Monday, June 1, 2020

Miho Nonaka

Miho Nonaka is a bilingual poet from Tokyo. Her first book of Japanese poems, Garasu no tsuki, was a finalist for Japan’s national poetry prize, and her poetry in English has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is one of the poets I featured in In a Strange Land: Introducing Ten Kingdom Poets (2019, Poiema/Cascade).

Her first full-length collection, The Museum of Small Bones (2020, Ashland Poetry Series) has just been published. Her poems and essays have appeared in various journals and anthologies, including Missouri Review, Southern Review, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, American Letters & Commentary, Iowa Review, Tin House, and American Odysseys: Writings by New Americans (Dalkey Archive Press, 2013). She is an associate professor of English and creative writing at Wheaton College, in Illinois.

The following poem is from In a Strange Land.

Water and Fire

No confusion, not drunk, never
fear when you feel
the water bubbling

from within. Each soul
is a well, set apart, alone.
The sun is directly over

head, and a stranger
waits for you at the well,
thirsty. He has nothing to draw

with, and the well is deep.
So is every other well,
he reminds you. It’s not up to you

to decide whether you’ve
suffered long enough.
He knows your name,

doesn’t he? Love comes
in tongues of fire. Flames
won’t set you ablaze;

you will be unconsumed.
A pair of wings brush past
your eyes in silver flickers

as the sound of water nears.
Open your thirsty mouth.
He is offering your very self

in a glass, the same water that
connects every well flowing
between Father and Son.

The rushing water reverses
something of Babel
in each of us: an upturned

hourglass measuring
the immeasurable, holding
our shattered lives together.

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Richard Crashaw*

Richard Crashaw (c.1613—1649) dedicated himself to become a writer of Christian poetry in 1633 after having read George Herbert’s book The Temple, which had recently appeared. Crashaw’s first poetry collection Epigrammatum Sacrorum Liber, published just one year later, was written in Latin. He completed his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Cambridge, where he became friends with the poet, Abraham Cowley.

Curiously, Crashaw was raised in a distinctly anti-Catholic family, but became a Catholic himself, well after his father’s death. In Rome, through an introduction by the queen, he became friends with Cardinal Giovanni Battista Maria Pallotta, and served as his secretary from 1646 to 1649; dismayed with those close to the cardinal, he denounced their behaviour, which led to the cardinal sending Crashaw elsewhere. There is suspicion that when Crashaw died, a couple weeks later, that he had been poisoned by those who had become his enemies.

His book Steps to the Temple. Sacred Poems, With Other Delights of the Muses was published in 1646; an extended edition appeared in 1648.

But Men Loved Darkness Rather Than Light

The world's light shines, shine as it will,
The world will love its darkness still.
I doubt though when the world's in hell,
It will not love its darkness half so well.

The Recommendation

These houres, and that which hovers o’re my End,
Into thy hands, and hart, lord, I commend.

Take Both to Thine Account, that I and mine
In that Hour, and in these, may be all thine.

That as I dedicate my devoutest Breath
To make a kind of Life for my lord’s Death,

So from his living, and life-giving Death,
My dying Life may draw a new, and never fleeting Breath.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Richard Crashaw: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Carolyn Forché

Carolyn Forché was raised near Detroit in a Slovak/Irish home that was immersed in the Catholic faith. In adolescence she rebelled against the harsh Catholicism of her family, school and church, and began reading Protestant theologians ― seeking to make her faith her own. During her time at university she wandered, unsettled and distant from the surety of her isolated Catholic community, dabbling in various religious traditions.

In 1978 she travelled to El Salvador ― on a Guggenheim Fellowship with Amnesty International ― believing this was something God was asking her to do. She met the poet and priest Óscar Romero, and the self-sacrificing, joyful, oppressed Salvadoran people. This transformed her spiritual life, and drew her back into the Catholic church. Later, when she returned to the US, she tried to be a journalist, to communicate what was going on in El Salvador, as Óscar Romero had asked her to do. She failed; however, she had been writing poetry, and through it she began to shed light on the atrocities.

She had won the Yale Younger Poets Prize for her first book Gathering the Tribes (1975), and through her new book, The Country Between Us (1981) fulfilled the commission Romero gave her prior to his assassination in 1980.

She has since coined the term “Poetry of Witness,” and edited the anthology of politically-charged poems Against Forgetting (1993). Her fifth collection, In the Lateness of the World (2020), has just been published by Penguin Press.

The following poem is from her collection Blue Hour (2003)

Prayer

Begin again among the poorest, moments off, in another
-----time and place.
Belongings gathered in the last hour, visible invisible:
Tin spoon, teacup, tremble of tray, carpet hanging from
-----sorrow’s balcony.
Say goodbye to everything. With a wave of your hand,
-----gesture to all you have known.
Begin with bread torn from bread, beans given to the
-----hungriest, a carcass of flies.
Take the polished stillness from a locked church, prayer
-----notes left between stones.
Answer them and hoist in your net voices from the
-----troubled hours.
Sleep only when the least among them sleeps, and then
-----only until the birds.
Make the flatbed truck your time and place. make the least
-----daily wage your value.
Language will rise then like language from the mouth of a
-----still river. No one’s mouth.
Bring night to your imaginings. bring the darkest passage
-----of your holy book.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter (1615―1691) is an English poet, theologian and Puritan church leader. His ministry in the English town of Kidderminster, where he was vicar from 1641 to 1661, was transformative.

