Kingdom Poets: Sydney Lea

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Sydney Lea is the author of ten collections of poetry including Pursuit Of A Wound (2001) which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He has also published a novel, A Place In Mind (1989), and two collections of essays. Lea is the founding editor of New England Review, where he served from 1977 until 1989. He has taught at several colleges, in Europe and the United States, including Yale, Wesleyan, and Dartmouth. He is the new poet laureate of Vermont.

Jeanne Murray Walker wrote of his new collection, Six Sundays Toward a Seventh, “In this book Sydney Lea invites us to take a spiritual journey . . . By the end of Six Sundays, the narrator and the reader step together into radiant light. What is so moving about Six Sundays is not only its wrestling with spiritual questions, but also Lea’s affirmation that life is a spiritual journey and that this journey is of paramount importance.”

I was given the privilege of assisting him as editor for his new poetry collection Six Sundays Toward a Seventh – which is the first book in Wipf & Stock’s new Poiema Poetry Series – released the first of January 2012. It is available from Wipf & Stock. The following poem is included in this new book.

Barnet Hill Brook

Here’s what to read in mud by the brook after last night’s storm,
Which inscribed itself on sky as light, now here, now gone-

And matchless. I kneel in the mud, by scrimshaw of rodents, by twinned
Neat stabs of weasel. I won’t speak of those flashes. Here by my hand,

The lissome trail of a worm that lies nearby under brush,
Carnal pink tail showing out. Gnats have thronged my face.

I choose not to fend them off. Except for my chest in its slight
Lifting and sinking, the place’s stillness feels complete.

Its fullness too: in the pool above the dead grass dam,
The water striders are water striders up and down:

They stand on themselves, feet balanced on feet in mirroring water.
How many grains of sand in the world? So one of my daughters

Wanted to know in her little girlhood. “Trillions,” I said.
“I love you,” she answered back. “I love you more than that.”

Lord knows I’m not a man who deserves to be so blessed.
I choose to believe that there’s grace, that the splendid universe

Lies not in my sight but subsumes my seeing, my small drab witness.
Tonight my eye may look on cavalcades of brightness,

Of star and planet. Or cloud again. And when I consider,
O, what is man, That thou art mindful of him, it’s proper

For me to have knelt, if only by habit. Pine needles let go,
And drop, and sink to this rillet’s bright white bottomstones.

To tally them up would take me a lifetime. And more would keep coming.
A lifetime at least. And more would keep coming, please God, keep coming.

Posted with permission of the poet.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca


4 Comments

  1. Becca

    This is such strong imagery. I love the reflected water striders, the image of life mirroring life. I love the picture of kneeling among the trails left by created things.

    Also, this is so good to remember:

    “I choose to believe that there’s grace, that the splendid universe
    Lies not in my sight but subsumes my seeing, my small drab witness.”

    Thank you, D.S.

  2. Tony Heringer

    Wow! Truly a Godsend! I had pondered what I might do this Lenten season and I thought about taking up Eugene Peterson’s exercise of memorizing and/or reciting poetry while walking about on some trail. This book seems tailor made for Lent. I’m going to see about procuring a copy soon.

    This is yet another reason this place is so special.

    Cheers!

  3. Tony Heringer

    Update! This a great work. I started using this book on Ash Wednesday and will take a poem a week from the collection in the chapter that is also the book’s title. A great reading resource for the Lenten season or any other time for that matter.

    Thanks again for point out this wonderful book.

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