Monday, August 28, 2023

Jason Myers

Jason Myers is a Texas poet and Episcopal priest who, this year, is a participant as a writer in the Artist-in-Residence program at Acadia National Park on the coast of Maine. His debut poetry collection Maker of Heaven & has just appeared from Belle Point Press. His A Place for the Genuine: Reflections on Nature, Poetry, and Vocation will be published by Eerdmans in 2024. He is Editor-in-Chief of EcoTheo Review.

Jericho Brown has written "Maker of Heaven & is a book of wonder, and in it Jason Myers suggests that what we wonder can indeed be made into art as God must have felt wonder when making the cosmos…”

The following poem first appeared in Diode.

Women Praying

In the oak-dark darkness becoming
light under the phosphorous exclamations of a magnolia tree
three men work.
They solder steel, sparks amber & orange shoot & spit
& hang, for the briefest moment, little bits
of fire on the now-blue, now-gray air.
It’s cold out there, on the other side
of the windows, & I have no idea
what those men are really doing,
or how dangerous it is.
In here, in the hospital cafeteria,
I’m eating spinach & eggs when
two women at the table next to mine
begin to pray.
Who or what their concerns are escapes
earshot, but I hear that sweet name, Jesus, sail
the lake of their lips,
& every few seconds
one or the other
raises an affirmation
here three measures,
here more,
like they are reassuring God
as well as themselves,
like they are rocking
a baby to sleep
the words slip
out & over the room & sing,
Mary’s arms wrapped
around her boy,
first an infant
delicate & unfathomable as those on the NICU,
then a man
covered in blood
like the woman
on the gurney
in the trauma bay
who’d been bludgeoned
about the face
by her boyfriend’s
baseball bat.
I don’t know
who these women are
praying for
but I will take
their Yehhhhhss
word become chant become river
of sound
sound most close to silence
near to music
nearer my God to thee
I will take it, Lord,
spread it across
my day
my life
like balm
like globes of fire
soldering us together.

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, August 21, 2023

Thomas Chatterton

Thomas Chatterton (1752―1770) is a poet from Bristol who was a forerunner and inspiration to such Romantic poets as Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelly, and Keats ― all of whom commemorated him and his tragic death in their work.

Obsessed with the fifteenth century, Thomas Chatterton wrote inventive forgeries he claimed had been written by a fifteenth-century monk he called Thomas Rowley. He even produced complete manuscripts using techniques to distress the pages to make them appear old ― far more convincing than when children soak paper in tea for school assignments to make them look like old documents.

After he moved to London, he made little money. He wrote satires of well-known writers under a pseudonym, and often went without eating, although neighbours tried to have him join them for a meal. All of this led to his untimely death, and his mystique.

In many ways the myth of Chatterton mattered more to the Romantics than whatever might or might not be true. As a little-known poet, long-dead, who allegedly committed suicide shortly before his eighteenth birthday, he was held up as the Romantic ideal: literally a young, starving artist, who was misunderstood and ignored; some now suggest his death may have been from an accidental overdose of medication. Unfortunately, it seems he did not live up to the determination he expressed in the following poem.

The Resignation

O God, whose thunder shakes the sky,
Whose eye this atom globe surveys,
To thee, my only rock, I fly,
Thy mercy in thy justice praise.

The mystic mazes of thy will,
The shadows of celestial light,
Are past the pow'r of human skill,—
But what th' Eternal acts is right.

O teach me in the trying hour,
When anguish swells the dewy tear,
To still my sorrows, own thy pow'r,
Thy goodness love, thy justice fear.

If in this bosom aught but Thee
Encroaching sought a boundless sway,
Omniscience could the danger see,
And Mercy look the cause away.

Then why, my soul, dost thou complain?
Why drooping seek the dark recess?
Shake off the melancholy chain.
For God created all to bless.

But ah! my breast is human still;
The rising sigh, the falling tear,
My languid vitals' feeble rill,
The sickness of my soul declare.

But yet, with fortitude resigned,
I'll thank th' inflicter of the blow;
Forbid the sigh, compose my mind,
Nor let the gush of mis'ry flow.

The gloomy mantle of the night,
Which on my sinking spirit steals,
Will vanish at the morning light,
Which God, my East, my sun reveals.

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 14, 2023

Christian Wiman*

Christian Wiman is Professor of the Practice of Religion and Literature at Yale Divinity School. He has published more than a dozen books ― as either author, editor, or translator ― including his most recent poetry collection Survival Is a Style (2020, FSG), and his Hammer is the Prayer: Selected Poems (2016, FSG).

His memoirs include: My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer (2013, FSG) and He Held Radical Light: The Art of Faith, the Faith of Art (2018, FSG). From 2003 until 2013 he was editor of Poetry magazine.

The following poem first appeared in The New Yorker back in July, and will be included in his forthcoming book Zero at the Bone, which will include both poetry and prose in conversation with each other. It will be available in December.

After the Ballet

I in my whistling instants
sauntering the drab concourses
or thoughtless under the plebeian stars
make of myself a kind of company
that to its origin owes
only obedience to the one
injunction against despair.
O my lost dappers and sleeks,
my paragons of gunge
and scuttled luck,
all my fellow credibles,
all my little filths,
come back. Come back
from the sallowing past,
from the herd immunity
to miracles, for I have seen
a room of depilated marble
moving, a choreography of souls
that would have restored
my own even without
the demoiselle who,
in a moment so tensely silent
it seemed the soul’s nerve,
swanned her arms, torqued
her immaculate back, and executed
an improvised, exquisite, and irrefutable

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Chrstian Wiman: 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 7, 2023

Philip James Bailey

Philip James Bailey (1816―1902) is a Victorian poet primarily known for his extensive 1839 poem Festus, a version of the Faust legend, which he later revised for a second edition in 1845. Festus was very popular ― gaining admiration from such poets as Tennyson, Longfellow, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning ― but his subsequent books did not sell well. When these further books failed to gain popularity, Bailey tried to incorporate extracts from several of these poems into Festus, wherever he could make the lines fit, which extended the poem with every new edition.

Mischa Willet has edited a new critical edition of Festus (2021, Edinburgh University Press) based on the first American edition of 1845. He explains, “The poem explores themes of love, faith, and redemption, as well as the relationship between God and humanity. It also reflects the tensions between traditional religious values and the emerging scientific and secular worldviews of the time, as well as the social and economic upheavals that accompanied the Industrial Revolution.” This is the first new edition of the work in over a century.

Philip James Bailey travelled extensively in his later years ― living in London and Devon before returning to his birthplace in Nottingham. He was buried in Nottingham Rock Cemetery.

The following poem is from his collection The Angel World and Other Poems (1850).

A Ruin

In a cot-studded, fruity, green deep dale,
There grows the ruin of an abbey old;
And on the hill side, cut in rock, behold
A sainted hermit's cell; so goes the tale.
What of that ruin? There is nothing left
Save one sky-framing window arch, which climbs
Up to its top point, single stoned, bereft
Of prop or load. And this strange thing sublimes
The scene. For the fair great house, vowed to God,
Is hurled down and unhallowed; and we tread
O'er buried graves which have devoured their dead;
While over all springs up the green-lifed sod,
And arch, so light and lofty in its span―
So frail, and yet so lasting―tis like man.

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.