Yet another voice is to be found in Pavel Chichikov’s Animal Kingdom. Here the relationship between the poetic “I” and its physical heterographic counterpart—the “eye”—is intricately explored. The poet looks within the “house of creation” and, from what he sees, produces an extraordinary number of poems, most of them quite brief, and yet rich. His powers of observation are completely unburdened by the Romantic ego, and the resulting sense of nature combines beautifully with the poet’s wisdom. The delight and wonder so vividly expressed in the face of the sumptuous panoply of Creation is childlike in its innocence, but this is not a naïve speaker. The depth of his understanding is neither superficial in its simplicity nor trite in its quiet appreciation for small things in the natural order. The grandeur of Creation is clear, and he wonders in it. But he is not divorced from the realities of the human condition. Consequently, the wonderful human quality that is displayed by the other two poets appears once again in Chichikov’s work.—ELEANOR BOURG NICHOLSON, assistant editor for the StAR and for Dappled Things, is a freelance writer based out of Charlottesville, VA.
No, no, Father, please don’t toss the mike
like a DJ when you preach. Please don’t be cool.
Please don’t ride a Harley motorbike
when you come to school.
Don’t wear red cowboy boots for Pentecost,
and tell dumb jokes to be our pal.
Please don’t “high five”,
say, “Sweet!” “Awesome!” “You suck!” or “You’re toast!”
Don’t teach us how to jive.
Don’t sing to the latest pop band;
You don’t need to be hip and up to date,
Or come to our parties with a drink in your hand,
trying to relate.
Play it straight. Say the black and do the red.
Refrain from politics and rainbow pins.
Pray for all of us, the living and the dead,
And listen to our sins.
“Say the black and do the red” refers to the missal, which serves, you might say, as the priest’s “script” for Holy Mass. The priest is supposed to say the words printed in black ink (his lines) and perform the actions indicated in red ink (his stage directions). How much simpler life would be if priests would do simply that!
—KEVIN O'BRIEN, Theater of the Word Incorporated
Copyright 2008, Gilbert Magazine. Used with permission. A Sudden Certainty by Dwight Longenecker, A Poem of the New Creation by Peter Milward, and Mysteries and Stations in the Manner of Ignatius by Pavel Chichikov—as well as Divining Divinity by Joseph Pearce—are published by Kaufmann Publishing, www.kaufmannpublishing.com. Kevin O’Brien is an actor and writer who performs across the country with his troupe Theater of the Word Incorporated (www.thewordinc.org) and played—of all things—The Poet in EWTN’s production of G. K. Chesterton’s play The Surprise.
England in Verse
I think the almost prose-like simplicity of the poems is one of their real strengths. And of course virtually every one bespeaks a mind that is acutely aware of “the fear in a handful of dust.”
A Sudden Certainty: lovely; and we’re already hearing ol’ TSE at the edge of thet thar garden! Baptism: my word! Rain, dew, sea, tears, sweat, sap, snow, sleet, et al: splendid; it’s a good case in point of the sacramental: the tiny thing opening out onto the Whole Show. Organ: Robert Burton would envy you! You’ve dragooned everything to your purpose. And “transposing”—lovely. Dogwood: beautiful metaphor! Bravo! Incense: this is what poetry is about—the thurible to Pentecost to the bush to Sinai to the cloudy pillar.
I have marked and annotated all of the poems, and found myself stopping at each one. Ol' Hopkins would like your crimson and gold gashed vermillion and whirling gyres and penitential pyres!! And oh how one echoes the young priest's complaint... I never visited St. Stephens' Gloucester Road for some reason: mawkish pictures forsooth. Very touching visit, though. That brown sparrow: tears often come to my eyes as I look at the woodpecker, cardinals, and the plain modest juncos at my bird feeders just inches from my study windows. "A Student's Plea" should be shouted from the housetops at seminaries! —THOMAS HOWARD, author, scholar, retired professor of English literature, Gordon College
A Sacramental Consciousness
While the voice and work of Father Dwight Longenecker is quite different from that of Father Milward, many of the same achievements can be placed to his credit. In his A Sudden Certainty: Priest Poems, he endeavors “to find God locked in the ordinary experiences of life.” His wry voice demonstrates a sense of proportion in the midst of the raucous chaos of the modern day. At the same time, Father Longenecker is no hermit, and his poetry reflects well the responsibilities and everyday struggles of the priest. A sacramental consciousness is pervasive, as Father Longenecker himself desires it to be, but perhaps more impressively, he conveys the sense of a priest who is yet a man—as all priests are. The very humanness of the poet, which in turn brings out a priestly humility, makes the sacramental reality (general and proper) all the more marvelous. Meanwhile, Father Longenecker displays a refreshing degree of metrical sense, without seeming unduly anxious over precise rules of prosody. (As a side comment, the illustrations provided by Chris Pelicano are particularly well-suited to the tone of this volume, and striking in their clean lines.)—ELEANOR BOURG NICHOLSON, assistant editor for the StAR and for Dappled Things, is a freelance writer based out of Charlottesville, VA.