Poetry Reading at Haggerty Museum of Art October 24th, 2.00 pm

If you’re in the Milwaukee area and want to support the arts, please attend a reading that  Dr. Tyler Farrell and I will be offering at the Haggerty Museum of Art on Marquette University’s campus. It’s a great space, and free and open to the public! I’m particularly excited about this reading as I’ll be reading from my ongoing translation of Dom John Lydgate’s Troy Book (the great and massive fifteenth-century poem about the Trojan War) for the first time in public.

Here are the bios, plans, and contact info for the venue:

Tyler Farrell is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the English department at Marquette University and teaches writing, poetry, drama, Irish and British Literature and film. He also leads two study abroad programs, one to London in J-session and the other to Ireland in Summer. He has published three books of poetry with Salmon: Tethered to the Earth(2008), The Land of Give and Take (2012) and will be reading primarily from his most recent collection, Stichomythia(2018). Farrell is a fan of poetry and art and always feels the wonders that art forms can bring to us. Go poetry!

Jacob Riyeff is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the English department at Marquette University. In addition to teaching, he is a translator, poet, and scholar of medieval literature. Jacob’s publishing projects mainly center on the poetry of the Benedictine monastic community down thru the ages, and his books include a translation of the tenth-centuryOld English Rule of Saint Benedict (Cistercian Publications); a translation of the collected poems of Dom Henri Le Saux (aka Swami Abhishiktananda), In the Bosom of the Father (Resource); and his own poetry collection, Sunk in Your Shipwreck (Resource). He will be reading from his collection, a couple new poems, and—for the first time in public—part of his new translation of the 32,000-line, fifteenth-century Troy Book by Dom John Lydgate.

For more information, contact Lynne Shumow at lynne.shumow@mu.edu

 

 

New Peer-reviewed Essay/Edition/Translation: a Fourteenth-Century Benedictine Novice Treatise on Contemplation

After several years and help from a number of scholars and monks, I am very happy to announce that my edition, translation, and study of an anonymous fourteenth-century Latin treatise for novice Benedictines, De modo meditandi vel contemplandi (“On the method of meditation or contemplation”), was published last month by the good folks at The Journal of Medieval Religious Cultures. The treatise comes to us from the monastery of Bury St. Edmunds, the monastery (dissolved in the sixteenth-century) that was home to the most prolific Middle English poet, Dom John Lydgate.

My thanks to the editors, Christine Cooper-Rompato and Sherri Olson; everyone who offered their help along the way; and to my anonymous reader at JMRC for all their assistance in presenting this work to the world.

Here is the article’s abstract:

This article presents the first study, edition, and modern English translation of a Latin treatise for novice Benedictine monks copied at the English monastery of Bury St. Edmunds in the fourteenth century in Oxford, Bodleian Library, Bodley 240. The treatise is comprised of two primary parts, the first describing a monastic program of meditation or contemplation to be followed throughout the day, the second discussing the benefits and nature of “the discipline” (the practice of flagellation) for curing a lack of devotion to monastic practice. The introduction and notes place the treatise within the larger context of the manuscript, of religious life and history in England and the West more generally, and of the treatise author’s sources, monastic heritage, and a variety of traditional and innovative medieval genres. The text is finally placed in the context of newer historiography on late medieval English monasticism and the relationship of monastics to their lay associates.

Arcane work, I know, but fascinating material!

Tea Poems (from “Sunk” Collection)

A short poem for the weekend from my collection, Sunk in Your Shipwreck. Good tea has been one of the most constant companions thru-out my life, from early days going to the Teachery up in Madison, WI on Willie Street, to the long days and evenings I spent sipping at Dushanbe Teahouse in Boulder, CO over two years, to the visits to Red Blossom Tea in San Francisco, to everywhere else I’ve been. Good loose-leaf tea is it: the texture of its leaves, the color of its liquor against white clay, the smells that just don’t stop, the copious array of flavors is like nothing else. Black’s all right, but Dragon Well, Big Red Robe, Cloud Mist—that’s where it’s at.

Here’s a tiny suite of poems on tea culled from two lonely but beautiful nights from years past. (The text follows the audio file.) Happy long weekend—drink some tea!

 

Tea Poems

 

I. Dushanbe Tea House—Boulder, CO 2001

The seats are strangely cool

tonight, the tea is not:

its yellow-green mass

coddled in white clay.

New sounds splash on the air,

and still there’s quiet inside.

 

II. 3rd Street and Highway 101—San Rafael, CA 2005

Alone, I watch my step walking

a familiar street in San Rafael.

 

The air tonight is oolong tea—

glowing lights wrap me up

and tangled blankets shape the horizon.

 

The stars of evening shine and I

see them, knowing a moment’s peace.

