The gold-etched clouds of evensong intone
A whisper of rhapsodic melody;
Kaleidoscopic shards of psalmody
Aflame with facet-fire of precious stone.

The heavens declare God’s glory from on high,
With anthems set ablaze by seraphim.
The music of the spheres resounds the theme
As day and night conspire to paint the sky.

Unshackled, unbound Beauty is set free
To wield a palette of cerise and rose.
Chromatic brush-stroked symphonies disclose
A sensuous foretaste of eternity.

As daylight fades and twilight colors dim
The stars awake to sing an evening hymn.

Previously published in The Lyric



James A. Tweedie is a recently retired pastor living in Long Beach, Washington. He likes to walk on the beach with his wife. He has written and self-published four novels and a collection of short stories. He has several hundred unpublished poems tucked away in drawers.

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19 Responses

  1. James Sale

    Lush and rich, James, very enjoyable poetry and skilfully woven; and I like the synaesthesia too. Also, btw, a copy of your new poetry arrived today which I am looking forward to reading soon. All the best – James

  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    This is a fine sonnet (somewhat over-rich in adjectives, perhaps, but perfectly crafted). The line “kaleidoscopic shards of psalmody” is a master stroke, as well as “To wield a palette of cerise and rose.”

    It is hard to use Hebrew plurals like “seraphim” in an English poem. Milton of course did it well, and James Joyce in a magnificent piece in his novel Portrait of An Artist. Here is part of it:

    And are you not weary of ardent ways,
    Lure of the fallen seraphim?
    Sing no more of enchanted days.

    • James A. Tweedie

      If I have learned anything at all as a contributor to SCP it is that there is no such thing as a “perfect” poem. I am pleased to receive a positive response from both you and from James.

      As an aside, the sunset in the attached photo was one of the two most spectacular I have been privileged to experience (the other was at Lake Tahoe). The world is often more beautiful than words can express. Poetry, music, and art seem to have the most potential to recreate such moments—even more so than a photograph.

      • Peter Hartley

        James – As I was reading this poem I was thinking to myself “This is extremely sensuous” and then the very word arrived in line twelve. It is indeed snewing with adjectives but all have their little jobs to do and they do them very well. In “Aflame with facet-fire of precious stone” is a very felicitous combination that reminds me of G M Hopkins (“Flaming like fire from shook foil”? and makes me think of the deep translucent orange of Mexican fire opal, perfect as a colour for sunset

      • C.B. Anderson

        James, on the subject of perfection, I noticed that the last line of the third stanza has an extra syllable, unless you intend that the second half of “sensuous” be elided. This is a niggling detail and a practice the likes of Frost and Yeats allowed themselves all the time. It interests me that you are now submitting to THE LYRIC. I’ve been publishing poems there since 2004 and continue to do so. It’s very interesting what the editor, J.M.M., will and won’t allow. I remember a time when Richard Moore was asked to censor a word or two in a poem he submitted there. Twee & bland are OK, but sharp edges are a tough sell. Disquisitions on the beautiful are always well received.

    • James A. Tweedie

      Thank you, David, and to others who have enjoyed the poem.

      And for C.B. I used the word “sensuous” with intent, not really caring if the reader elides it or not. It may not be syllabically “perfect” (something I pursue as a rule written on my heart rather than on stone), but “perfect” in terms of rhythmic stress. As far as the Lyric goes, I submitted the poem to SCB before the Lyric picked it up, but after they did, Evan was kind enough to “hold it” to allow them first publication. Since I’m a relative newcomer to the poetry scene I do not have a long track record of publications. I have published two collections of poetry, “Crucifix Askew,” (Christian poems and song lyrics that I have written over the years with a focus on Incarnation and Resurrection) and “Mostly Sonnets—Formal Poetry for an Informal World” (referenced in James Sale’s comment above). Both are self-published under the Marv Dunecrest Press and available on Amazon. To date, as Dunecrest Press, I have published some 27 titles including 13 of my own. I have had a number of poems accepted on internet poetry sites and several in regional print journals, but the Lyric is the first national print journal I have submitted to and I was fortunate to have them choose the one poem I submitted. I am now exploring the possibility of submitting my poetry to other venues. I am, as they say, a work in progress.

