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.