Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Collected Poems 1975-2015 - John Robert Lee

Cover art by Gary Butte (St. Lucia).

Peepal Tree announces Collected Poems of John Robert Lee
Peepal Tree Press (UK) has announced on its website the forthcoming publication of John Robert Lee’s Collected Poems 1975-2015. The book will be published on April 3rd 2017.
In 2008, Peepal Tree had published Lee’s “elemental: new and selected poems.” Peepal is the leading publisher of Caribbean literature. Several St. Lucian writers are on their list, including Garth St. Omer, Kendel Hippolyte, Jane King, Vladimir Lucien, Adrian Augier and Earl Long.
Peepal says: “John Robert Lee’s Collected Poems tell both of a continuing journey and a subtly changing voice but also of an underlying, consistent attempt to hold together in one space the things that matter. This is seeking first the kingdom of God; maintaining the community of men and women who incarnate that kingdom and make life meaningful; the beauties of St Lucia’s natural world and its rich traditions of folk-culture; and the challenges and demands of poetry.
Whilst sometimes Lee’s poems involve a quiet self-communing, more often they are conversations with God and with those people who are close to him. At points they rise to being canticles of praise that express the experience of, or the yearning for the transcendent, through the imagery of the visible world. And whilst the poems connect to the wider world of travel and world affairs, their touchstone is always St Lucia. Like Derek Walcott, like Kendel Hippolyte, Jane King and now Vladimir Lucien, John Robert Lee’s poems demonstrate how possible it is to find an enriching, puzzlingly complex and intellectually stimulating world in a small island society.
The journey the poems tell is from the young man enthused with the energy of the radical decolonizing spirit of the 1970s, the years of deepening of Christian faith to the present of maturity and the acceptance of loss as well as gain, and the stamina needed for the continuing struggle for St Lucia to emerge from its colonial past and be ever more itself. In the later poems there are more glimpses of the private man who recognises that “My heart holds rooms I’ve never entered/ doors concealed, secret entrances.” And whilst over the forty years of the poems one hears always a personal, signal voice, over time the poems increasingly invest in the Kwéyòl language of the St Lucian folk as well as the voice of the English literary masters and, latterly, display a growing interest in the relationship between poetry and the visual arts.”
Recent publications by Lee, released under his own Mahanaim Publishers imprint, include Sighting and other poems of faith (2013), Bibliography of St. Lucian Creative Writing (2013), After Gary Butte (2015) and City Remembrances (2016). In 2014, he co-edited Sent Lisi: poems and art of Saint Lucia, with Kendel Hippolyte, Jane King and Vladimir Lucien. In December 2016, he will be issuing Song and Symphony, a cycle of poems written in response to the art of St. Lucian painter Shallon Fadlien.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

City Remembrances: Poems

My new chapbook, City Remembrances: poems, 42 pgs, illustrated, limited edition of 200 copies, is forthcoming. Sells at $30 EC, $10 US. Under my publishing imprint, Mahanaim Publishing. Designed by Raphael "Rinvelle" Philip. His art work is included. Printed by The Document Centre, St. Lucia. On sale in St. Lucia at the Folk Research Centre.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

New Year Poem

New Year Poem

“The Sea of Faith
Was once, too at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar…” – Matthew Arnold (Dover Beach)

I suppose it’s ultimately personal
this building of a life —
ground, wall-block, hardwood, clamped metal

roof, about a well-planted
corner-stone of certain faith —
when the earth-plot shakes to doubt,

batter in fear against cyclones,
some plump rat rots under the boards with the stench

of horrible news (you get the point) —
         faith surges like a triumphant vanguard
         of galloping waves off Gros Islet

        to spread its bounteous, cleansing surf
        all along the garbage-littered shore.

(c) John Robert Lee

Photo: © Sea at Gros Islet. J.R.Lee

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Untitled - work in progress.

John Robert Lee
We step to eternity from now
the instant at our feet
the present intersection
of irrevocable hours —

what heart’s door slams shut?
what terrible holy turns inside out?
what mirror fixes this corrupt?
what unbeing dislocates the shrieking ghost?

Ah, but blessèd saint,
clocks stilled and maps scrolled —

what high gates dissolve?
what holy tender comes?
what grace returns what grace?
what glory now unfolds within this earth?

