Monday, July 17, 2017

Dulce María Loynaz

Dulce María Loynaz (1902—1997) is a Cuban poet and novelist, who published her first poetry collection in 1938. After the Cuban Revolution (1959) she refused to join the communist party. Even though the Castro government had her books removed from libraries and ensured that she was not published, she did not go into exile, but lived quietly in Havana. In 1992 when she received Spain's greatest literary honour — The Cervantes Prize — her work was once again permitted publication in Cuba.

The following poem was translated by James O'Connor.

Poems With No Names — XCVII

----Lord, it is You who gave me these eyes. Where should
I turn them during this long dark night that will last
longer than my own eyes?
----King to whom I swore my first vow, it is You who
gave me these hands. What should I take and what should
I leave behind on this pilgrimage that makes no sense to
any of my senses, this pilgrimage where I never have
enough or I have much more than I need?
----Sweetness in the bitter-sweetness of my heart, it is You
who gave me this desert voice. What word is worthy of
scaling the high peak of your silence?
----Breath in the clay of my flesh, it is You who gave me
these feet. Tell me. Why did you put so many forks in the
road if You are the Way, the Truth and the Life?

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, July 10, 2017

Frederick Goddard Tuckerman

Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (1821—1873) is an American poet who only published one book of poems in his lifetime: Poems (1860). His work was ignored by most of his contemporaries, although he received encouragement from Nathaniel Hawthorne and Alfred Tennyson, whom he had visited in his home on the Isle of Wight in 1855.

He completed a law degree from Harvard, but scarcely practiced. In the mid-1840s when he met and fell deeply in love with Hannah Jones, he began writing poems — primarily sonnets. They married in 1847. When she died shortly after the birth of their third child in 1857, Tuckerman was completely grief-stricken. It is out of this tragedy that much of his best poetry comes.

Although he was significantly influenced by the English romantic poets and the American romantics of his time, his rational, Anglican background, combined with the death of his dear wife, caused Tuckerman to become somewhat anti-romantic in his rejection of the pantheistic optimism of many of his contemporaries.

Jason Guriel wrote in The New Criterion, that Tuckerman "wrote poems too weird to be much appreciated in his own milieu, the United States of the nineteenth century, and not weird enough to distinguish the poet for many of his later readers who, failing to squint, saw little more than an accomplished sonneteer."

Sonnet XXVIII

Not the round natural world, not the deep mind,
The reconcilement holds: the blue abyss
Collects it not; our arrows sink amiss
And but in Him may we our import find.
The agony to know, the grief, the bliss
Of toil, is vain and vain: clots of the sod
Gathered in heat and haste and flung behind
To blind ourselves and others, what but this
Still grasping dust and sowing toward the wind?
No more thy meaning seek, thine anguish plead,
But leaving straining thought and stammering word,
Across the barren azure pass to God:
Shooting the void in silence like a bird,
A bird that shuts his wings for better speed.

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, July 3, 2017

Pedro Calderón de la Barca

Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600—1681) is a Spanish poet and dramatist of what is called the golden age of Spanish literature. Life is a Dream (1629—35) is one of his best known secular plays, and The Great Theatre of the World (c. 1635) one of his best known religious plays. King Philip IV was his patron, providing a pension for him, and funding the extravagant productions of his plays. He is also associated with the rise of opera in Spain. In 1651 Calderón was ordained to the priesthood, and in 1663 was appointed honorary chaplain to the king. He successfully found a dramatic form that well expressed Christian doctrine.

The following poem was translated by R.C. Trench.

The Cross

Tree which heaven has willed to dower
With that true fruit whence we live,
As that other death did give;
Of new Eden loveliest flower;
Bow of light, that in worst hour
Of the worst flood signal true
O'er the world, of mercy threw;
Fair plant, yielding sweetest wine;
Of our David harp divine;
Or our Moses tables new;
Sinner am I, therefore I
Claim upon thy mercies make;
Since alone for sinners' sake
God on thee endured to die.

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, June 26, 2017

G.C. Waldrep

G.C. Waldrep was born in Virginia, and is Associate Professor of English at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. He directs the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets. He has five collections of poetry, from Goldbeater's Skin (2003) which was selected by Donald Revell for the Colorado Prize for Poetry, to Testament (2015) which consists of a single, long poem. He is the editor of West Branch, and is Editor-at-large for the Kenyon Review.

He is a member of the Old Order River Brethren, a conservative group who developed along the Susquehanna River, having branched away from the Mennonites. The following poem is from his first poetry collection.

Palinode: Cotton Mather

Praying Always. But in the literal sense?
In the bath? Under the dull breath
of any given second, like his particular faiths?
—Exemplary mutterer, moving through days
with his great mind always fluttering
in the dark cave of his mouth, his manic concern.
He meant well, we might say, and late in life
gave up the constant patter, the need
to bring the world into being, moment by moment,
himself. Watching thereunto with all perseverance
and supplication for all saints
. Fair enough:
he persevered, maintained the mission of his public id,
and his supplications, if unheeded, were at least
archived in the libraries of New England.
When I lived in Boston I liked to walk
down past the Common to where the cherries bloomed
in their plots of grass and scored slate,
product of a more decorous generation
though perhaps less prescient: all that careful
horticulture, prayers of hope and terror trembling
on the lips of the women as they left the tomb.
They mistook Christ for the gardener.
As for Mather, his ashes have long been reabsorbed
into the city he helped fix upon said hill.
What he would have wanted? Probably not:
a hard man, though supple in his genuflection
to the order nature brings; this would have been
his Sodom. Now with spring in the air
I lean once more against the oak bench and bargain
what's left of my own heart for mercy on the tongue,
that darkling zeal, those exclamations.

