One thing the world needs is for more people to read poetry. Especially from poets who identify as Christians, whose work reflects the creativity, wisdom and grace of our Creator God. Two of these women I’ve met in person; the others I have admired from afar. I do hope you’ll take the time to read more of their work via the links provided. You will be richer for it.
That I Might Dwell
That I might dwell in warbler
song, in fields of sorrel, fields
of stars, that dwelling in your
house I’d know, I’d rest, I’d play
at wonder. Oh that I might dwell
in pine-branched shade, among
the sway, among the praise of oak-fern, granite, jay nest, spruce—
among the shadow-dance of leaves,
the breeze unpinning doubt, all
apathy, all hollow hours, all fears.
Oh may I dwell in reverence here,
and dwelling in your house, I’ll
wait, I’ll pray, I’ll lay this body
down on what you’ve dreamed,
on what you’ve sung, spliced, spun,
twined, embroidered, breathed.
And dwelling in your house I’ll
know the peace of moss, the moth- winged hush of unhinged awe,
musk of sage, gaze of deer. Oh let
me lose myself in rooms of fox- glove, cowslip, wild plum, wren—
that I might taste the sleep of loam,
that I might tenant beauty here.
from Habitation of Wonder by Abigail Carroll (Wipf & Stock 2018)
Abigail Carroll is a poet and author whose most recent book, Habitation of Wonder (Wipf & Stock, 2018), is an offering of poems that travels the intersection of the natural landscape and the landscape of spirit. A Gathering of Larks: Letters to Saint Francis from a Modern-Day Pilgrim (Eerdmans, 2017), has been called “sparked with joy and stitched with whimsy” by the Chicago Tribune, and Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal (Basic Books, 2013), was a finalist for the Zocalo Public Square Book Prize.
Carroll holds a PhD in American Studies from Boston University, where she has taught history and writing. She makes her home in Vermont, where she serves as pastor of arts and spiritual formation at Church at the Well, and where she enjoys walking and photographing nature.
Click here for Abigail’s website.
A brown hare washes her face
in the lane while the hare in the moon
looks on. The hare in the moon
carries an egg, new cycle of life
that comes in the spring. But now,
it’s autumn, the sky closing in,
fir trees inking footprints
on the gray silk sky. A luminous sky,
tattered with crows. Two swans,
ruffled lilies, float in the lake’s bright bowl.
Some fairy’s touched all the trees overnight,
turned them orange, yellow, and red. All of
the green fields are clotted with sheep. What
is the world, but the body of God?
from The Book of Kells by Barbara Crooker (Cascade Books, 2019)
Barbara Crooker and I first met in person at the Seattle AWP Conference in 2014. I’d just read one of her poems in a collection “How to Read a Poem” (TSPoetry Press) and gushed about how much I loved it. Barbara’s been writing a long time and is an inspiration to me personally as her persistence in publishing has blessed the world with so much beautiful poetry.
Her 8th volume The Book of Kells from Cascade books, has just been released. From the back cover: “The Book of Kells” focuses on the illuminated medieval manuscript, (including) a series of meditations on its various aspects… (plus) poems on the flora and fauna of Ireland (swans, hares, magpies, fuchsia, gorse, crocosmia, etc.). The third thread in this volume is a series of glosas, a fifteenth-century Spanish form that incorporates a quatrain from other poems; here, Irish writers (Yeats, Heaney, O’Driscoll) provide the embedded lines. In her work, Crooker considers the struggle to pin lines to the page, to tie experience to the written word, to wrestle between faith and doubt, to accept the aging body as it tries to be fully alive in the world. Crooker contrasts the age of faith, when the Book of Kells was created, to our modern age of doubt, and uses as her foundation the old stones of Irish myth and lore from pre-Christian times. Above all, she captures the awe that the word inspired in preliterate times: “The world was the Book of God. The alphabet shimmered and buzzed with beauty.””
You can read more about Barbara and her work on her website.
–Jeanne Murray Walker
In appreciation of Maxim Gorky at the International convention of Atheists. 1929
Like Gorky, I sometimes follow my doubts
outside and question the metal sky,
longing to have the fight settled, thinking
I can’t go on like this, and finally I say
all right, it is improbable, all right, there
is no God. And then as if I’m focusing
a magnifying glass on dry leaves, God blazes up.
