Monday, October 16, 2017

R.C. Trench

R.C. Trench (1807—1886) is a former Archbishop, a philologist and a poet. He was born in Dublin, and graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge. His first collection The Story of Justin Martyr and Other Poems was favourably received in 1835. This and his other early collections demonstrated the influence of Wordsworth upon his writing. His 1851 book The Study of Words established his reputation as a philologist. He was also influential in the eventual development of the Oxford English Dictionary.

In 1856 Trench became the Dean of Westminster Abbey, and in 1864 the Archbishop of Dublin. His grave is in the central nave of Westminster Abbey where a plaque in Latin declares:
----"In memory of Richard Chenevix Trench, Dean of this church for
----7 years, Archbishop of Dublin for 21 years, who, captivated by
----the love of eternal truth in Christ, sang of its most holy
----beauty in his poetry and illuminated it in his expositions, and,
----in times of joy, in times of trouble, living and dying, he
----devoted himself to it with a singular and unimpaired
----faithfulness. His family erected this monument in thankfulness
----to God. He died in the year of salvation 1886, aged 78".

Sonnet 3

Spent in Thy presence will prevail to make —
What heavy burdens from our bosoms take,
What parchèd grounds refresh, as with a shower!
We kneel, and all around us seems to lower;
We rise, and all, the distant and the near,
Stands forth in sunny outline, brave and clear;
We kneel how weak, we rise how full of power!
Why, therefore, should we do ourselves this wrong,
Or others — that we are not always strong;
That we are ever overborne with care;
That we should ever weak or heartless be,
Anxious or troubled, when with us is prayer,
And joy, and strength, and courage, are with Thee?

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, October 9, 2017

John Poch

John Poch is the author of four poetry collections, the newest of which, Fix Quiet (2015, St. Augustine’s Press), won the 2014 New Criterion Poetry Prize.

My first connection with his poetry was through the CD collection Poetry on Record which brings together recordings of 98 different poets reading their own work — including such early voices as Tennyson, Whitman, Yeats and Frost — and contemporary poets such as Li-Young Lee and Carolyn Forché. Poch’s recording, from 2004, has him reading his poem “Simon Peter” which originally appeared in the magazine, America.

He is the editor of the journal 32 Poems, and teaches at Texas Tech University. The following poem first appeared in Blackbird.

John's Christ

The auctioneer commits his little gaffe
when his helpers lift the latch-hook tapestry
of Leonardo’s Christian masterpiece:
The Large Supper. The waiting bidders laugh.

And though the latest spiritual fad has raptured
a populace of novel novel-lovers,
DaVinci’s purpose is better left to others.
But here at our local auction I am captured,

wanting to lean, like John, away from the master,
get some perspective on His hands, the gist
of one opening, one closing, not a fist,
His arms apart, beholding, Jesus’ gesture—

over his empty plate and the rag-tag cast—
preparing for the word, large, or last.

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Fanny J. Crosby

Fanny J. Crosby (1820—1915) is most famous as a writer of gospel songs, having written songs that appear in virtually every church hymnal up to the present day. She wrote more than 9,000 hymns and gospel songs, besides the secular songs she wrote and the four collections of poetry she had published.

When she was six weeks old she caught a cold. While their family doctor was away, her illness was treated by a man pretending to be a doctor who prescribed hot mustard poultices to be placed on her eyes. This treatment left her blind, and caused the imposter to quickly leave town.

Her hymns were of great significance in the evangelistic campaigns of Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey. Some of her most popular songs include: "Blessed Assurance", "All the Way My Savior Leads Me", "To God Be the Glory", "Rescue the Perishing", and "Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross."

The following poem is from her poetry collection The Blind Girl, and Other Poems (1844). Crosby included an epigraph with the poem, explaining that she visited the Falls in September of 1843 with her blind companions from the New York Institution for the Blind.

Niagara

Awake, my muse! thy wings expand!
----Oh, what sublimity is here!
Niagara's mighty thunders burst
----With awful grandeur on mine ear.
Niagara! on thy brink I stand,
----And taste unutterable bliss;
What pen, what language can portray
----A scene so wonderful as this?
Father Divine!— we lift our hearts
----In humble gratitude to thee—
Who spreads the azure vault above,
----Whose hand controls the boisterous sea!
Thou bades the foaming cataract roll!
----Thou forms the rainbow tints we see!
We gaze— we wonder and admire—
----Niagara!— we are lost in thee.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, September 25, 2017

François Villon

François Villon (1431—1463) is a French poet — the best known of the middle ages — who was also a thief, a brawler, and a murderer. His most famous work is The Testament (1461) which he wrote while imprisoned for some unknown crime. He was familiar enough with Christian concepts to write the following (rather tongue-in-cheek) lines about the Bishop whose prison he was in,

-------But since the Church says we should pray
-------For those who hate us, I am leaving
-------To Him who said, "I shall repay,"
-------The last, eternal reckoning.
It is true that Villon often expresses regrets for his wasted life, and repents of his sins, but his repentance doesn't appear to bring any change in his behaviour.

Was he ever able to embrace Christian discipline, to truly turn and follow God? His circumstances at the time of the following poem suggests, he hadn't yet, but perhaps this was that moment. I pray to the God who exists outside of time that Villon may have truly found salvation.

His work has been translated by many, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Richard Wilbur, although the translator of the following poem is unknown. "Ballad of the Gibbet" is an epitaph for himself and those with him, who expected they were about to be hanged. It is believed to have been written in late 1462, when Villon was in the Châtelet prison under sentence of death.

Ballad of the Gibbet


Brothers and men that shall after us be,
Let not your hearts be hard to us:
For pitying this our misery
Ye shall find God the more piteous.
Look on us six that are hanging thus,
And for the flesh that so much we cherished
How it is eaten of birds and perished,
And ashes and dust fill our bones' place,
Mock not at us that so feeble be,
But pray God pardon us out of His grace.

