Desmond F. X. Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé // Ow Yeong Wai Kit
Paul Mariani // Edgardo Mar Alcantara Castro
Rodrigo Dela Peña, Jr. // Andrew Kirkrose
Louie Jon A. Sánchez // James M. Fajarito
Michael Ryan // Oliver BH Seet
What profession of faith do poets afford their lyric and narrative? What is buried or turned loose through metaphor? The poet might also be the sower, perhaps one of the two muted figures in Anton Mauve’s Farmer Behind the Plough. Or some other figure, hidden and farther afield, outside this painting. What manner of tiller or picker—what gatherer, what gardener? Who among them will trek the narrow path towards abbey and steeple, and gladly find sanctuary within?
Paul Mariani yields several finely turned-out poems, ekphrastic pieces inspired by artists the likes of Caravaggio and Georges de la Tour. His same-titled poem on Van Gogh’s Wheat Field with Cypresses crisply relates the Parable of the Sower, in these stark lines: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. Some / the birds ate. Some bleached and burned among / the brambles. And some fell on good soil, to produce / in time fields of golden wheat like this.”
If Mariani looks to the canvas for inspiration, D. S. Martin plumbs scripture for some august aphorism or account. He turns to Genesis 16 as well as Judges 13:18. This is the kind of religious poet, whose very practice reminds us of “How to Listen for God”. In “Midrash on the Lord’s Prayer”, Martin professes his deep desire: “We pray for what is… & what will be… your divinity / spreading kingdom seed….”
We do not have to wander far to find great moral exemplars of Christian living. What better examples of deep devotion than the lives of the saints? This we become witness to through Louie Jon A. Sánchez’s poems on the stigmatic St. Pio of Pietrelcina as well as the mystic St. Teresa of Ávila.
The religious poet is often quite at home with confessional poetry. What of one’s well of lived experience does the Christian poet unearth for versifying? What can confessional poetry do that a memoir would not, especially given St. Augustine’s Confessions, the magnum opus widely recognised as the first Western Christian autobiography ever written?
One perceives such an introspective gaze in “Self-Portrait as Baroque Church” by Rodrigo Dela Peña, Jr., as well as “Mother’s Day Dicta” and “The Study of Salvation” by Andrew Kirkrose. If “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you,” as stated in 1 Corinthians 6:19, how might you look to the body as a site of professed faith, how is the embodied treated to glorify God?
We see several biblical stories retold in Oliver BH Seet’s suite of poems, in particular “Casting the First Stone” and “Another Kind of Water”, lyric contemplations on John 8:2-11 and John 4:5-42 respectively. Michael Ryan reminds us of “torment by appetite”, how the “blinded soul [may] bloom”, how “like beauty from hurt, / their light—their light— / pulls so surely”.
Raised and ordained in the Presbyterian Church, Jenni Ho-Huan excerpts two reflections on divine grace from her blog, contemplating how grace both transforms and cradles. She writes: “The simple truth that grips your heart and changes you is this: Ordinary life shines because it is all Grace.” How ordinary it must have been, that “maiden voyage of Magellan that brought Christianity to the Philippine archipelago 500 years ago”—this historical moment is the odic nod that is Edgardo Mar Alcantara Castro’s poem, which beautifully concludes with an invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
As stated in Matthew 13:23, “But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”