“Beloved, let us love one another;
for love is of God, and he who loves
is born of God and knows God.
He who does not love does not
know God; for God is love.”
1 John 4:7-8
A Given Grace
The Anthology Premise
“You never go away from us, yet we have difficulty in returning to You.
Come, Lord, stir us up and call us back. Kindle and seize us.
Be our fire and our sweetness. Let us love. Let us run.”
—St. Augustine of Hippo
The Christian faith has generated a rich literary tradition. Much of its spiritual writing has been in the form of religious poetry, which has become much loved. How do you, the contemporary writer, understand the Christian faith today? Who is God to you? What are your most pressing questions, and what have been your greatest struggles and triumphs? Do you own your faith—and what does it take to devote oneself to such serious and sustained effort in poetry writing?
Do you have thoughts on theological ideas of, say, ecclesiology, soteriology, pneumatology, or Christology? What of theological aesthetics or theological hermeneutics? Maybe you have favourite psalms or parables. Maybe you have something to say about moral and ethical dimensions of the religious life. How will these meditations render, articulate themselves in lyric and narrative verse? Let poetry embody the stirrings of your contemplative heart and mind. As Thomas Merton so astutely put it: “Music and art and poetry attune the soul to God.”
The anthology title takes its inspiration from 2 Timothy 1:9: “He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time…”
Faith is a gift, it is said. Indeed, faith has inspired dreams of freedom, understanding and love for one another, sentiments which Christians from across the world gladly share.
This task is timely as 2021 marks the quincentennial celebration of the Christianisation of the Philippines. Five hundred years ago, the first documented Catholic Mass in the Philippines was held on the Easter Sunday of 1521, officiated by Fr. Pedro Valderrama. The Archdiocese of Singapore also celebrates its 200th anniversary in 2021. In 1821, Fr. Laurent Marie Joseph Imbert arrived in Singapore, beginning the country’s Catholic outreach. Known as one of the Korean Martyrs, he was executed for his faith in the Joseon kingdom. Bishop Imbert was beatified in 1925, and canonised by Pope John Paul II in 1984. His feast day is celebrated together with the other Korean Martyrs.
Eric F. Tinsay Valles
ERIC Francis Tinsay VALLES (b. 1968) draws inspiration from all the places that he has called home. He has authored the poetry collections A World in Transit and After the Fall: dirges among ruins. A former journalist, he has co-edited Get Lucky: An Anthology of Singapore and Philippine Writings, Sg Poems 2015-2016, Atelier of Healing, Anima Methodi, and The Nature of Poetry. Recipient of the Goh Sin Tub Creative Writing prize and British Council Writing the City prize, Eric has been awarded the Vermont Studio Center Residency, Centrum Artist Residency, and Wellspring House Residency. He has been invited to read poetry or commentaries at Baylor, Melbourne and Oxford Universities as well as the Kistrech Poetry Festival. His poetry has been featured in Southeast Asian Review of English, Routledge’s New Writing, and other journals. With a BS in Business Management from Ateneo de Manila University and an MA in English from the University of the Philippines, Eric received his PhD in English, with a specialisation in Creative Writing, from Nanyang Technological University. His dissertation focussed on mediating trauma through short and long poetic forms. Eric is a director of Poetry Festival (Singapore).
Desmond F. X. Kon ZC-MD
DESMOND Francis Xavier KON Zhicheng-Mingdé (b. 1971) is the author of an epistolary novel, a quasi-memoir, two lyric essay monographs, four hybrid works, nine poetry collections, and a guided creative journal. The former journalist has edited over twenty-five titles. Trained in publishing at Stanford University, Desmond studied sociology and mass communication at the National University of Singapore, and later received his theology masters from Harvard University and creative writing masters from the University of Notre Dame. Recipient of grants from the National Arts Council and Singapore International Foundation, he has enjoyed literary appointments at the Notre Dame Poetry Fellowship, NAC Gardens by the Bay Writing Residency, and NTU-NAC Creative Writing Residency. Among other accolades, Desmond is the recipient of the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award, Independent Publisher Book Award, National Indie Excellence Book Award, Poetry World Cup, Singapore Literature Prize, and three Living Now Book Awards. He helms Squircle Line Press, and can be found at: desmondkon.com