Monday, April 16, 2018

Alexis Kagame

Alexis Kagame (1912—1981) is a Rwandan poet, priest, historian, and philosopher. He was born into a long line of court historians. He extensively researched the oral history, traditions and literature of Rwanda — particularly its dynastic court poetry. At various points the Belgian colonial authorities found his views working against their purposes. In the early 1950s his bishop was persuaded to reassign him to Rome, to lessen his influence.

Kagame’s masterwork is the epic poem The Singer of the Lord of Creation (1950), written in the Kinyarwanda language, and translated By Kagame himself, into French. He also translated The Bible into Kinyarwanda. He became one of the first professors at the new University of Rwanda in 1963.

From The Singer of the Lord of Creation

Then Lucifer made up his mind: he would
rebel against the Lord. He sought a place
in space that would be suitable for war.
He had a vague presentiment that God
might be like that innocent-looking sheep
which suddenly became a thundercloud.
The rebel Lucifer began by God’s
command to shrivel, but he did not die.
His angel’s wings contracted like a bat’s
from white they turned an ugly black. A smell
of putrefaction emanates from him
that sickens men. He limps into the war
joining his comrades who became like cats.
They are accursed: they all have leprosy.

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 9, 2018

Julie L. Moore*

Julie L. Moore is Associate Professor of English, and the Writing Center Director at Taylor University in Indiana. Her life has recently gone through major changes — a move from Cedarville University in Ohio to Taylor, and more significantly the dissolution of a marriage she was completely committed to. Such an experience naturally impacts the voice of the poet in her new collection, Full Worm Moon. Moore is daring; she's unafraid to share her experience of the darkness, and yet to find hope in the beauty and goodness still present in her life.

I have been privileged to be Julie's editor for both Full Worm Moon, and her previous collection, Particular Scandals, both of which are part of the Poiema Poetry Series (Cascade Books). I am also pleased to have included her poems in both of my recent anthologies — The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse. All of these books are available through Wipf & Stock.

Anya Krugovoy Silver reflects on this new collection: “‘What if the beautiful day is over?’ wonders Julie Moore in her shattering new collection, Full Worm Moon. And indeed, poems about the end of a marriage wring the reader. . . Amidst the world’s disarray, Moore’s playful wit and exultant language ultimately proclaim the persistence of tenderness, peace, and love.”

The following poem is from Full Worm Moon.

Compline

St. Meinrad Archabbey

Forgive me my faults, my faults, my grievous faults,
she recites with the Benedictines preparing
for evening’s darkening shroud—

her husband’s figure standing erect
in her memory, his finger pointing at her,
threatening her, his once-sure vows

now dead, their hazy specters
prowling the hallways of her heart,
their long fingernails raking its walls.

While she chants—words, just words,
& barely sung—the Lord’s Prayer
stumbles onto her tongue: forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Not even an hour, nor is it sweet,
this prayer that arrests her,

exorcising the ghosts of promises past,
their furious, furious haunting.

Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Julie L. Moore: 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 2, 2018

Malcolm Guite*

Malcolm Guite is an English formalist poet, who is chaplain at Girton College, Cambridge, and teaches at the Faculty of Divinity at Cambridge University. He is author of several books, including two poetry anthologies for Lent and Advent, as well as Mariner: A Voyage with Samuel Taylor Coleridge (2017, Hodder & Stoughton): his analysis of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."

I met with him last fall in Hamilton, Ontario — the city his family had moved to when he was crossing into adolescence, before he was sent to boarding school in England to preserve his British identity. It was a delight, to drive him through Hamilton streets which he began to recognize from his youth.

During his terrible boarding school experience his worldview shifted from Christianity to existentialism. However, by his final year of graduate studies at Pembroke College, Cambridge, he re-engaged with Christian faith through his experience of beauty in the romantic poets, the religious significance of historic sites he had visited, and through a paper he had written analyzing the Psalms.

Guite participates in many events in Britain and North America related to C.S. Lewis scholarship, and has collaborated and toured with Canadian musician Steve Bell. The following poem is from his third full-length poetry collection Parable and Paradox, which appeared from Canterbury Press in 2016.

I AM The Resurrection

John 11.25: I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in
me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.


How can you be the final resurrection?
That resurrection hasn’t happened yet.
Our broken world is still bent on destruction,
No sun can rise before that sun has set.
Our faith looks back to father Abraham
And forward to the one who is to come
How can you speak as though he knew your name?
How can you say: before he was I am?

Begin in me and I will read your riddle
And teach you truths my Spirit will defend
I am the End who meets you in the middle,
The new Beginning hidden in the End.
I am the victory, the end of strife
I am the resurrection and the life.


Posted with permission of the poet.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Malcolm Guite: 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, March 26, 2018

Christina Rossetti*

Christina Rossetti (1830—1894) is one of the greatest Victorian female poets — perhaps only second to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Her first poetic triumph was the book Goblin Market and Other Poems (1862). She is also known for her children’s poems in Sing-Song (1872). She wrote six devotional studies, the last of which The Face of the Deep: A Devotional Commentary on the Apocalypse (1892) featured Rossetti’s verse-by-verse reflections on the Book of Revelation, and includes more than two hundred poems.