He was an advisor to Oliver Cromwell and served as chaplain to Parliamentary soldiers in the English Civil War. Although he was an Anglican minister, he became a nonconformist, and was forbidden to preach. In 1685, even though he was suffering from tuberculosis, he was sentenced to eighteen months in prison.

His autobiography, The Reformed Pastor (1656), is Baxter’s encouragement to other pastors, and his guidance to them. His book, whose title I’ll shorten to simply call Poetical Fragments appeared in 1681.

He wants not friends that hath thy love

He wants not friends that hath thy love,
And may converse and walk with thee
And with thy saints, here and above,
With whom forever I must be.

Within the fellowship of saints
Is wisdom, safety and delight;
And when my heart declines and faints,
It’s raisèd by their heat and light.

As for my friends, they are not lost:
The several vessels of thy fleet
Though parted now, by tempests tossed,
Shall safely in the haven meet.

We still are centred all in thee,
Though distant, members of one Head;
Within one family we be,
And by one faith and spirit led.

Before thy throne we daily meet
As joint-petitioners to thee;
In spirit each the other greet,
And shall again each other see.

The heavenly hosts, world without end,
Shall be my company above;
And thou, my best and surest Friend,
Who shall divide me from thy love?

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Charles Sangster

Charles Sangster (1822―1893) is a Canadian poet, born near Kingston, Upper Canada (now Ontario). When his first collection The St. Lawrence and the Saguenay… appeared in 1856, it was considered by many to be the best book of poetry yet published in Canada. He was praised in the London press as “the Wordsworth of Canada.” His second volume Hesperus… followed in 1860, and was considered to be even better.

His life circumstances, however, began to hinder his literary progress. He began to suffer from depression and a nervous disorder. His position with the Post Office Department in Ottawa left him little time for his poetic pursuits ― and both his first wife, and second wife had died, leaving him with three children to raise.

The Dictionary of Canadian Biography says of him, “By temperament quiet and introspective, Charles Sangster strove for harmony in his relationship with humanity and for spiritual fulfilment in God’s will.”

Henry’s Grave

Standing beside the consecrated mound,
-----That marked the narrow grave wherein he lay,
I thought upon the Trumpet’s welcome sound,
-----That would arouse him in the latter day.

I thought of the young spirit, that had fled
-----Beyond the keenest search of human eye—
Beyond the limits of a world of dread—
-----Beyond the reach of man’s philosophy.

And as I strove to lift the distant veil—
-----To track the spirit in its upward flight—
My mind was awed—my vision seemed to fail,
-----And all became confused as blackest night!

I was an atom of mere mortal mould,
-----Too weak to pierce the depths that soul had trod;
Backward to earth my wandering senses rolled,
-----And my eye rested on the crumbling sod—

Part of myself—poor perishable clay!
-----The child whose corse beneath my feet did lie,
Was, like myself, but mortal, yesterday,
-----And now, a dweller with the blest on high!

Oh! Mystery of Mysteries! Oh, Death!
-----I sit and muse in deep solemnity,
And wonder how the dust that perisheth
-----Must pass to life eternal but through thee!

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Ernesto Cardenal*

Ernesto Cardenal (1925―2020) is a Nicaraguan poet, priest, and political revolutionary. In 1966 Cardenal founded a religious community on Mancarrón Island in Lake Nicaragua. He led literacy and poetry workshops among the peasant farmers and fishermen, who became well known for their paintings and tapestries.

He supported the Sandinista rebels in the 1970s in their opposition to Nicaragua’s dictator Anastasio Somoza, and was forced to flee to Costa Rica in 1977. He later served as Minister of Culture from 1979 to 1987 as part of the new Sandinista government of Nicaragua.

In 1984 he was suspended from the priesthood by the Catholic church, after he had been rebuked in person by Pope John Paul II the previous year. In February of 2019 Pope Francis lifted the ban on Cardenal practising as a priest, saying he was “absolved of all canonical censure”. Ernesto Cardenal died on March 1st of this year.

The following poem is from Apocalypse: And Other Poems (New Directions, 1977), and is translated by Robert Pring-Mill.

Behind the Monastery

Behind the monastery, down the road,
there is a cemetery of worn-out things
where lie smashed china, rusty metal,
cracked pipes and twisted bits of wire,
empty cigarette packs, sawdust,
corrugated iron, old plastic, tires beyond repair:
all waiting for the Resurrection, like ourselves.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Ernesto Cardenal: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Jen Stewart Fueston

Jen Stewart Fueston is an American writer and teacher, who lived abroad ― teaching English in Budapest, Lithuania, and Istanbul ― before returning to teach writing at University of Colorado, and to raise a family.

As a poet she has published two chapbooks ― Visitations (2015, Finishing Line), and Latch (2019, River Glass Books). She is also one of the poets featured in the anthology In A Strange Land: Introducing Ten Kingdom Poets. Her first full-length poetry collection Madonna, Complex has just appeared in the Poiema Poetry Series. It was a pleasure working with Jen, both for the anthology and as the editor of her new book.

The following poem first appeared in Rust & Moth and is from Madonna, Complex.

To a Friend, Lonely in the Fall

In fall at least the world doesn’t lie to you
about dying, might even convince you you can
do it beautifully, become the blaze maple
transcendent against blue. The stands

of cottonwood that in summer appeared to be one
tree, unclasp green hands, separate and shiver
bare, remember they’re alone. The light that angles
through the gold is not the kind that fills

the wanting in your core. Still, it can be caught
with words arranged on lines, like bait on hooks,
and fed upon. Because love is not a fullness, it’s an
ache. Because one God I’ve known has loved me most

when He took everything away. The stark tree stripped
knows every name the wind goes by.

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.