.
Surround her with forgiving family
and nurses not too numb to cry. Please banish

trite consolations; take her in one swift
and gentle motion as your final gift.

Posted with permission of the poet.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

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, January 31, 2022

Emily Brontë*

Emily Brontë (1818—1848) is one of the famous sisters ― Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë. Their mother died when Emily was just three, and their two eldest sisters died less than four years later. Such great loss is dealt with in the poem below.

Emily’s novel Wuthering Heights (1847) has become an important focus to the Yorkshire tourism that has sprung up around the popularity of the writing of the Brontë sisters. The Parsonage where they grew up is now a museum to their honour, and St. Michael and All Angels' Church, Haworth, Yorkshire, is visited both as where their father served as Curate, and where Charlotte and Emily are buried in the family vault.

Like so many other female writers, they wrote their poetry and novels using male pseudonyms. The following poem is from Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. (1846, Aylott and Jones).

Encouragement

I do not weep; I would not weep;
Our mother needs no tears:
Dry thine eyes, too; ’tis vain to keep
This causeless grief for years.

What though her brow be changed and cold,
Her sweet eyes closed for ever?
What though the stone—the darksome mould
Our mortal bodies sever?

What though her hand smooth ne’er again
Those silken locks of thine?
Nor, through long hours of future pain,
Her kind face o’er thee shine?

Remember still, she is not dead;
She sees us, sister, now;
Laid, where her angel spirit fled,
’Mid heath and frozen snow.

And from that world of heavenly light
Will she not always bend
To guide us in our lifetime’s night,
And guard us to the end?

Thou knowest she will; and thou mayst mourn
That WE are left below:
But not that she can ne’er return
To share our earthly woe.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Emily Brontë: 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, January 24, 2022

John Taylor

John Taylor (1578―1653) is an English poet who spent much of his life as a Thames waterman ― that is, someone who taxied people back and forth across the river in London when London Bridge was the only other way to get across. In this role he would have had interactions with London literary society, ferrying patrons, actors, and playwrights across the Thames to the Bankside theatres.

He creatively embarked on risky ventures for the sake of publication, such as travelling to Scotland without any money in 1618 for Pennylesse Pilgrimage, or travelling down the Thames in a paper boat. He has been described as “a cavalier and staunch Anglican with a puritanical taste for sermons…” He also wrote official reports in his role as clerk in the guild of Thames boatmen. Much is known about this side of working class London only because Taylor wrote about it.

Because he was self-educated Taylor had trouble being accepted by the literary elite. Even so, he wrote extensively, often having his work published for subscribers who contributed in advance. He gave himself the title “The Water Poet” as he carved out a niche for himself. Not only as a waterman, but figuratively speaking as a writer, he crossed back and forth from one side of London society to the other.

His poems and pamphlets were collected and published in 1630 as All the Workes of John Taylor the Water Poet. He is buried at the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields.

(In Taylor’s poem, below, he shares a mis-reading of the biblical account of Babel common in his day and ― in the section following what I’ve included ― a, perhaps deliberate, misunderstanding of which languages existed in ancient times.)

from 'The Several Sieges, Assaults, Sackings, And Final Destruction Of The Famous, Ancient, And Memorable City Of Jerusalem.'

The Justice, Mercy, and the Might, I sing,
Of heaven’s just, merciful, Almighty King;
By whose fore-knowledge all things were elected,
Whose power hath all things made & al protected,
Whose mercies' flood hath quenched his justice flame,
Who was, is, shall be one, and still the same
Who in the prime, when all things first began,
Made all for man, and for himself made man,
Made, not begotten, or of humane birth,
No sire but God, no mother but the earth;
Who ne'r knew childhood, or the sucking teat,
But at the first was made man complete;
Whose inward soul in God-like form did shine,
As image of the Majesty Divine;
Whose supernatural wisdom (beyond nature)
Did name each sensible and senseless creature,
And from whose star-like, sand-like generation
Sprung every kindred, kingdom, tribe, and nation.
All people then one language spake alone,
Interpreters the world then needed none;
There lived then no learned deep grammarians,
There were no Turks, no Scythians, no Tartarians
Then all was one, and one was only all
The language of the universal ball.
Then if a traveller had gone as far
As from the Arctic to th' Antarctic star,
If he from Boreas unto Auster went,
Or from the Orient to th' Occident,
Which way soever he did turn or wind,
He had been sure his country-man to find.
One hundred thirty winters since the flood
The earth one only language understood;
Until the son of Cush, the son of Cham,
A proud, cloud-scaling tower began to frame,
Trusting that if the world again were drowned,
He in his lofty building might rest sound;
All future floods he purposed to prevent,
Aspiring to heaven’s glorious battlement.
But high Jehovah with a puff was able
To make ambitious Babel but a bable,
(For what is man, that he should dare resist
The great Almighty's power, who in his fist
Doth gripe eternity, and, when he please,
Can make and unmake heaven and earth & seas?)
For in their expectation of conclusion
He plagued them all with sundry tongues' confusion.
Such gibberish, gibble-gabble, all did jangle,
Some laugh, some fret, all prate, all different wrangle…