In the early 1870s she became seriously ill with Graves’ Disease. After her recovery she dedicated much of her attention to writing devotional prose. These writings reveal much of how she viewed the world as symbolic of spiritual truths; they also demonstrate her Christocentric view of scripture.

When asked about her poetic influences she wrote, “If any one thing schooled me in the direction of poetry, it was perhaps the delightful idle liberty to prowl all alone about my grandfather’s cottage-grounds some thirty miles from London.” Despite her love of nature, she lived most of her adult life in London.

Good Friday

Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy blood’s slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon —
I, only I.

Yet give not o’er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

*This is the third Kingdom Poets post about Christina Rossetti: first post, second 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, March 19, 2018

James A. Zoller

James Zoller is the author of three poetry collections, including Living on the Flood Plain (2008, WordFarm), and his brand-new collection Ash & Embers. He is Professor of Writing and Literature at Houghton College in New York State. Previously, he has taught at SUNY-Albany and at the University of New Hampshire. In 2011 he was Fulbright Professor of American Studies at Pusan National University in South Korea.

I am pleased to have served Jim, and his fine poetry, as the editor of this new book — which is part of the Poiema Poetry Series from Cascade Books. The following poem is from Ash & Embers.

Kaleidoscope

One eyed, yes. And one eye
sees the visual organ music
in that rose of nine petals,
nine-point celestial compass, a fine
odd number though not seven, not perfection.

Random, the number of luck,
nine is another math entirely —
a trinity of trinities, three squared,
an image shaped illuminated leveraged,
the mandala, tool of spectral navigation.

So I pulled off its smiling head
its single-eyed smiley-face its life-filter its rose-
colored glasses, only to discover
a petri dish with random shapes and shards
vivid, odd, and polished glass

the kind one might mistake for trash
— the kind one might liken
to chaos of the human soul,
the hit-or-miss of the universe,
the cluttered proofs for God.

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, March 12, 2018

Pierre Corneille

Pierre Corneille (1606—1684) is one of France’s three great seventeenth-century dramatists — alongside Racine and Moliere. He wrote a very popular French verse translation of Thomas a Kempis' Imitation of Christ. His most-celebrated plays include Le Cid (1637), Polyeuct (1642) and Cinna (1643). American poet Richard Wilbur is one of the many translators of his works.

Corneille’s play Polyeuct is based on the life of Polyeuctus (a Saint according to the Greek Orthodox Church). He was an Armenian officer in Rome’s army who converted to Christianity even though it was likely to mean his death.

In the play, the following section is spoken by Nearchus, trying to convince his friend Polyeuct to not postpone his baptism. Polyeuct’s wife Pauline, whom he loves dearly, is afraid that if his conversion is public, he will be martyred. Later in the play, after Polyeuct’s death, both Pauline, and her father become Christians.

The following translation is by Noel Clark.

From Polyeuct (Act One)

But how can you be sure you’ll live that long,
Or guarantee resolve will prove that strong?
Has God, in whose hands your soul and lifespan rest,
Promised to grant you a delayed request?
God is all-good, all-just but, still, His grace
Is varied in effect by time and place.
Those shafts can lose their powers of penetration,
If hearts repel them by procrastination.
The soul grows callous and God’s grace, deflected,
Less freely is bestowed, when once rejected.
That holy gift, designed to save the soul,
Descends more rarely and can find no role.
The grace inspiring you to be baptised,
Already languishes, its aim revised —
Despite the sighs of love that reached your ear,
The flames are dying and will disappear.

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, March 5, 2018

Wu Li

Wu Li (1632—1718) is best known as a painter — one of the six orthodox artistic masters in the early Ch’ing period. He remained loyal to the Chinese landscape tradition, despite having seen prints of European paintings.

His poetry is noteworthy for his boldness in seeking to establish a Chinese Christian poetry.

He converted to Christianity and joined the Jesuits in 1682, later becoming one of the first Chinese to be ordained as a priest (1688). He could have been well paid as a court painter, but instead he chose the life of an evangelist — often disguising himself as a peasant or fisherman — travelling from village to village in Jiangsu.

The following poem was translated by Jonathan Chaves.

Singing of the Source of Holy Church


Before the firmament was ever formed,
------------------or any foundation laid,
high there hovered the Judge of the World,
------------------prepared for the last days!
This single Man from his five wounds
------------------poured every drop of blood;
a myriad nations gave their hearts
------------------to the wonder of the Cross!
The heavenly gates now have a ladder
------------------leading to their peace;
demonic spirits lack any art
------------------to insinuate deception.
Take up the burden joyfully
------------------fall in behind Jesus,
look up with reverence towards the top of that mountain,
------------------follow His every step.

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.