In This Post Christian Era

“For he nil falsen no wight, dar I seye,
That wol his herte al hoolly on him leye.”

—Geoffrey Chaucer, “The Love Unfeigned”

In this post-Christian era I believe;
In this New Age, where One who rules the stars
Does in the Seventh House the moon conceive
And Jupiter aligns itself with Mars;

When all have looked away to other things
I still look to the Helper from the hills,
When nothing in my faith or motion sings
I sing on still, and choose the One who wills.

Why now? when we have plenty, riches, more
Than any other culture has in past,
Why now are we to turn and to ignore
What made us great in greatness unsurpassed?

But yet I stand, I speak, I sing, I stay,
And will my heart all wholly on Him lay.

X

X

Self-Portrait

An aging, slowly fading entity;
A greying heart and changes of the mind;
The autumn time of life has come to me,
And I am quite surprised at what I find.

For I am still the same as I have been—
The ball of intense passion full inside;
The person that I am is still within,
Though sometimes I do feel that part has died.

For yes, I have the fire, but its flame
Is flickering and smoldering away;
In many ways it will not be the same
As when full fire forced its light on day.

For change of life’s a curiosity,
For what I was, and am, and am to be.

X

X

A Formalist’s Delight

A formalist’s delight, it seems to me,
Is placing form and structure above all;
Not given to emotionality,
A thinking thought’s perspective overall.

And then there is the verse that is called “free,”
Where everything inside is thus laid bare;
More like a story-telling time to me,
No meter, rhyme or structure anywhere.

But what about a middle way? Wherein
The feelings of the poet are enshrined
By structure and a form, and held within
A better construct, both of heart, and mind?

I want to hear and know a poet’s heart,
Not just his head, but both in counterpart!

X

X

Theresa Rodriguez is the author of Jesus and Eros: Sonnets, Poems and Songs, Longer Thoughts, which has just been released by Shanti Arts, and Sonnets, a collection of sixty-five sonnets which has also just been released by Shanti Arts. Her work has appeared in such journals and publications as in the Wilderness House Literary Review, the Midwest Poetry Review, Leaf  Magazine, Spindrift, the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship, The Road Not Taken: A Journal of Formal Poetry, Mezzo Cammin, The Scarlet Leaf Review, The Epoch Times, and the Society of Classical Poets.  Her website is www.bardsinger.com.


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28 Responses

  1. James Sale

    More marvellous poetry from Theresa, covering faith, self-awareness and poetic form itself. They are all excellent but my favourite is the first: to write a sonnet on the ‘post-Christian’ era is a brave thing indeed. Was there ever a time when the modern mindset was so aggressively set against what the ancients knew: that there is a God and that all things hang on His Will? One could get philosophical here, but better perhaps to point out some beauties of the poetry. If we take the final couplet of her ‘post’ poem, what do we find? But yet I stand, I speak, I sing, I stay,
    And will my heart all wholly on Him lay.

    I’d note three things in that wonderful last line. Yes, it is an iambic pentameter but the placement of the Him seems to create either a displacement of the foot or an extra- stress turning the final beat into a spondee. It’s as if the power of the name generates an extra beat. Also, note the double meanings: first, of the word ‘will’, as in future tense and as in volition. Finally, the word ‘wholly’ itself in this context must surely be homophonic for ‘holy’. A great performance.

    Reply
    • Theresa Rodriguez

      Thank you so much for your lively analysis and appreciation, James! It means a great deal to me as you are aware! I was thinking of the line in Chaucer’s poem as I wrote the last line, so he gets the credit there!

      Reply
    • Andrew Benson Brown

      I too loved your analysis of the last line, James. Appreciate you pointing that out.
      I was also struck by the spirituality of the first poem. Perfectly captures what, since Caedmon’s Hymn, has been a dominant theme in English poetry, and since the modernists has become a nonexistent subject (late T.S. Eliot excepted).

      Reply
      • Theresa Rodriguez

        Thank you, Andrew, for your comments. I do hope that I am continuing the Western tradition of writing “spiritual” or Christian poetry, though as you well know, that is not all I write about! I hope even my “love” poems and other topics have spiritual depth.

  2. Leo Zoutewelle

    Wonderful poetry, Theresa, especially the first one (post-Christian)
    Thank you!

    Reply
  3. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Theresa, thank you for three engaging, well crafted sonnets. I echo James in his observation that “to write a sonnet on the ‘post-Christian’ era is a brave thing indeed”, and applaud you for it.

    My favorite of the three is “A Formalist’s Delight”. I am fascinated by the writing process and your words resonate with me – the summary of the final stanza and the declaration in the closing couplet are a triumph. Very well done, indeed!

    Reply
    • Theresa Rodriguez

      Thank you so much, Susan, your compliments and appreciation mean a great deal to me!

