Translating Saint Francis


I am pleased to announce that two poems I have translated from medieval Italian and Umbrian into English have been published in the Adelaide Literary Journal.

Part of Jacopone da Todi’s Lauda (Praises) on the subject of poverty is published as Lauda XV

Francis Seal of Love, by Vittoria Colonna is a Petrarchan sonnet. Colonna was a great admirer of St Francis.

Advent Scholastics


Now begins the year ecclesiastical
with storms of judgment, visions of the end,
rejection of all ideas plastical
they clog the soul and block God from being friend.

Without our spiritual cleansing drastical
blindness hides the holy incarnation,
makes belief selective and tactical
its fearful retreat from fervent vocation.

Advent imagery wild and fantastical
stirs up our hearts to see the larger stage.
opens us to live enthusiastical
integrity in this and the coming age.

He will come, he says, in clouds of glory:
Now the time to heed and join his story.

Ted Witham, Advent I, AD 2018

The Quadrangle at Wollaston Theological College


Dennis (former Warden, fellow-pilgrim)

transported the surrounding bush inside

to this once stark square where (when young)

we used to kick a footie and the Archbishop chide

that thongs were not professional wear.

 

Now that so proper lawn has gone.

A eucalypt roughly embraces a pencil pine.

She has lost her slender straightness

and has grown a new and swollen line.

She has a definitely pregnant air.

 

Dog collars and stiff stocks were de rigueur.

Now a Silver Princess sways at head height

like a demented and giant alien insect

hovering and bobbing with foreign delight.

a tree, a chimerical vision, creation’s dare.

 

Parrots in the colossal wandoo

scatter pollen, drop nectar to the ground,

neck and squawk their sweet nothings.

In no way to convention bound,

splashing seeds of new life everywhere.

 

The climbing plant has eaten the wall,

And grown a vigourous, lush and living screen.

The sun shafts aggressively rays,

making the rest dark, and wild, and green,

busting with birds and vital mysteries there.

 

We have grown a little wild and unkempt too.

The old straight edges are softened and coalesced.

God’s tendrils of outrageous vitality

have sprouted even in the hearts of his old priests,

neatness overturned for more authentic care.

 

***

Published in Access Press’s Galloping On VI, Winners And Selected Poems From The Grand National Poetry Stakes 1995.

 

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Photo courtesy Wollaston College

 

Ships of States


Ships of States

What is poetry?

craft carved from hard words and soft,
coloured for the eye and sounded well,
and polished along the true,
tacked with perfume and fathomed for a spell.

argosy launched from the mire of mind
to sail in auditors’ ears,
and float in currents of readers’ specific
memory, bliss and tears.

tender (legal or outlaw) convoyed from hand to hand
rich koine valued by someone new
or poems pocketed lying idle
lost change hiding in plain view.

****

Ted Witham 

Joint Winner WA Poets’ 2018 Occasional Poetry Prize.

 

 

Clare’s Constant Goodness


Clare’s Constant Goodness  – A Liturgical Sonnet

Jesus called her to bare wood poverty,
Assisi’s high-born childhood cast aside:
sisters named in equal community,
nobles, handmaids live, and love side by side.  

Jesus called her to upright integrity,
her constant goodness a daily friend,
choices crafted with brightest clarity,
look for consequences with loving end.  

Core eucharistic regularity –
sharing the cup of wine and blessing bread,
bring to this moment Christ’s life charity,
God’s sacred heart among the sisters spread.  

Joy of goodness, riches of poverty,
planned Eucharist: life-giving trinity.   

+ + + + 

Ted Witham, Feast of St Clare 2018

Feast of St Clare – readings for Morning Prayer 

Psalms 62, 63
Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 2:1-9
Matthew 13:44-51 

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For Saint Benedict


For the feast of Saint Benedict (July 11), I post again my sonnet on Bonaventure and Pope Benedict!

The Call of Christ 

Sage Benedict, Pope, Bonaventure blessed,
Joined theology with prayerful devotion:
from Creation to dazzling Consummation
drew a laser line of Christ’s manifest.  

Christ as Wisdom played a creative game
Beside Artisan God in shaping the world.
Christ to Bethlem was human love unfurled;
Jesus was the core of the eager flame. 

He the pivot for the Doctor and the Pope,
History’s peak, the beginning of the end:
Christ’s death permits all of death to be friend,
Turns dénouement into theatre of blessed hope.  

God gave seraphic minds to faith-filled teachers
So we may learn our arc as recovered creatures.  

  • Jeremiah 4:1-10, 5:14,  
  • John 10:36.  
  • Pope Benedict XVI, General Audiences on the theology of Saint Bonaventure, March 2010 

Beware the Megacorp


Behold the Megacorp! A person
without a beating heart.
He makes himself grow bigger
by ripping things apart.

He’s called a ‘legal person’,
unfettered growth his god.
He’s got the nerve to tell us
we’re the ones who’re odd!

He cuts down old-growth forests
and chips them to a pile.
He slices wood for buildings,
makes money all the while.

He cannot see the tree’s heart,
with beauty that entices.
All he sees is timber
return to him top prices.

He cannot see a mountain
is there to heal the soul:
He rips it down for profit
and yanks out all the coal.

He cannot see that hiking
down through mountain springs,
helps us thrive as humans
as we touch all living things.

He digs out all the umber dirt
to turn to brittle steel:
He points us to the deepest pit
and asks us how we feel!

He stops the earth from breathing.
He scorns if with joy we leap.
Yet his unrelenting pillage
is causing all to weep.

He says that I’m a socialist,
daft with dangerous features,
yet he’s the one destroying
our home and fellow-creatures.

So laugh with me at Megacorp:
with gold and growth he dances.
The only things that grow and grow
are called the worst of cancers.

  • Ted Witham 2017

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