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, June 19, 2017

Elizabeth Jennings*

Elizabeth Jennings (1926—2001) is an Oxford poet, often associated with "The Movement" but always independent in her poetry. She was influenced by Herbert and Hopkins, remaining consistent in her tone without becoming repetitious.

Hester Jones wrote in The Church Times, "Like [her contemporary, Sylvia] Plath, Jennings suffered from mental illness in her adult life, but, as a Roman Catholic, she drew on the tradition of the 'dark night' of St John of the Cross to explore this suffering within the context of faith. Consequently, much of her poetry is marked by moments that contain both momentary glimpses of God's love and the experience of darkness, guilt, and God's absence."

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

Her Collected Poems 1953-1985 — which she had ruthlessly edited down to 213 pages of the "work she wishes to preserve" — received the W.H. Smith Literary Award. In 2001 she received an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Durham University.

The Lord's Prayer

"Give us this day." Give us this day and night.
Give us the bread, the sky. Give us the power
To bend and not be broken by your light.

And let us soothe and sway like the new flower
Which closes, opens to the night, the day,
Which stretches up and rides upon a power

More than its own, whose freedom is the play
Of light, for whom the earth and air are bread.
Give us the shorter night, the longer day.

In thirty years so many words were spread,
And miracles. An undefeated death
Has passed as Easter passed, but those words said

Finger our doubt and run along our breath.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Elizabeth Jennings: 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.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Marin Sorescu

Marin Sorescu (1936—1996) is a Romanian poet, playwright and prose writer. In 1964 the Romanian government began to relax its censorship rules, which led to a resurgence of literature in that country. Sorescu became one of the leading figures.

His 1968 play Iona (Jonah) takes the Biblical story and expands it to imaginatively include a tale of what went on inside the whale's belly. It played to packed theatres in Bucharest, until it was withdrawn because of its controversial content.

The following poem (translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Linda Vianu) was written in the Cochin Hospital, Paris in October of 1996 — and the second, two months later, just three days before Sorescu's death. They both appear in The Bridge.

Lord!

Lord,
Take me by the hand
And let's go! Together we'll run away
From this world!
Let's duck out for some air.
Maybe with a change of scene,
I'll feel more in my element
By Your side.

A Turn For The Better

It's good, O Lord,
That You thought of me
And didn't choose somebody else
For Your delicate, frightful
Experiment.

I knew I could stand up to the worst
And I boasted
That deep inside I had
Inexhaustible energy.

I fell into the sin of pride.
Forgive me,
It's human —
Avert Your glance likewise
From my other sins.

I believe that the life granted me
Really was mine,
That I really was myself,
Perhaps sometimes forgetting You.

Now, beginning to take a turn for the better,
Or so those who see me say,
I must be treading on Your coattails of rainbow,
To the totality of my fright,
I've come to add the precious stone of humility,
And I bring to the Creator of light
My praise of magnificence and glory.

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, June 5, 2017

Brian Doyle

Brian Doyle (1956—2017) is a Catholic novelist, essayist and poet, having published 28 works, and been nominated nine times for the Oregon Book Award — eventually winning for his novel Martin Marten (2016), which also won the Leslie Bradshaw Award for Young Adult Literature, and the Banff Mountain Book Award for Fiction. He died on May 27th from complications related to a brain tumor.

In 1991 he became editor of the University of Portland's Portland Magazine, a role he served well in for the remainder of his life. His most-recent poetry collection How The Light Gets In (2015, Orbis Books) — whose title comes from a Leonard Cohen song — is described as a collection of prose poems, since Doyle's style is quite conversational, and unconcerned with meter or other maters of poetic musicality.

The following poem first appeared in The Christian Century.

Mrs. Job

There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job;
And he was essentially a blameless dude, and unarrogant,
And he was blessed with seven sons, and three daughters,
Which is a lot of children, and where, I ask politely, is the
Part of the Book of Job where we talk about Job’s spouse,
Who is conspicuously not discussed in the back and forth
With his buddies and then suddenly the Big Guy Himself
Answering out of the whirlwind and commanding old Job
To gird up his loins, which loins were undeniably vigorous
Previous to the Lord interrupting Job, and after the Maker
Finishes one of the greatest eloquent scoldings of all time,
He grants old Job another seven sons and three daughters,
Again without the slightest thanks for the astounding Mrs.
Job who suddenly has twenty count them twenty children
With no mention of her humor, or the vast hills of diapers,
Or her wit which survived kids throwing up and the sheep
Wandering off, and plagues of locusts and things like that.
A good editor, I feel, would have asked for just a glancing
Nod to the wry hero of the tale, at least acknowledgment;
Something like a new last line after So Job died, being old
and full of days, which might read, And also passed a most
Amazing woman, of whom nothing other than the blessing
Was ever said, her heart being a gift beyond calculation by
Man, her mind sharp, her tongue gentle, her hands a mercy,
And her very presence full reason to kneel in prayer at that
Which the Lord in His mercy has made and granted briefly.
A line like that would only hint at her, but it’s a start, right?

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.