Kingdom Poets: Robert Siegel

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Robert Siegel (1939—2012) is the latest poet to have a volume published in the Poiema Poetry Series. His new book, Within This Tree of Bones, is a career retrospective, which emphasizes the spiritual in his work. The four sections demonstrate: the human condition, the disclosure of God through nature, the revelation of God in scripture, and then culminates with celebration.

Dana Gioia wrote in Poetry that “Siegel’s imagination is excited by the nonhuman world, and he writes about plants and animals with surprising immediacy…A compassionate observer…he looks at them as mysterious and wonderful signs of a greater order.”

SiegelFor 23 years he taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and has also taught at Dartmouth, Princeton, and at Goethe University in Frankfurt.

When I last spoke with Bob, on December 10, he entrusted to me the approving of the final proofs for his new book. He died ten days later. I am honoured to have worked with Robert Siegel to edit this excellent collection for publication. He had not mentioned his battle with cancer to me, until that final phone call. I am sad to know he never held it in his hands, but am pleased that I encouraged him to add many new poems to the collection. The following is the first poem in his new book, and is the source for its title.

Matins

It is morning. A finch startles
the maple leaves. Everything’s clear
in this first light before all thins
to a locust harping on the heat.
While day clutches at my pulse
to inject the usual anesthetic,
now, Christ, stimulate my heart,
transfuse your blood to fortify my own.
Let no light upon these sheets
diminish, Lord, before I feel you
burst inward like a finch
to nest and sing within this tree of bones.

Siegel.WithinThisTreeofBones.26312“Matins” from Within This Tree of Bones: New and Selected Poems, Wipf & Stock, Publishers. Copyright 2012 by Robert Siegel. This poem was posted with the poet’s permission. The other titles in the Poiema Poetry Series are Six Sundays Toward a Seventh by Sydney Lea, and Epitaphs for the Journey by Paul Mariani — both published in 2012.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Robert Siegel.


10 Comments

  1. Chinwe

    Beautiful!

    I especially love these lines:
    “…now, Christ, stimulate my heart,
    transfuse your blood to fortify my own.”

    What a beautiful prayer for the waking moment.

  2. Karen Buck

    “…before I feel you
    burst inward like a finch
    to nest and sing within this tree of bones.”

    Thank you for sharing this- I want to read more.

  3. Judy

    “Let no light upon these sheets
    diminish, Lord, before I feel you
    burst inward like a finch
    to nest and sing within this tree of bones.”

    What a beautiful prayer to usher in a new morning. Thank you.

  4. BONNIE BUCKINGHAM

    I didn’t know he had passed away this past Christmas time.
    Thank you for this post and now to hunt for this book and his poetry.

  5. D.S. Martin

    I am pleased to be able to do whatever I can to direct as many people as I can to the poetry of Robert Siegel. Tell as many people as you can to read his poetry. John Wilson, the editor of Books & Culture, said:

    “Robert Siegel is one of my favorite poets, and I’m frustrated that so many readers are unfamiliar with him. This handsome ‘new and selected’ volume is an ideal introduction to his work, and I may just resort to hawking it on street corners, like those ragamuffin kids peddling papers in old movies. You want the latest news? Read Within This Tree of Bones.”

    How’s that for an endorsement!

    Don

  6. G. L. Bittle

    I just discovered Robert Siegel while reading “Sanctuary of the Soul” by Richard Foster. I found this website and read “Matins”. I’m deeply moved, hungry for more, and out the door to find his books.

    I’ve been a huge fan of Mary Oliver for years. Robert Siegel’s poems remind me of hers but with Christ at the center. So refreshing.

    Thank you Mr. Martin. I didn’t find you hawking it on a real street corner (only a virtual one), but you’ve certainly put Mr. Siegel’s poems in my hand.

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