 

An Award for Æthelwold!

I am very humbled to announce that my book, The Old English Rule of Saint Benedict with Related Old English Texts, recently won the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists‘ biennial award for Best Translation or Edition of an Anglo-Saxon Text.

I am very grateful to the selection committee, especially because this was Cistercian Publications‘ first foray into the Old English textual world and because the volume attempts to find a somewhat new audience for Old English literary culture. I was also pleasantly surprised because there are especially so many solid and important editions of Old English and Anglo-Latin texts being done by respected scholars every year.

Thank you, ISAS, Cistercian Publications, and Saint Æthelwold!

Calling All Tolkien Fans!

Are you a Tolkien fan and want to be part of Marquette University’s Tolkien fandom oral history project? Here’s the deal:

Marquette University has one of the most impressive collections of Tolkien writing and materials in the world (including the original hand-written manuscripts of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit!). Luckily, I happen to work within a stone’s throw of this magnificent collection.

The archivist for the Special Collections and University Archives, Bill Fliss, is spearheading a new project that seeks to compile an oral history of Tolkien fans’ testimony on why they find the Professor so captivating (interviews are limited to three minutes). They’re looking to collect “6,000 audio interviews, one for each of the Riders of Rohan that Théoden mustered and led to the aid of Gondor.” (Yes, it’s geeky, but delightful too!) My interview was just posted, and was lots of fun to prep for and do. Very low pressure!

If you’re in the Milwaukee area, you can contact the Archive to set up a time to come in, or if you’re elsewhere, you can give your interview remotely as well.

Wæs þu hal!

Happy St. Æthelwold’s Day, 2019

St. Æthelwold’s Day is upon us again! On this day in 984, St. Æthelwold passed on to his eternal reward, as the saying goes. I’m currently teaching two classes and in the midst of writing three different books, so unfortunately I am not able to post a translation of a hymn in honor of Æthelwold today as I did last year, but I will post at least another collect and translation below.

But I will make one Æthelwold-related suggestion: anyone interested in Æthelwold’s legacy, the English Benedictine Reform generally, and especially their influence on English culture and literature would do well to check out John D. Niles’s new book out from Exeter University Press, God’s Exiles and English Verse, an excellent new and comprehensive study of the tenth-century Exeter Book. The Exeter Book is the first anthology of English poetry, and it contains some of the great poems that have come down to us from Anglo-Saxon England. As it was made in the cultural orbit of the Benedictine Reform, Niles reads the whole manuscript in light of this movement, and when I read his book last month I was both impressed and delighted.

Next year, I’m hoping to have a translation of the Middle English verse Life of St. Æthelwold done for his day. As I assume I won’t find a publisher in a journal for that one, I’ll likely publish it here. Stay tuned.

Anyhow, for today, here’s my translation of a collect for Æthelwold’s feast, found in Alencon Bibl. mun. 14 and edited in Lapidge and Winterbottom, The Life of St. Æthelwold, p. cxv:

Deus, qui preclari sideris sancti pontificis Adeluuoldi illustratione nouam populis Anglorum tribuisti lucem hodierna die clarescere, tuam suppliciter imploramus clementiam ut cuius magisterio totius religionis documenta cognouimus illius et exemplis informemur et patrociniis adiuuemur. Per [Dominum nostrum Christum. Amen.]

O God, who by the illumination of the bright star of the bishop Æthelwold have today made a new light to shine upon the English people, we humbly implore your mercy that we might be formed by the example and aided by the protection of him by whose teaching we have found the model of all religious observance. Thru [Christ our Lord. Amen.]

A happy St. Æthelwold’s Day to all!

Celebrating the Unity of East and West in New Essay in Benedictine Magazine

I have an enduring appreciation for all the spiritual and religious traditions of humanity, and within the Church I am particularly enthusiastic about the witness to unity that the full communion of the Latin Catholic Church and the twenty-three Eastern Catholic Churches (all twenty-four being sui iuris Churches in communion with the bishop of Rome) share.

The extensive diversity on the surface (of liturgical form, spiritual culture, and secular culture and language), attended by the willingness and desire to share in the most profound depths of sacred ritual (most especially the Eucharist) point up just how much we can be united within our very real differences.

In one specific and practical example, I address the fruits of this communion in a new article published by Spirit & Life, the magazine put out by the congregation of Benedictine sisters with whom I am an oblate. You can read the full essay here.

Thank you to New Camaldoli and Retreatants + New Audio of Swamiji Poem

My wife and I just returned from the Big Sur coast where I led a retreat at New Camaldoli Hermitage with Fr. Cyprian Consiglio on Swami Abhishiktananda‘s life and wonderful legacy. The weekend was filled with deep conversation and joy in the Spirit.

