Monday, January 22, 2018

Torquato Tasso

Torquato Tasso (1544—1595) is an Italian epic poet, born in Sorrento. His greatest achievement is Gerusalemme Liberata (Jerusalem Delivered), his imagined version of the first Crusade and the Liberation of Jerusalem (1099), which was first published in 1581. Prior to the rise of modernism in the twentieth century, Tasso was one of Europe’s most widely-read poets. The poem was influential for epic poets including Spenser and Milton.

It is hard to see the Crusades as anything more than a political war, justified and encouraged using religious ideals — and hard to relate to the glorification of the Crusades by a Catholic poet 500 years later. Tasso, however, saw this as a fitting subject. As can be seen in the following excerpt from the poem, one motivation for the crusades was to gain access to the pilgrimage site of Christ’s empty tomb. This pilgrimage was not only seen as an act of devotion, but also supposedly as a formal expiation from serious sin, perhaps even prescribed by a confessor.

The following is from Anthony M. Esolen’s translation which appeared in 2000.

From Jerusalem Delivered
Canto 1 — Stanza 23


“Rather it was the target of our hopes
To storm the noble walls of Sion, seize
Our fellow Christians from their shameful yoke,
The bitter slavery and indignities,
To establish a new realm in Palestine
Where piety should hold perpetual lease,
Where no one would prevent the pilgrim from
Fulfilling his vow to adore the Savior’s tomb.”

This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis. His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Nathaniel Lee Hansen

Nathaniel Lee Hansen, originally from Minnesota, is an assistant professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas. He is the author of the new poetry collection, Your Twenty-First Century Prayer Life, which I assisted with as the editor of the Poiema Poetry Series. He has also published the chapbook, Four Seasons West of the 95th Meridian (2014) from Spoon River Poetry Press.

He contributes to the literary dialogue by writing reviews, such as of Tania Runyan's Second Sky for The Cresset, and Benjamin Myers' Lapse Americana for Christianity & Literature. Along with his teaching role at Hardin-Baylor, Hansen edits the journal Windhover, and is the director of the annual Windhover Writers' Festival.

Your Twenty-First Century Prayer Life

Your most frequent requests:
300 safe interstate miles,
night of sufficient sleep, a liner
sturdy for the class’s ocean.
Names you speak again, again—
bless Andrew, bless Lynne.

You wonder how saints
master discipline, currents
of communication in crackling
lines, sparking from sender
to receiver, back again.

You can count on one hand
when prayer blossomed
organically without desire’s
weeds crowding petals,
stealing sunlight, robbing
soil of water and life.

Your petitions persist,
abundant (overflowing)
with me, my, and I.
You forget, if you want
to live you must lose
your life.

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis. His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Max Jacob

Max Jacob (1876—1944) is a French poet, artist and critic of Jewish background. He befriended Pablo Picasso in the summer of 1901, when the painter first arrived in Paris; he helped him learn French, and eventually the two roomed together in the Montmartre district.

In 1909 he experienced a vision of Christ and became a Catholic Christian. In 1921 Picasso represents Jacob as a monk in his painting, Three Musicians, because he had decided to enter a monastery.

He was arrested by the Gestapo in 1944. Jacob’s brother and sister were both gassed at Auschwitz, whereas Jacob died in an infirmary, apparently from bronchial pneumonia.

The following is from The Selected Poems of Max Jacob, translated by William Kulik.

Death

----------The body cold and stiff in the morgue of the
world who will give its life back so it may leave?
----------The morgue mountain is on my body who will
free its life so it may leave?
----------Eyes advance like a cloud of bees the eyes of
Argus or the lamb of the Apocalypse.
----------The cloud has thawed my body’s morgue. A
Place, understand me, for the sweet coming of the Lord.
----------Finally, the body’s little more than a faint out-
line the eyes of the cloud gone too.
----------What’s left barely the size of a steak: a blood-
stain, some bits of marble in memory of a lost name.


This post was suggested by my friend Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis. His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Denise Levertov*

Denise Levertov (1923—1997) is a British-born American poet who authored more than two dozen collections, including The Collected Poems of Denise Levertov (2013, New Directions). She is considered one of the Black Mountain poets — along with Robert Creeley, Edward Dorn and Robert Duncan — because her early work appeared in the Black Mountain Review.

Becoming a political activist, Levertov was outspoken in opposition to the Vietnam War. She served as Poetry Editor of The Nation in the early '60s, and of Mother Jones in the 1970s. She also taught at various schools, including Stanford University.

Levertov had considered herself to be an agnostic, even though her father as a Hasidic Jew had converted to Christianity, and had become an Anglican priest. She often wrote on religious themes — taking a long, circuitous route to faith — eventually declaring her own conversion in 1984.

For the New Year, 1981

I have a small grain of hope—
one small crystal that gleams
clear colors out of transparency.

I need more.

I break off a fragment
to send you.

Please take
this grain of a grain of hope
so that mine won’t shrink.

Please share your fragment
so that yours will grow.

Only so, by division,
will hope increase,

like a clump of irises, which will cease to flower
unless you distribute
the clustered roots, unlikely source—
clumsy and earth-covered—
of grace.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Denise Levertov: first post second post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis. His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.