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, January 17, 2022

Philip Metres

Philip Metres is an American poet of Lebanese descent who is active in the Arab-American literary scene. He is a professor of English and Director of the Peace, Justice, and Human Rights program at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio.

America magazine has composed a video about Metres and his work, (available on his website) where the poet quotes the phrase in Isaiah 50 ― “The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue that I might speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.” He then continues, “When I read that I thought that’s what I want to do…that’s…the mission...of being a writer...to wake us up to the mystery and miracle of what it means to be alive.”

The most recent of his five poetry collections is Shrapnel Maps (2020, Copper Canyon). He has also translated book-length collections by Russian poets Arseny Tarkovsky, Lev Rubinstein and Sergey Gandlevsky. The following poem first appeared in Poetry magazine, and is from his collection Sand Opera (2015, Alice James).

Compline

That we await a blessed hope, & that we will be struck
With great fear, like a baby taken into the night, that every boot,
Every improvised explosive, Talon & Hornet, Molotov
& rubber-coated bullet, every unexploded cluster bomblet,
Every Kevlar & suicide vest & unpiloted drone raining fire
On wedding parties will be burned as fuel in the dark season.
That we will learn the awful hunger of God, the nerve-fraying
Cry of God, the curdy vomit of God, the soiled swaddle of God,
The constant wakefulness of God, alongside the sweet scalp
Of God, the contented murmur of God, the limb-twitched dream-
Reaching of God. We’re dizzy in every departure, limb-lost.
We cannot sleep in the wake of God, & God will not sleep
The infant dream for long. We lift the blinds, look out into ink
For light. My God, my God, open the spine binding our sight.

Posted with permission of the poet.

This post was suggested by my friend Brad Davis.

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, January 10, 2022

Maryann Corbett

Maryann Corbett is a Saint Paul, Minnesota Poet who grew up in northern Virginia. She earned her doctorate from the University of Minnesota, and worked for more than thirty years as a language specialist for the Minnesota legislature. Corbett has authored five full-length poetry books: the most recent being In Code (2020, Able Muse). Her third book received the Richard Wilbur Award, which honours metrical poetry.

The following poem was first published in First Things, has also appeared at Versedaily, and is from her book Mid Evil (2014, University of Evansville Press).

Prophesying to the Breath

I'm tired of it, this labored breathing. Tired
of phlegm and coughing and the fight for air,
bent double on the landing of a stair,
in wheezing gasps where nothing is inspired.
Tired of the silence next to me in bed
when measured snoring suddenly goes still;
of counting a nervous one, two, three until
it starts itself again. Tired of my dread.
I want it back: the confidence in air—
ruah, pneuma, spiritus—the breath
that stirs the vocal folds of nuns in choir.
The breath that Is. The sound of something there
guiding this gusty round of birth and death.
The rush of driving wind. The tongues of fire.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

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, January 3, 2022

T.S. Eliot*

T.S. Eliot (1888—1965) is one of the most influential poets of the twentieth century. He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to a prominent New England family of Unitarians. His education carried him to Harvard, to Paris, and then to Oxford. In 1927 he became a British citizen and joined the Anglican Church. He eventually became the literary editor for Faber & Faber, and after that he became one of the publishing house’s directors.

According to the website for the Nobel Prize in Literature — which Eliot won in 1948 — “Eliot’s poetry from Prufrock (1917) to the Four Quartets (1943) reflects the development of a Christian writer: the early work, especially The Waste Land (1922), is essentially negative, the expression of that horror from which the search for a higher world arises. In Ash Wednesday (1930) and the Four Quartets this higher world becomes more visible…”

In an interview in the Paris Review in 1959, Eliot said he believed his poem the Four Quartets was his best work, and that each succeeding section is better than the one before. “At any rate, that’s the way I flatter myself.”

T.S. Eliot died on January 4, 1965.

The Journey Of The Magi

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

*This is the fourth Kingdom Poets post about T.S. Eliot: first post, second post, third 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.