Tuesday, October 27, 2009

canticle xxii : resurrection of the katts

The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:19, 21 : "For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God....because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God."

After the promised irruption of heaven into earth
and subsequent looting of the enemy's barrows,
imagine - the astounded hurtling of hawk, the disconcerted wonder of hen,
pup's amazement, astonished mule, kitten dumbfounded,
pipirit shocked! -
                                  And then, the heirs of God, cerement free,
parading the blue air. So great leviathan, cattle, creeping thing, each to its kind,
rise without burden, with the lords of the air,
to come to their City, and their names calling out, from the
Lamb's opening Book. 

(c) John Robert Lee from Canticles (2007)
(c) John Robert Lee - Photograph After the rain.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Canticle xv

Let us praise His Name with an opening lakonmet,
and in the graceful procession of weedova;
let laughing, madras-crowned girls rejoice before Him in the scottish
and flirtatious moolala, its violon hinting of heartache.
And while we forget time turning in quick-heeled polkas,
pause during the tentative norwegian -
for when the couples end the gwan won,
you alone must dance for Him your koutoumba.

(c) John Robert Lee from CANTICLES (2007)
(c) John Robert Lee - photograph, La Wenn Magrit.
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Morne Gimie, Saint Lucia.


In the blue-dyed surfing of air
an inverted rainbowl
perches its prismatic lips
across the gracious, steadfast earth,

and in Veronica's garden
a cavorting butterfly prevaricates
among the vanes
of pigeon-peas' yellow blossoms,

and across town,
you yearn after those sexy dancers
barrelling through space,
arching, escalating over breath.

Contemplating Morne Gimie's triple mornes,
I envision Him
taken from our clouding sight,
upon the elevating air.

(c) John Robert Lee - from "elemental" in "elemental: new and selected poems" Peepal Tree, 2008.
(c) John Robert Lee - photograph, Morne Gimie, Wednesday October 21st.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Canticle liii

 "Because every fruit is a gift rising from the Eternal Seed
interred beyond the catacombs of exfoliating nebula,
encrypted in the woolen cerements folded like the ancient parchment of a deed
in the Hand of God, we sing this sedulous
faith. Handling such mysteries, probing parable and metaphor,
we arrived at this plain board (after the incredulous
hour) to find that urns of maize and grape had manifest
their witness into bread and wine. And fish."

(c) John Robert Lee from Canticles (2007)
(c) John Robert Lee, Photograph: Fish cakes.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thomas Merton on the meaning of our existence

In the blurb to Thomas Merton's meditations The New Man (1961) the writer says that Merton "shows the conflict between man's exterior and interior identity, and points the way the soul must travel to find its spiritual reality in the transcendent yet constantly present Self of God". A Commonweal quote says that the writer "has acquired a profound understanding of the peculiarly contemporary questions which demand an authentic Christian answer." In the first chapter of these meditations, titled "The war within us", Merton writes on the meaning of existence. "Man, then, can only fully be said to be alive when he becomes plainly conscious of the real meaning of his own existence...to find life we must die to life as we know it. To find meaning we must die to meaning as we know it....To find the full meaning of our existence we must find not the meaning that we expect but the meaning that is revealed to us by God. The meaning that comes to us out of the transcendent darkness of His mystery and our own. We do not know God and we do not know ourselves. How then can we imagine that it is possible for us to chart our own course toward the discovery of the meaning of our life? ...Meaning is then not something we discover in ourselves, or in our lives. The meanings we are capable of discovering are never sufficient. The true meaning has to be revealed. It has to be "given." And the fact that it is given is, indeed, the greater part of its significance: for life itself is, in the end, only significant in so far as it is given.
As long as we experience life and existence as suns that have to rise every morning, we are in agony. We must learn that life is a light that rises when God summons it out of darkness. For this there are no fixed times."

(c) Photograph "Untitled" by John Robert Lee

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Seamus Heaney on poetry readings

In Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney by Dennis O'Driscoll (Faber 2008), 1995 Nobel Laureate Heaney says the following about poetry readings: "In a good poetry reading - good for you, the poet, that is - you retrieve some of the quickening that you got when you first wrote the thing. The surprise and gratitude are with you again for a moment - the old sense of having been supplied with the words you needed to summon. You have an obligation as a poet not to betray the reality of that. You have been mysteriously recompensed by the words and you owe some fidelity to the mystery....So nowadays, every time I stand up I have been to the inside of what I hope to turn out, and feel both prepared and protected. Perhaps it's meditation by another name, but at this stage it's become a necessity. It means that each reading attains a sense of its own occasion. You may be speaking the same poems, but they are part of something intended, they aren't just inclusions in some accidental or incoherent bundle of things. It means you can give out and keep to yourself at the same time."  pgs 203, 204.

(c) Photograph Red Top by John Robert Lee.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Pomegranates and G. K. Chesterton

"It is the simple truth that man does differ from the brutes in kind and not in degree; and the proof of it is here; that it sounds like a truism to say that the most primitive man drew a picture of a monkey and that it sounds like a joke to say that the most intelligent monkey drew a picture of a man. Something of division and disproportion has appeared: and it is unique. Art is the signature of man....All we can say of this notion of reproducing things in shadow or representative shape is that it exists nowhere in nature except in man; and that we cannot even talk about it without treating man as something separate from nature....an excellent test case of this isolation and mystery is the matter of the impulse of art. This creature was truly different from all other creatures; because he was a creator as well as a creature....man is the measure of all things; man is the image of God." - G.K. Chesterton in "The Everlasting Man" (1925). [Ignatius Press, 1993, pg 34, 35]

(c) John Robert Lee Photograph - "Pomegranates"
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Still life

I'm as ancient as I walk.

I have walked
in my time.

even things set themselves.

we have to go out
and welcome the enemy.

In faded print,
all are equal.

The death mask is forming.

(c) John Robert Lee - excerpt from "Dread" in 'elemental: new and selected poems' (Peepal Tree, 2008)

(c) Photo by John Robert Lee
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Gregory Wolfe, the editor of IMAGE: A Journal of the Arts and Religion, writes in his excellent collection of IMAGE editorials - Intruding upon the timeless: meditations on Art, Faith and Mystery (Square Halo Books, 2003) - of "a hunger, on the part of both secularist and believer, for a deeper understanding of mystery, that borderland where reason fails and only faith and imagination can go." The IMAGE journal that he created sought to explore the "intersection between faith and imagination." He states that for him, "the first principle had to be aesthetic excellence: what we published had to be good art, able to stand alongside the best that was being produced...IMAGE had to be present on the public square, and not in some sort of self-imposed religious ghetto. For it is precisely in the imaginative space created by works of art that a diverse, multicultural society can explore religious matters without the divisiveness of polemics and propositions." He sees the collected editorials as meditations which attempt "to probe the ways that art and faith, poetry and prayer, can nourish and sustain one another." In a "fragmented and contentious world, art that engages faith can body forth an incarnational balance between the letter and the spirit, make ancient truths new, and allow the time-bound to briefly and tentatively intrude upon the timeless."
Greg Wolfe's meditations have been an inspiration to me as I probe my own experience of art, faith and mystery. I shall share more of his book from time to time.

(c) Photo: "Dock" by John Robert Lee
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