Sonnet II: Liu Xitong

Liu Xitong (pronounced Leo She-tong) recently spoke on Capitol Hill about the persecution he faced in communist China for his practice of Falun Gong. Read about the event and his story here

They strip him down, but cannot strip his soul.
They splash on salty water tasting of
The bitterness of years of state control,
But cannot ruin sweetness from above.

They scrape away the flesh upon his back
And let the salt work stinging misery,
But what they scrape away with their attack
Reveals a flesh that knows no atrophy.

They poke his fingers and his toes with needles,
Pour burning liquid on his genitals
And poison down his throat; such endless evils
Try but fail to make sure goodness stalls.

Though they can stop his hand’s calligraphy,
His life has writ in blood: “Set China free.”



Sonnet III: Richard Sternberg

Mr. Sternberg is an evolutionary biologist who was fired from the Smithsonian after okaying the publishing of a peer-reviewed paper that mentioned intelligent design. Read his comments here. Watch a documentary featuring him here.

Between the swirling motifs of the mollusk shell,
And codes of nano-data stored to plan its shape,
He sees intelligence that from a mind would swell
And truths that Darwin’s startless story can’t escape.

Without escape, the scientists instead attacked
By using politics infused with Marx’s specter
Against the clearer thinker, who was quickly sacked
And wrongly labeled a religious benefactor.

Within the path that tries reducing organisms
To lower, dead, component parts and nothing more,
A science unafraid that complex mechanisms
Show signs of complex thought, gets slapped down to the floor.

How does from almost nothing grow those splendid shells?
Look up, not down! In other planes the answer dwells.



Autumn Trees

after Edger Allan Poe’s “Bells”

See the passing forest trees—
Autumn trees!
How the garments of the year fall gently to their knees;
How they tumble, tumble, tumble
In the brilliant light of day
Midst the forest stream’s soft mumble,
Cloudless sky that has no rumble
Under Heaven’s mighty sway.
Shedding leaves, leaves, leaves,
How sublimely nature grieves!
What a lilting lamentation sung from lofty sylvan eaves:
When from trees’ eaves leaves leave,
We perceive
Our own humbling in the crumbling of these trees.



A Portrait of My Father

He is juggling the eggs and the sausages too;
He is guzzling his coffee, the finest of brew;
He is flipping a flapjack quite effortlessly;
He is Breakfast Man fighting to feed the hungry.

He is riding his car to the airport midst rains;
He is waiting and waiting but never complains;
He is smiling and waving to us when we land;
He’s our Captain who steers with the steadiest hand.

He’s a sage who plants sage and tomatoes and chives;
He is seeding the seedlings so each one survives;
He’s a traveler trekking to lands far and wide;
He’s a tinker and thinker, a hermit who’ll hide;

He is most of all best of all Father of Men,
Thus we rise and give honor to what he has been.



Evan Mantyk is President of the Society and teaches English literature and history in the Hudson Valley region of New York.

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15 Responses

  1. Sally Cook

    Evan, I cannot say which of the poems I like best.
    It may, however, be the one about Liu Xitong – another Leo, this time in China – its understated horror; the firm belief of something beyond the obvious, shining through the terrible literal descriptions of torture.

    Well done!

  2. E. V.

    Thank you, Evan Mantyk, for demonstrating why the literary world needs The Society of Classical Poets. By honoring the traditions of formal poetry as an instrument of free speech, SCP gives voice to perspectives that are silenced in more mainstream, PC-compliant publications. Good work!

  3. James Sale

    Very fine and very necessary poems for our times; they are all good, but I found your Sonnet 111 exceptional: it’s phraseology, “And truths that Darwin’s startless story can’t escape.” is quite brilliant, especially the neologism, ‘startless’, which exposes the imbecility of it all; the rhyming, especially ‘specter/benefactor’, which is ingenious; and the Shakespearean concluding couplet. If I may say so, from my perspective, your best-ever poem to date.

    • Amy Foreman

      I agree with James, Evan. Sonnet III is exceptional. Actually, each of these is a gem. Thank you for sharing them with us, and thank you for all you do at the SCP!

  4. Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    Mantyk unleashed! The simply perfect use of the Shakespearean form of the sonnet and the boldness in providing a variation of its form—to draw out sense and music both—this is the hallmark of a great young poet, if the opinion of a humble New Mexican sonetero should hold any meaning.

    In case some have not noticed, he is also one of the most important editors of our time.

    These poems have broken the stranglehold of modernism’s all-consuming egocentrism which we see all too often, for example, in the endlessly lengthy, endlessly boring “woe is me” hospital experience poems going around these days. Mantyk’s “I” is universalizing, in the grand manner.

    There is also a rock-solid theological foundation underlying the sonnet to the poet’s father, something worthy of a dissertation in itself, although I can certainly understand how some would be blind to this.

  5. C.B. Anderson

    These were all good, Evan, in the ways noted in the comments above, but I was most drawn to the “Richard Sternberg” piece, because, for many years now, I have been reading and collecting books very critical of the reductive doctrines Neo-Darwinism on logical and scientific grounds. Most of you should enjoy this:


    Some of you, as I did, might find that Father George was a bit too soft on Neo-Darwinism, perhaps due to his unfamiliarity with the writings I alluded to above. Dawkins is a scientistic [sic] bulldog, and should be confronted with a bit more vigor. But Father George is far too polite and measured for that.

  6. David Paul Behrens

    All of these poems, on various subjects, are excellent. In terms of using nature to portray pure beauty and a subtle, but deep meaning, I think my favorite is ‘Autumn Trees.’

  7. C.B. Anderson

    I’m sure you will agree, Mr. MacKenzie, that “young” is a relative term, though for me it is an absolute description of what I no longer am. My thoughts ever gravitate toward the great I AM, without which all endeavor is vain and futile.

  8. James A. Tweedie

    Evan, I have never been a big fan of Poe’s, “Bells.” I would say that your “Autumn Leaves” improves his idea and carries it forward to a better place, especially as regards your amusing word play.

  9. David Watt

    From the confronting, and well-wrought “Sonnet II: Liu Xitong to “A Portrait of My Father”, there is great versatility displayed. My favorite is “Autumn Leaves” for lines including:

    What a lilting lamentation sung from lofty sylvan eaves:

  10. Evan Mantyk

    Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your kind comments! I am privileged to have such accomplished readers and look forward to working with all of you in the new year.


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