Wednesday, March 1, 2017

“The Paraclete Poetry Anthology 2005-2016”

“We are made for poems,” writes professor, writer, poet, and historian Mark S. Burrows. “As children, we come to them naturally, delighting in how words play on our tongues, whether in nursery rhymes and lullabies or the songs we make up in the delicious hours of daydreaming.”
But something happens, and we think we need to outgrow those rhymes and lullabies and the poetry that made our childhood hearts sing.

The Paraclete Poetry Anthology 2005-2016: New and Selected Poems, edited by Burrows, seeks to restore that loss. It assembles works from the poets published by Paraclete Press over the past decade, and serves as post a signpost of what has been and an indication of what is to come.

The 131 poems from 13 poets are what can be called spiritual poems – poems about faith and its lack, poems about Scripture, poems about faith places, poems about day-to-day life and the meaning of life, poems about the cosmos and our place in it. The range across the spiritual landscape, probing, exploring, defining, wondering, remembering, and understanding.

The poets included in the anthology are Scott Cairns, Phyllis Tickle, Paul Mariani, Anna Kamienska, Father John-Julian, SAID, Bonnie Thurston, Greg Miller, William Woolfitt, Rami Shapiro, Thomas Lynch, Paul Quenon, and Rainer Maria Rilke (editor Burrows has translated poems by SAID and Rilke from the German for publication by Paraclete). The poets represent various faith traditions but there seems a kind of oneness here, as if these different traditions have the same object in view.

Phyllis Tickle (1935-2015) was the founding religion editor at Publishers Weekly, the author of more than 40 books, and for years a member of the Paraclete Press editorial board, where she championed the publishing of poetry. This is one of her poems included in the anthology:

Old Man River by Phyllis Tickle

My father called it
His boyhood’s fiercest teacher.
And child-wise, I knew
He’d once used its even fury
As a mark to sound his own.
My mother turned form us
When he made river talk.
For her, its waters ran
With married tears.
And long before I’d aged enough
To want or rear a man,
She’d willed on me
The anger of her years.
There’s a bridge above it now—
Tightly built—
No different from the land—
But it can no more bear my sons
Across his hunger
Then it can lift my breath
Above her fears.

Mark S. Burrows
Burrows is well-equipped and experienced to serve as the anthology editor. He  has translated Prayers of a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke and 99 Psalms by Said. He’s also co-authored several books on Christian faith, theology, and spirituality, including Minding the Spirit: The Study of Christian Spirituality; Faith Can Give Us Wings: The Art of Letting Go; Biblical Hermeneutics in Historical Perspective; and Poetic Revelations: Word Made Flesh Made Word: The Power of the Word III. He is on the faculty at the University of Applied Sciences, Bochum (Germany) and a historian of medieval Christianity. His collection of poetry The Chance of Home is scheduled to be published this year. Burrows is also a former editor-in-chief and publisher of Paraclete Press.

The Paraclete Poetry Anthology is filled with beautiful poetry and, collectively, a sense of the wonder of the world and how we pilgrims of faith navigate through it.


Top photograph by Lynn Greyling via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

T.S. Eliot Prize: “Jackself” by Jacob Polley

It was a packed house at the Southbank Centre Royal Festival Hall in London on Jan. 16. Ten poets were reading from their works, all nominated for the most prestigious award in British poetry – the T.S Eliot Foundation’s T.S. Eliot Prize. The prize is also a financial one – 20,000 pounds (about $26,000 at current exchange rates). Each of the 10 shortlisted nominees received 1,500 pounds (about $1,900).

Bernard O’Donoghue was there, reading from The Seasons of Cullen Church. Vahni Capildeo read from Measures of Expatriation (reviewed at Tweetspeak Poetry last November; it won the Forward Prize). With the other eight, they represent some of the British poets writing today.

The winner was Jackself by Cumbrian poet Jacob Polley.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Monday, February 27, 2017

“I Am No One” by Patrick Flanery

Jeremy O’Keefe is a professor of German history at New York University. He’s recently returned to the United States after 10 years teaching at Oxford; he wants to be closer to his grown daughter and his mother. And he’s also dealing with cultural dislocations. To his American friends and colleagues, he sounds British, just as to his British friends and colleagues he always sounded like an American. He’s both, and neither.

He has an appointment with one of his graduate students to discuss her paper; he arrives on time at a local coffee shop, but the student is a no-show. A young man sitting nearby observes that it appears his date didn’t show up. Later, when he checks his email, he discovers an email from himself telling the student to reschedule, and a response from the student. He has no memory of either email.

Then the young man from the coffee shop shows up at a party given by Jeremy’s daughter and her husband. That’s followed by the arrival of the first of several boxes of printed lists of O’Keefe’s emails and online activity. He thinks he’s either losing his mind or someone is doing more than simply watching what he’s up to. His academic specialization in German history is the work of the Stasi, the East German secret police that flourished in the communist era, and he begins to wonder if his life is taking on aspects of his academic work.

I Am No One is Patrick Flanery’s third novel, and while it’s tempting to consider it a suspense novel, it actually falls in the genre of serious fiction. O’Keefe’s dilemma becomes an exploration of memory, privacy, and identity in the internet age, an age where threats can be vague and hidden, threatening people can turn out to be something else entirely, and one’s past can become intimately locked into one’s present.

Patrick Flanery
Flanery, an American writer, is a professor of creative writing at the University of Reading in the U.K. His first novel, Absolution (2012), received the Spear / Laurent Perrier Best First Book Award and was shortlisted for several other awards. His second novel, Fallen Land, was published in 2013.

I’ve never been a fan of literary fiction set in academia, but I Am No One is different. Yes, it has an academic background, but this is a story that transcends it. Most of the story happens in New York City and upstate New York, away from the university. It is ultimately about a man having to come to grips with his past, as that past begins to engulf the world he currently inhabits.

Top photograph by Peter Griffin via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.