It’s the attention, maybe, to what isn’t
there that makes the notion flare like
a forest fire until I have to spend the afternoon
spraying it with the hose to put it out. Even
on an ordinary day when a friend calls,
tells me they’ve found melanoma,
complains that the hospital is cold, I whisper, God.
God, I say as my heart turns inside out.
Pick up any language by the scruff of its neck,
wipe its face, set it down on the lawn,
and I bet it will toddle right into the godfire
again, which–though they say it doesn’t
exist—can send you straight to the burn unit.
Oh, we have only so many words to think with.
Say God’s not fire, say anything, say God’s
a phone, maybe. You know you didn’t order a phone,
but there it is. It rings. You don’t know who it could be.
You don’t want to talk, so you pull out
the plug. It rings. You smash it with a hammer
till it bleeds springs and coils and clobbered up
metal bits. It rings again. You pick it up
and a voice you love whispers hello.
Jeanne Murray Walker is a writer and teacher born in Parkers Prairie, a village of a thousand people in Minnesota. She frequently lectures, gives readings, and teaches workshops in places ranging from The Library of Congress and Oxford University to Whidbey Island, WA, from a working fish camp in Alaska and Texas canyon country to Orvieto, Italy. She taught at The University of Delaware for 40 years, where she headed the Creative Writing Concentration.. She also serves as a Mentor in the Seattle Pacific University Master of Fine Arts Program.
Jeanne’s newest release is forthcoming from Paraclete Press, Pilgrim, You Find the Path by Walking, a collection of 50 sonnets in contemporary language.
Jeanne lives with her lawyer husband in a 104-year-old house outside Philadelphia. They are the parents of two children and the grandparents of 3 ardent soccer players.
Click here for Jeanne’s website.
St. Kevin’s Blackbird
Outstretched in Lent, Kevin’s hand
did not expect
the blackbird’s egg, its speckled warmth,
new-laid, in his uplifted palm. Think prayer
as nest: an intimate travail whereby
fledgling hopes, like birds, leave behind
a kind of grave. Amen, seeming
premature, the saint-in-waiting
dovetailed faith with knuckles.
And afterward, did he save those eggshell bits,
adorn his windowsill with each goodbye
the smallest beak ever made?
He never said. Nor will he
know these hearts of ours,
more shell than shelter,
as they fissure, let in light enough
for Christ to enter. Yes,
let grief be, with every breath, a readied womb.
from “Where the Sky Opens” (Wipf & Stock, 2015)
Laurie Klein is the author of Where the Sky Opens (Wipf & Stock, 2015) and the prize-winning chapbook Bodies of Water, Bodies of Flesh. She also wrote the classic praise chorus “I Love You, Lord” forty-three years ago, “weary and bone-lonely…while our first child slept.”
Laurie’s poems and prose have appeared in many publications, including Ascent, The Southern Review, Ruminate, Atlanta Review, Terrain, and the Holman Personal Worship Bible. She is a recipient of the Thomas Merton Prize for Poetry of the Sacred. She lives with her husband near their daughters and a growing group of grandchildren in Eastern Washington. You can connect with her on Facebook and at www.lauriekleinscribe.com.
the small circle of face
we see by
in light of wine
the sliver of why
that bends the bones
the orbed cross
bright in the palm
of the poor
the crucified moon
on the night of tongue
To sip is to sing the Amen
into veins, sweeten
the soured tongue.
But first: lips
pursed with it,
hollowed mouth brimming
This is the swallowing
of what spewed out: spears
stuck long in the side,
thorns thick in the skin.
torrent down the throat.
Marjorie Maddox is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania. She has published eleven collections of poetry, most recently the re-released Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation, about her father’s heart transplant. Some of her other titles include What She Was Saying (stories) from Fomite Press, Wives’ Tales (poems) from Seven Kitchens Press, and True, False, None of the Above from Cascade Books’ Poeima Poetry Series, as well as Local News from Someplace Else (about living in an unsafe world).
Marjorie lives with her husband and two children in Williamsport, Pa., birthplace of Little League and home of the Little League World Series. She is the great grandniece of baseball legend Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers who helped break the color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson.
Click here for Marjorie’s website.
Tell me, whose poetry are you reading these days?