“They all lie in wait for blood;
Every man hunts his brother with a net.” – Micah7:2

It’s generosity that’s not there.
They don’t give, they distrust the open hand.
Their own worth is hidden from them.
Those bodies breed monster hearts.
They don’t know their own beauty.
They don’t trust love.
They don’t love.
They don’t.

Camilo and me
cavorting in the shadows’

of their framed portraits
of Camilo and me, at
the surf-breaking end

of Ocean Spray, like
kindred spirits of shadows
of clouds on reef pools.

C.S. Lewis on The Hobbit

C. S. Lewis Reviews The Hobbit, 1937

November 19, 2013 | by
A world for children: J. R. R. Tolkien,
The Hobbit: or There and Back Again
(London: Allen and Unwin, 1937)
The publishers claim that The Hobbit, though very unlike Alice, resembles it in being the work of a professor at play. A more important truth is that both belong to a very small class of books which have nothing in common save that each admits us to a world of its own—a world that seems to have been going on long before we stumbled into it but which, once found by the right reader, becomes indispensable to him. Its place is with Alice, Flatland, Phantastes, The Wind in the Willows. [1]
To define the world of The Hobbit is, of course, impossible, because it is new. You cannot anticipate it before you go there, as you cannot forget it once you have gone. The author’s admirable illustrations and maps of Mirkwood and Goblingate and Esgaroth give one an inkling—and so do the names of the dwarf and dragon that catch our eyes as we first ruffle the pages. But there are dwarfs and dwarfs, and no common recipe for children’s stories will give you creatures so rooted in their own soil and history as those of Professor Tolkien—who obviously knows much more about them than he needs for this tale. Still less will the common recipe prepare us for the curious shift from the matter-of-fact beginnings of his story (“hobbits are small people, smaller than dwarfs—and they have no beards—but very much larger than Lilliputians”) [2] to the saga-like tone of the later chapters (“It is in my mind to ask what share of their inheritance you would have paid to our kindred had you found the hoard unguarded and us slain”). [3] You must read for yourself to find out how inevitable the change is and how it keeps pace with the hero’s journey. Though all is marvellous, nothing is arbitrary: all the inhabitants of Wilderland seem to have the same unquestionable right to their existence as those of our own world, though the fortunate child who meets them will have no notion—and his unlearned elders not much more—of the deep sources in our blood and tradition from which they spring.
For it must be understood that this is a children’s book only in the sense that the first of many readings can be undertaken in the nursery. Alice is read gravely by children and with laughter by grown ups; The Hobbit, on the other hand, will be funnier to its youngest readers, and only years later, at a tenth or a twentieth reading, will they begin to realise what deft scholarship and profound reflection have gone to make everything in it so ripe, so friendly, and in its own way so true. Prediction is dangerous: but The Hobbit may well prove a classic.
Review published in the Times Literary Supplement (2 October 1937), 714.

1. Flatland (1884) is by Edwin A. Abbott, Phantastes by George MacDonald (1858).
2. The Hobbit: or There and Back Again (1937), chapter 1.
3. Ibid., chapter 15.
Image and Imagination: Essays and Reviews, by C. S. Lewis, edited by Walter Hooper. Copyright © 2013 C. S. Lewis Pte Ltd. Reprinted with the permission of Cambridge University Press.
This article originally appeared in the Times Literary Supplement. Click here to read it on the TLS site.