      Reply
    • MaryCeleste Crow

      A real pleasure to read your work. Been reading the Christian poet William Drummond. A great poet sadly overlooked. His Flowers of Sion is, in my opinion, one of the great volumes of poetry written in the English language. I’m sure you know who he is; I feel there must be an influence in your work. Merry Christmas and may the Holy Trinity continue to bless you and your work.

      Reply
    • Theresa Rodriguez

      Mary Celeste, I do not know William Drummond or his work Flowers of Sion, but you have inspired me to get a copy! And I very much appreciate the Christmas wish and desire for God’s blessings on my work! Thank you so much!

      Reply
  4. Paul A. Freeman

    All three sonnets are darn amazing. My favourite is ‘Self-Portrait’ – straight from the heart.

    Reply
    • Theresa Rodriguez

      Thank you, Paul, very much. I like to think I write from the heart, to the heart– while using my mind!

      Reply
  5. Andrew Benson Brown

    An excellent bit of mimesis in ‘Self-Portrait:’ in the third stanza after the poetess describes her flame as “flickering and smoldering away,” with the ‘light-strong’ stresses of the ‘-ing’ endings, the last line gives us three strong stresses in a row to illustrate her comparison: “as when full fire forced its light on day.”

    A master craftswoman at work here—truly ‘The Sonnet Queen!’

    Reply
    • Theresa Rodriguez

      Thank you, Andrew, for noticing the various mimetic stresses in “Self-Portrait” and for your much-appreciated compliments. Believe it or not, I wrote this sonnet for a poetry prompt which was to “write a self-portrait.” It turned out differently than I had expected! I think I wrote it in about 5-6 minutes.

      Reply
  6. Andrew Benson Brown

    Life without variety would certainly be dull, Theresa!

    It’s funny, though I read each of these before in your ‘Sonnets’ collection, I noticed something new this time around. Great art always does that for you. These are poems to return to again and again.

    Five minutes is almost unbelievable. Assume this is also the case with the titled, ‘Five-Minute Sonnet?’

    Reply
    • Theresa Rodriguez

      Yes! I did write “Five-Minute Sonnet” in five minutes! But trust me, I labor timewise most of the time in the birth of a poem. Rarely does it come that quickly, especially if I am experimenting with a new form! I am truly glad you can return to them again and again and get something new from them each time. How glorious and wonderful!

      Reply
  7. Peter Hartley

    Theresa – In each of these poems the final couplet makes a superb job of what it’s supposed to do, to summarise all that’s gone before and make that little leap forward. My favourite is A Formalist’s Delight and how true it is that we can be so absorbed by the mechanics of poetry and in the end have nothing to say.

    Reply
    • Theresa Rodriguez

      Many thanks for your observations about the final couplets in these three sonnets, Peter! And coming from someone as yourself who writes with such powerful feeling I am glad that “A Formalist’s Delight” resonates with you!

      Reply
  8. Peter Hartley

    Theresa – In each of these poems the final couplet makes a superb job of what it’s supposed to do, to summarise all that’s gone before and make that little leap forward. My favourite is A Formalist’s Delight and how true it is that we can be so absorbed by the mechanics of poetry and in the end have nothing to say.

    Reply
  9. Margaret Coats

    Theresa, you do fine work in the Christian tradition in general, and here by adapting a line from Chaucer, who like yourself and most of the poets in this tradition, wrote much secular as well as sacred poetry. To respond to Andrew Benson Brown, and notice Christian poets who achieved a certain recognition in the twentieth century after Eliot, you are in good company following Roy Campbell, R. S. Thomas, Dunstan Thompson, and George Mackay Brown. Dare I mention Phyllis McGinley? Wikipedia calls her a children’s author; what about her “Sonnet from Assisi,” and “Paterfamilias,” honoring Thomas More as a family man? There’s the rub. She reveled in domesticity, which is why feminists hate her for being a Pulitzer Prize winning woman author, but “not achieving anything for women.” In Comments on Joseph Salemi’s recent essay, Salemi quoted Auden, “Poetry makes nothing happen.” The glory of God seen in a poet’s heart and mind, as you attempt to show it, is simply beautiful.

    Reply
    • Theresa Rodriguez

      Thank you for your enlightening and encouraging comments as always, Margaret. I am glad I am in the company of other Christian poets who write about secular as well as sacred matters. But to me, even the secular is sacred, because I dedicate every aspect of my life to God– both pains and joys, the perplexities and the silences, each and every experience– all become, together, a grand, honest, naked offering to Him. A good subject for a poem!

      Reply
    • Andrew Benson Brown

      Thanks, Margaret, for listing these Christian poets. I will have to check out their work.

      Reply
  10. David Watt

    Thank you Margaret for poetry which impresses me as arising straight from the heart.

    Reply
    • David Watt

      I am terribly sorry Theresa, I definitely meant to write your name in my comment.

      Reply
      • Theresa Rodriguez

        That’s okay, David! I am so glad that my poetry affects you this way, this means so much to me! A very nice Christmas present!

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