Monday, December 25, 2017

George Herbert*

George Herbert (1593—1633) is one of English literature's most influential poets — despite of, or because of, his unapologetic preoccupation with his relationship with Christ.

He was born in Montgomery Castle, in Wales. After his father's death, when he was three years old, his mother moved the family to England. She became a patron to the poet John Donne, and her son soon started developing his own poetic skill. He was elected Orator at Cambridge University in 1620, but eventually left that post to become an Anglican priest, serving in Wiltshire, England. He wrote about his experience in his book, The Country Parson, His Character and Rule of Holy Life (1630). He died of Tuberculosis.

The very first post in this Kingdom Poets blog — from February of 2010 — featured the poetry of George Herbert.

Christmas

All after pleasures as I rid one day,
------My horse and I, both tired, body and mind,
------With full cry of affections, quite astray;
I took up the next inn I could find.
There when I came, whom found I but my dear,
------My dearest Lord, expecting till the grief
------Of pleasures brought me to him, ready there
To be all passengers' most sweet relief?
O Thou, whose glorious, yet contracted light,
------Wrapt in night's mantle, stole into a manger;
------Since my dark soul and brutish is thy right,
To man of all beasts be not thou a stranger:
------Furnish and deck my soul, that thou mayst have
------A better lodging, than a rack, or grave.

The shepherds sing; and shall I silent be?
------------------My God, no hymn for thee?
My soul's a shepherd too; a flock it feeds
------------------Of thoughts, and words, and deeds.
The pasture is thy word: the streams, thy grace
------------------Enriching all the place.
Shepherd and flock shall sing, and all my powers
------------------Out-sing the day-light hours.
Then will we chide the sun for letting night
------------------Take up his place and right:
We sing one common Lord; wherefore he should
------------------Himself the candle hold.
I will go searching, till I find a sun
------------------Shall stay, till we have done;
A willing shiner, that shall shine as gladly,
------------------As frost-nipped suns look sadly.
Then will we sing, and shine all our own day,
------------------And one another pay:
His beams shall cheer my breast, and both so twine,
Till ev'n His beams sing, and my music shine.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about George Herbert: 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, December 18, 2017

Luis de Góngora

Luis de Góngora (1561—1627) is a Spanish poet — one of the most influential of his day, and one of the most prominent of all time. His major long poem The Solitudes has been translated for a new bilingual edition by Edith Grossman (2012, Penguin).

In seventeenth century Spain, two contrasting literary styles were competing for prominence. One, championed by Góngora, was beautifully ornate and obscure. The other, as practiced by his rival Francisco de Quevedo, featured simple vocabulary and compact language. The feud became personal, with both writing sarcastic pieces mocking each other. The heated enmity culminated with Quevedo actually purchasing the house where Góngora was living for the express purpose of evicting him. In 1626 Góngora contracted an illness which undermined his memory, and forced him to return to his hometown of Córdoba. He died in poverty the following year.

In the 1800s Góngora’s poetry fell out of style, but a later resurgence of interest has caused his work to become a major influence on most twentieth century Spanish-speaking poets. The following poem, translated here by John Dent-Young, was written in the year 1600.

Soneto 21 [Hung from the Cross]


On the Nativity of Christ our Lord

Hung from the Cross, pierced by a lance in the side,
both temples punctured with a crown of thorns,
to offer such mortal suffering in exchange
for our salvation, that was indeed a deed;

yet greater still to be born in want, as proof
how far for us you'll stoop, how far you'll travel,
born where there's no lodging but a stable,
where a simple porch must serve, without a roof.

It was not the greater deed, O my great Lord,
to overcome time's brutal, chill offensive,
opposing it in weakness with a strong breast

(as to sweat blood is more than suffering cold),
because there is a distance more immense
between God and man than between man and death.

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, December 11, 2017

Paul Lake

Paul Lake is the winner of the 2012 Richard Wilbur Award (as selected by Dana Gioia) which resulted in Lake's third book of poems, The Republic of Virtue, being published by the University of Evansville Press. He has also published two "poetry chapter books" and two novels — the most recent of which is Cry Wolf: A Political Fable (2008).

He has recently retired from his Professorship at Arkansas Tech University. Paul Lake is the Poetry Editor of First Things, where the following poem first appeared.

Saving Jesus

"BrickHouse Security saves Jesus for 8th year in a row,
offers free GPS tracking of nativity scenes and holiday displays."


Somehow escaping
The sharp eye
Of angels, shepherds,
And magi,

Thieves snatch the infant
From the crèche
To spirit God off
In the flesh.

Clearly, it’s
The thieves’ intent
To massacre
The innocent

Like Herod
In the dark of night,
Forcing parents
To take flight.

To empty Christmas
Of the Christ
Would seem the purpose
Of the heist—

Unless the abject
And forlorn
Hijack the babe
To feel newborn

Themselves, and think
By robbing churches
They gain a love
They cannot purchase.

Unlike the soulless
Figurine
With planted chip,
The Nazarene

Restores the lost
Sans GPS,
And covers crime
With holiness.

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.