Listen, we pray you, and look not in scorn,
Though justly, in sooth, we are cast to die;
Ye wot no man so wise is born
That keeps his wisdom constantly.
Be ye then merciful, and cry
To Mary's Son that is piteous,
That His mercy take no stain from us,
Saving us out of the fiery place.
We are but dead, let no soul deny
To pray God succour us of His grace.

The rain out of heaven has washed us clean,
The sun has scorched us black and bare,
Ravens and rooks have pecked at our eyne,
And feathered their nests with our beards and hair.
Round are we tossed, and here and there,
This way and that, at the wild wind's will,
Never a moment my body is still;
Birds they are busy about my face.
Live not as we, nor fare as we fare;
Pray God pardon us out of His grace.

L'Envoy

Prince Jesus, Master of all, to thee
We pray Hell gain no mastery,
That we come never anear that place;
And ye men, make no mockery,
Pray God pardon us out of His grace.

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Catharina Regina von Greiffenberg

Catharina Regina von Greiffenberg (1633—1694) is an Austrian poet who is now regaining recognition for her legacy. She published collections of poetry in 1672, 1675, and 1678. As Protestants in Catholic Austria, her family experienced persecution under the Habsburg dynasty. Even so, as she gained popularity as a poet, she was bold enough to attempt to persuade Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I, to adopt her Lutheran views.

Burl Horniachek, who recommended I should post about Catharina Regina von Greiffenberg, mentioned that Canadian poets Joanne Epp, Sally Ito, and Sarah Klassen have been working on new translations of her poetry. I look forward to learning more about this as the work unfolds.

The following is from Meditations on the Incarnation, Passion, and Death of Jesus Christ translated by Lynne Tatlock. The image the poem refers to is reproduced below.

Explanation of the Frontispiece

Blot out the entire world. The tablet of my thoughts
be wiped clean. Let nothing remain but Jesus Christ.
I will stand for nothing else. There shall be no thing
within remembrance's bounds but Him who is all.
Lust for knowledge may inspire many lovely things;
Jesus alone restores me, more than can vast knowledge.
However the world may lust for money, art, wisdom,
I want and know nothing but the strength of His cross.
May gall and vinegar's sponge blot out all vanity.
Let the crucified one alone stay in my mind.
How far Totality, when alone can outspread
and change everything we clearly see herein
I want this sum of all things alone in my mind.


Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Anya Krugovoy Silver*

Anya Krugovoy Silver is a prolific poet who teaches at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. She was named the Georgia Author of the Year/Poetry for 2015. Her two most-recent books are From Nothing (2016) — which like her first two collections is published by Louisiana State University Press — and the recently released Second Bloom, which I assisted with as editor for the Poiema Poetry Series (2017, Cascade Books).

She is also one of the poets featured in my anthology The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poetry(available here) and through Amazon. Second Bloom is also available on either site.

The following poem is from Second Bloom, and first appeared in Saint Katherine Review.

Holy Saturday, 1945

It was for you, Maria Skobsova,
that Mozart wrote his Requiem.
Bolshevik nun, instead of celebrating
the funeral of Christ, you walked
into the gas chamber at Ravensbrück
in place of another woman.
Instead of trailing the coffin
around the church, you claimed
a place in the line entering hell.
It was for you, Maria Skobsova,
that Mozart fainted in the writing
of his mass, Let them, Lord, pass.
All work remains unfinished:
the composer’s delirious lines,
the forging of baptismal certificates
in your Parisian convent, the censing
of the church on Holy Saturday.
Instead of incense, fumes of Zyclon B
haloed the shorn heads of the dying.
No beaded shrouds for Mozart’s
common grave, for your grey smoke.
Give thanks to the Lord, we sing.
for he is good: for his mercy endures forever.


Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Anya Krugovoy Silver: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Robert Siegel*

Robert Siegel (1939—2012) is one of the first poets whose work appeared as part of the Poiema Poetry Series. His collection Within This Tree of Bones (2013, Cascade Books) is his final book, his final selected collection, and the only book where the poems he was writing as he was nearing death appear. I am glad that, even though I did not know that he was battling cancer at the time, I encouraged him to add several more new poems to the collection than he had originally planned. I want to post again about Bob and his fine poetry, because his incredible talent and the beautiful legacy of Within This Tree of Bones has not received the attention it deserves; at least not yet.

This blog post is one small way I am seeking to encourage others to read Robert Siegel. Another is that I have included half a dozen of his poems in the anthology The Turning Aside: The Kingdom Poets Book of Contemporary Christian Poets(available here) and through Amazon.

As John Wilson, who was editor for Books & Culture, has eloquently said: "Robert Siegel is one of my favorite poets, and I'm frustrated that so many readers are unfamiliar with him. This handsome 'new and selected' volume is an ideal introduction to his work, and I may just resort to hawking it on street corners, like those ragamuffin kids peddling papers in old movies. You want the latest news? Read Within This Tree of Bones."

The Prodigal

She floated before him like a summer cloud,
pink and white through his sweat and then lay down
squealing, by her sucklings, a teat for each mouth.
The husks caught in his throat. If he'd only known
the pigs would have it better than he, he never...
He, ripe offal, stuck in the world's latrine!
—so he told himself over and over and over
and over again. With tears came a keen

ache in his chest. Next day he started home.
He tried to stop his thoughts, lethally busy,
but at night yearned for the slops and warmth of the barn,
the hogs' contented grunting and homely stink. Alone,
he knew he'd failed beyond all hope of mercy.
He didn't even see his father till wrapped in his arms.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Robert Siegel: first post, second post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.