Tuesday, April 21, 2009

special poets: jane kenyon

Ms. Kenyon is a poet I discovered only recently, perhaps two weeks ago. One of her poems was included in a book comprised of readings for Lent and Easter. I am now tracking down her books of poetry. There is a collection of all her poems but the cover is awful, a still life that looks like an artificial dead life, and her books have a Frostean feel and a Wyethean feel (whose art should have graced the cover) and I simply won't have that book cover covering her poems in my house. (So there.) The covers I've seen on the separate editions have a much better feel about them: houses and trees and windows and beached boats.

But of course, I'm judging the cover and not the book of poems. I have just begun my sojourn with Kenyon's writing but the poems I have read tend to shortness, much said in little, ordinary things lifting us into the extraordinary - they have the kind of punch and precise beauty that keep a reader turning pages in the hunt for yet another brief cluster of letters and syllables that crack open the profound like a man cracks open an egg to mix in a drink or cook for a meal.

Yes, I've just begun so I don't know what I'll find. Just as no one told me about the Jesus Poems that Dylan Thomas wrote, which showed me that while he may have struggled with churchianity he had a deep love for Jesus, I don't know what I may find in her writings that deals with the metaphysical and angels and God and life and death. She doesn't have to write about those things in order for me to enjoy her poetry. But since that first poem of hers I read did talk about those things in a few dozen words, well, I expect I will find more thoughts on these matters as I delve into her volumes of paper and ink and soul.

I liked that first poem so much I included it in a final revision of a book for Harper Collins/Zondervan I was working on during Easter. I leave you with it and hope you will explore her poetry along with me. The poet laureate of New Hampshire, her physical presence left us in 1995.

Looking at Stars

The God of curved space, the dry
God, is not going to help us, but the son
whose blood spattered
the hem of his mother's robe.

significant writers: richard llewellyn

The Welsh have given us many wonderful things: the Welsh revivals (there have been several), hymns before football matches (soccer in Canada & the US), coal miners that sing well, Richard Burton, Dylan Thomas . . . and the novel How Green Was My Valley ought to be added to my truncated and certainly non-exhaustive list.

The book is so lyrical it's almost a poem from beginning to end. Wonderful metaphors and similes pull the reader's imagination in. It is the colour of the fiery green Welsh grass, the deep black Welsh coal, the pigeon grey Welsh winter sky. It is the colour of people and of language and of family happiness and family anguish.

At one time I believe the book was better known. Now, unless it pops up on a course in UK lit, I believe it's largely forgotten. But if Dylan Thomas had written a novel, it might have had this book's fluidity and imagery and phrasing if not exactly the same themes or immediate clarity.

Yes, I mentioned that family was in it – so is growing up, so is love and school and first kisses, so are hatreds and strikes and violence. And God. God has to be around somewhere if we're talking about the Welsh and God's there all right, often treated with worship and reverence, but often as not challenged in anger.

I like book covers and I like good ones enough not to purchase certain editions if I think the publisher's front cover people had a very bad day. Penguin usually does well at this sort of thing and they have a nice paperback of Llewellyn's novel with a green, hilly, meadowy Welsh scene on the front - at least, it looks like the Wales I've enjoyed on two separate trips. (And I've yet to see it rain in Wales though the flaming green tells me it does.) If you haven't got a copy of the book and want one you might try looking that edition up on Amazon or in a brick and mortar store. It's a very nice copy to read and have hanging around your house on tables and couches and kitchen counters or by the bed.

Richard has written other books you might want to look into. He wrote a sequel to this called Green, Green My Valley Now. And his second book (How Green being his first) may be the one you've heard mentioned in certain company – None But the Lonely Heart.

He passed beyond us in 1983.