C. K. Williams

Award-winning poet C.K. Williams dies at 78

When C.K. Williams died Sunday at age 78, he was still a working poet. His next collection, "Selected Later Poems," will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on Tuesday.
Williams was widely respected; in 2005, he was awarded the coveted $100,000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. He won the National Book Award in poetry in 2003 for "The Singing," the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for "Repair" in 2000, and the National Book Critics Circle award in poetry in 1987 for "Flesh and Blood." He was also a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts grant.
Williams was born into a working-class family in Newark, N.J., in 1936; he grew to 6-foot-5 and found his high school passions were "girls and basketball." He tried playing basketball at Bucknell for a year before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania. He began publishing poetry in the early 1960s, married and then divorced, and began teaching in the 1970s.
"Poetry didn't find me, in the cradle or anywhere near it," he once explained. "I seemed to have started writing poetry before I'd read any."
Williams was known for his long lines that were both moving and accessible. "There's nobody like him in the language," Jonathan Galassi, Williams' editor and now head of Farrar, Straus and Giroux told the Newark Star-Ledger in 2000. "He writes a very long line that is his own creation. He tries to incorporate as much of what we're really thinking when we say or do something. He has a strong analytic mind that can dissect powerful emotions that he unfolds in layers. All in all, his poetry is unique."
He served as a chancellor of the American Academy of Poets and for many years taught at Princeton University. He and his second wife had split their time between Princeton and her home country, France.
He was also the author of a memoir, "Misgivings," a book about Walt Whitman, translations of "The Bacchae" and Sophocles, and the essay collections "Poetry and Consciousness" and "In Time."
"There is despair contemplating humanity, if you're looking at all the violence and unnecessary death. Then, you see that human being after human being is living life. And there is joy in it, because in existence there is also great joy. If you spend your whole life being depressed about life, you're wasting it," he told the Los Angeles Times in 2010. "That's the wisdom of my old age."
Twitter: @paperhaus
Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

The suffering church of Syria


Stupid Statements and Dying Christians: which matters most?

antiochToday in Church we learned that the oldest Christian diocese in the world is in serious peril. A Christian leader got a message out to us saying that “almost all hope” is gone. ISIS confronts his community on three sides and his food kitchen, feeding people of every faith, faces extinction. This week, unless something is done, horror may fall on good people.
My newsfeed says a Republican candidate said something about Islam and the Presidency.
Since the GOP fellow is a decent man and what he said was clumsy and wrong, my guess is the media will hound him into an apology. He should apologize. We will feel better, because a hurt will have been healed and a harm averted to some future candidate for President. This is a problem created on American media with the help of American media by a media driven personality and so American media finds it infinitely more interesting than dead Middle Eastern Christians.
After all, one off the mark comment about a hypothetical Islamic candidate is much easier to deal with than the death of one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. Christians in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon face the worst situation since the Middle Ages. They are being displaced, robbed, raped, and murdered.
But a Republican candidate said a thing that nobody should defend about a candidate who does not exist.
The lives of the Christians in Syria, my community, are in the hands of God. The only government leader acting is Vladimir Putin. If some of the most ancient Christian churches, schools, monasteries, and orphanages survive, then it will be because a former KGB colonel is acting on his Machiavellian interests. Meanwhile, in the US, we shall make sure that a boy who made a clock some chuckle heads thought was a bomb is honored at the White House.
I am glad for the boy and sorry about the foolish thing the candidate said, but only in the spare moment when I can stop mourning for the murder of Christians in Syria. There is no easy American partisan villain (Bush! Obama! Both?) or “good guys” to support, so innocents must die, priceless art is destroyed, and history is lost. Dead Christians are less interesting than the foolish statements of American politicians.
We could stop the dying. Client states could intervene. The Turks do nothing. The House of Saud does evil. Jordan does nothing. Christians keep dying.
But at least teachers will think twice about ethnic stereotyping regarding school projects . . . and political candidates will remember there is no religious test for office under our Constitution. These are good things. We can feel good about those good things. Perhaps, we will feel less good about thousands butchered with weapons we provided to untrustworthy allies while we did nothing. Perhaps we will if we ever learn of the horrors in between our just criticism of the stupid things Americans do. We are victims of micro-aggressions and we are not going to sit idly by and let this happen.
And we should not. We can condemn the candidate and the school of the clock-making lad and do something in Syria, but the first two are easy and the third hard. So my news feed is flooded by attacks on the candidate and treats for the clock-maker and hardly a word about my dying church.
Meanwhile, American guns in the hands of men who often were “on our side” against the Syrian regime will keep killing Christians in Syria. This is an inconvenient fact, far away, where reporting would put news crews in danger. Better run another story on polls: media news created by media to be reported by media.
Dead Christians in Syria are much harder to film. Macro-aggression is hard. The macro-aggressors will not be threatened by media condemnation and have no interest in being interviewd in our studios, so why should our media care? A Church in peril this week requires no action because it is not in a major American media market. Maybe some candidate will not correct the lunatic ravings of a questioner at this rally? There is a story.
God help us. God save the Church of Syria, my brothers and sisters, and forgive our monstrous sensitivity to local slights and inhuman insensitivity to international genocide.