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.