Today saw the release of Trinity House Review‘s premier issue! THR is a journal dedicated to serious poets doing work that tends to the transcendent in human life, to craft, and to “the hallows of a haunted age” (from their opening editorial). It’s an honor to be included in its pages and with such terrific poets.
My translation of the Old English “A Journey Galdor” (usually called “A Journey Charm” by editors) appears in the issue. The galdru are a strange “genre” of poetic and prose texts in Old English: half-prayer, half-magic, half-recipe. (!) They are a relic of a time when the self was more porous than moderns tend to think of it.
“A Journey Galdor” is one of my favorites of the genre, because it is a prayer for protection (and so, very practical) and because of its vague mentioning of various kinds of early Germanic “terrors”. This is a world in which elves and dragons and other wights are still very much a live option and need to be defended against. It’s a hoot, and deadly earnest.
I always say I’m excited to announce a new book. But this time I’m even more excited than normal. Gracewing in the UK has done me a great favor in bringing out a book that pulls out all the stops. O Shining Light: Old English Meditations for Advent and Christmastide is the first stand-alone, poetic translation of the Old English Advent Lyrics, a poem that opens the Exeter Book. (The Exeter Book is the first anthology of English poetry, copied down in the southwest of England sometime in the later tenth century.) You can get a copy here!
The Advent Lyrics are a set of short meditations on the “O Antiphons” sung at Vespers leading up to Christmas, and several others. (O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is based on the O Antiphons too.) The early English poet gave us a heartfelt, brooding, and celebratory poem. At the same time, it can be hard for modern readers to see what he is doing clearly at first blush, so we’ve included commentary that breaks open the poetic and theological riches of the poem too. Guides for individual and group reflection too make the book perfect for devotional Advent reading.
I’m particularly delighted because of the following features: my wife Mamie and I collaborated on the Introduction and Commentary; Daniel Mitsui provided illustrations inspired by Anglo-Saxon manuscript illustrations that frame the poem thru-out; Br. Paul Quenon, a terrific poet, photographer, and Cistercian monk, provided a welcoming and astute foreword; and the crew at Gracewing set the work in splendid typeface imitative of Anglo-Saxon script. It’s a poet’s (this poet’s) dream book.
Oh, and for anyone who might want to hear the original poem read aloud, I have posted audio files of myself reading the lyrics here. You can follow along in your book, just like when we were kids! 🙂
I’m delighted to (belatedly) announce that my translation of the Old English poem “The Ruin” appears in the newest issue of Presence, a great journal run by great people.
I read the poem in the audio file below, but here’s some basic context too:
“The Ruin” is a poem found in the tenth-century Exeter Book, which is the first anthology of English poems and a great treasure of English speakers’ literary inheritance. The poem is spoken by an Anglo-Saxon as he stands before what seems to be a Roman ruin in Britain, and he meditates on the transience of culture and human life as he marvels at what the ruin suggests about the creative energies that once existed where he stands. In my translation, I take this scene and “update” it to a Euro-American standing in front of a Middle Woodland burial mound in Milwaukee, WI’s Lake Park, with the same kind of brooding on transience etc.
The picture below shows the Lake Park mound (the green slope between trees with the stone marker on top) and the audio provides a reading of part of the original Old English and of the whole Modern English translation.
I hope you enjoy what was an immensely rewarding project for me.
I am very excited to announce the publication of my first poetry collection, Sunk in Your Shipwreck: A Palmer Stammering. It’s now available thru Resource Publications and Amazon.
The book includes poems from the last ten years or so, a number published in journals and magazines but plenty of unpublished material too. I’ll be posting some readings in the coming weeks, but here is the description from the back cover for now:
Sunk in Your Shipwreck is a collection of poems that employs the trope of the pilgrimage to structure its meanderings, especially (in murky and unfaithful ways) echoing the great medieval English poem, Piers Plowman. Moving through a poem from beginning to end is itself a kind of pilgrimage in the mind and on the tongue. The poems here reflect a late modern palmering, a movement from place to place and time to time and back again, movement through language and silence, inner and outer states, contemplative and active, starting and stopping, a longing for a constant or a destination in a life of uncertain circumstances and goals. In this verse peregrination, the palmer seeks out an illuminating and sustaining vision to form and transform common surroundings and moments of human life, a pursuit that is hopeful and darkly radiant by turns.