The Hermitage offers nourishment for soul and body, with a tremendous view of the Pacific (and attendant cloudscapes) from its mountain perch. The liturgy, meditation, and  space for silence and presence of mind and spirit were all exactly what my wife and I needed after a busy school year and the recent publishing push and . . . everything!

My sincerest thanks to the Camaldolese monks at New Camaldoli, and especially to all the retreatants who came along for the ride–I hope our paths cross again soon!

In continued celebration of Swamiji’s work, here is a translation of a poem from Swami Abhishiktananda’s journal that is in my collection; I read this at the retreat during a session on Swamiji’s use of poetry to gesture at his profound advaitic and mystical experiences.

“You have seen the lightning” addresses its own author and all those who have glimpsed the root unity of things beyond appearance, with a kind of fatherly caution. It speaks to the intimacy of such experience and the inadequacy of words in its face–and yet our desire to speak or sing of it despite this. Enjoy!

 

 

 

New Interview on St. Aethelwold’s Translation of the Rule of St. Benedict

It is my great pleasure to share that Dr. David Grubbs of the Christian Humanist Radio Network recently invited me to sit down and talk about my work with St. Aethelwold’s Old English translation of the Rule of St. Benedict (and other Anglo-Saxon things), and the interview is now available here.

We had a great time, and while we geeked out over all kinds of Anglo-Saxon things, we also wanted to keep the conversation grounded in order to invite folks into a relatively specialized topic. That is to say: you don’t need to be a student of medieval history or literature to follow the interview, so please do give a listen!

Thanks again to Dr. Grubbs and everyone there at The Christian Humanist!

Chaucer’s “Truth: A Ballade of Good Counsel”

While my first literary love is Old English poetry, I am a fan of Middle English too. In my new collection, I have a few translations of poems from Geoffrey Chaucer. I like to remind folks in general, my students, and myself from time to time that Chaucer did things aside from The Canterbury Tales (as great as they are).

So here’s one of his shorter lyric poems, “Truth,” done in the forme fixe of the ballade, a French verse form that was popular in the 14th and 15th centuries. Contemporary English poets (Chaucer himself and John Lydgate preeminent among them) liked to use it too, and later English-language poets have continued the tradition. I’ve retained the verse form over literal meaning, to preserve the musicality of Chaucer’s original. (In my translation I also omit the “envoy,” the final stanza that is addressed to a particular person, to “universalize” the poem–for better or worse.)

I like especially his image of the futility of “kicking the point of an awl.”

The texts follow the audio file of my reading of the Middle English and translation.

 

Truth: Balade de Bon Conseyl

by Geoffrey Chaucer

 

Flee fro the prees and dwelle with sothfastnesse;

Suffyce unto thy thing, though it be smal,

For hord hath hate, and climbing tikelnesse,

Prees hath envye, and wele blent overal.

Savour no more than thee bihove shal,

Reule wel thyself that other folk canst rede,

And trouthe thee shal delivere, it is no drede.

 

Tempest thee noght al croked to redresse

In trust of hir that turneth as a bal;

Gret reste stant in litel besinesse.

Be war therfore to sporne ayeyns an al,

Stryve not, as doth the crokke with the wal.

Daunte thyself, that dauntest otheres dede,

And trouthe thee shal delivere, it is no drede.

 

That thee is sent, receyve in buxomnesse;

The wrastling for this world axeth a fal.

Here is non hoom, her nis but wildernesse:

Forth, pilgrim, forth! Forth, beste, out of thy stal!

Know thy contree, look up, thank God of al;

Hold the heye wey and lat thy gost thee lede,

And trouthe thee shall delivere, it is no drede.

 

 
Truth: A Middle English Ballade of Good Counsel by Geoffrey Chaucer 

 

Flee the crowd and dwell securely in trueness.

Let your own suffice, though it not be much,

for greed leads to hate and grasping to coldness;

the crowd leads to envy, and wealth deceives such

as hold too tightly everything they touch.

Rule yourself well, that others clearly see,

and have no doubt: the truth shall set you free.

 
Don’t try to amend all that is amiss,

trusting that Lady who spins like a ball;

true rest lies in spurning busyness.

There’s no sense in kicking the point of an awl

nor in the crock’s struggle against a wall.

Rule yourself, you who rule others’ deeds,

and have no doubt: the truth shall set you free.

 

Take what is sent to you in obedience;

struggle, for this world surely begs a fall.

We have no home here, only wilderness.

Go forth, pilgrim! Go forth, beast, from your stall!

Know our true home and thank the God of all.

Hold your course and follow your spirit’s lead,

and have no doubt: the truth shall set you free.