      • James A. Tweedie

        Ha ha! The spell-checker police somehow managed to change the word “name” to “Marv.” Funny, but incorrect.

      • C.B. Anderson

        Cheers, Marv. I trust that you will find submitting poems to multifarious venues suitably exciting. I know that I did (and still do). Though on occasion we might actually generate a great poem, usually a good poem will suffice to please an editor. Remember that the author is the first editor of record in this word game we play. I’m still having fun, for otherwise I would have quit a long time ago. I am trying to reach a point where the stack of my acceptances is taller than my stack of rejection slips, and I’m almost there. My biggest mistake early on was submitting to university presses, where, for the most part, formal poetry is considered to be much like that which you scrape off your shoe after walking through a dog park, though they claimed that they were “open to all styles.” Anyway, if one is game, the poetry game is the best thing going.

  3. Joseph S. Salemi

    My experiences with The Lyric magazine parallel those of Kip Anderson. They do publish some fine material on occasion, but they are allergic to any kind of sharp edges, or controversy, or whiffs of violence and sex. Leslie Mellichamp was very above-board about this — he refused to print anything that he thought might outrage or baffle or upset his readership.

    For this reason, the magazine (while popular with a certain class of pious clergymen and little old ladies) can be a disappointment.

    • James A. Tweedie

      “Pious clergymen and little old ladies” = “pc” and “lol.” Two acronyms appropriate for our times, if not for The Lyric!

      What publications would you consider to be worth having a poem published in these days?

  4. Joseph S. Salemi

    I didn’t say The Lyric was an unworthy place to publish. Since they tend to print formal poetry as a rule, more power to them.

    My objection in general to a lot of contemporary formal poetry (“classical” is the term we tend to use here) is that it tends to be sentimental and sickly-sweet and often consciously archaic — sort of like an antique carriage lamp hanging outside a modern home as mere decor. See my address to the SCP earlier this year, which is published at the Expansive Poetry On-line website, under “Essays.”

    The magazines First Things and Chronicles and National Review will certainly print good formal poetry, and other journals will accept such pieces on occasion. But even they won’t take stuff with a lot of thees and thous and haths and hasts, or that are glowing with big sentimental smiles and oohs and ahs.

    The problem is that we all seem to be allergic to edge, bite, insult, sex, and satire. When such stuff appears here, it almost always causes a fight in the discussion threads.

      • C.B. Anderson

        James, to answer your question above, BLUE UNICORN, SNAKESKIN, and THE ANGLICAN THEOLOGICAL REVIEW are all great venues in which to publish. You might also try THE GALWAY REVIEW and POETRY SALZBURG REVIEW. Alas, so many formalist venues have faded into the mists these past couple of decades, especially since the passing of Paul Chritsian Stevens. If you can pass as a woman, MEZZO CAMMIN is a possibility.

  5. James A. Tweedie

    TY, C.B. Tracking submissions is like trying to remember where I put my glasses. I usually find them when I sit on them.

  6. Monty

    I think I’m getting to old, James, to still be aroused by any poetry pertaining to ‘sunrises’ and ‘sunsets’; I’ve simply seen too many. Surely there are only so many different ways in which those two phenomenons can be described before they start to attain monotony.

    As fluidly and colourfully-written as your piece is, I agree with the above commenter that it seems over-balanced with metaphors and adjectives for something which is already beautifully described just in the closing couplet.

    In fact, I believe the closing couplet would be a worthy entry into any couplet-competition (although I’d add a comma after the word ‘dim’; to prevent it being potentially read as: ‘dim the stars awake’).

  7. James A. Tweedie

    1. Glad you like the couplet.
    2. I agree about adding a comma.
    3. I’m so sorry that poems about sunrises and sunsets no longer “arouse” you. I hope you have not yet become bored by the daily repetitions of the real thing!
    4. “Couplet contest?”

    • Monty

      I can and will never become bored by the “real thing”, James. Sunrises I usually see only if I’ve yet to go to bed; and they’re made all the better knowing that sleep’s not far away . . but I try not to miss an opportunity for a decent Sunset; especially from the west coast of India, when it slowly sinks into the Arabian Sea . . rendering the sky psychedelic.

      Yeah, a couplet-competition. You heard it here first, folks.


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