Reading the Season: Poetry by Madeleine L’Engle

The brilliance of A Wrinkle in Time is that its author Madeleine L’Engle can convey scientific and spiritual concepts at the same time and in a way that young readers can enjoy. There are no conflicts between the cerebral and the spiritual; they co-exist comfortably in L’Engle’s work. Not only that, they fuse together and from that alchemy rises a whole new, inexplicable entity: Faith.

It’s that time of the year when I try to tune out distractions to dwell on the meaning of the Season, the reason why we have Christmas in the first place. I call these posts ‘Reading the Season’.

This time, I’ve selected four of Madeleine L’Engle’s poetry. ‘After Annunciation’ I have posted before. But I’d like to share it again here because the deceptively simple lines carry much depth and wisdom. Same with ‘The Risk of Birth, Christmas, 1973’. These two remain my favourite thoughts during Advent. 1973 or now? Ever timely. The poems are taken from The Ordering of Love: The New & Collected Poems of Madeleine L’Engle, published by Shaw Books, 2008.

The Ordering of Love

**

After Annunciation

This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
There’d have been no room for the child.

**

Sonnet, Trinity 18

Peace is the centre of the atom, the core
Of quiet within the storm. It is not
A cessation, a nothingness; more
The lightning in reverse is what
Reveals the light. It is the law that binds
The atom’s structure, ordering the dance
Of proton and electron, and that finds
Within the midst of flame and wind, the glance
In the still eye of the vast hurricane.
Peace is not placidity: peace is
The power to endure the megatron of pain
With joy, the silent thunder of release,
The ordering of Love. Peace is the atom’s start,
The primal image: God within the heart.

**

Instruments (I)

The sky is strung with glory.
Light threads from star to star
from sun to sun
a liv­ing harp.
I rejoice, I sing, I leap upwards to play.
The music is in light.
My fin­gers pluck the vibrant strings;
the notes pulse, throb, in exul­tant harmony;
I beat my wings against the strands
that reach across the galaxies
I play

NO

It is not I who play
it is the music
the music plays itself
is played
plays me
small part of an innumerable
innum­ber­able
orches­tra.
I am flung from note to note
impaled on melody
my wings are caught on throb­bing fil­a­ments of light
the wild cords cut my pinions
my arms are outstretched
are bound by ropes of counterpoint
I am cross-eagled on the singing that is strung
from puls­ing star
to flam­ing sun
to

I burn in a blaze of song.

 

**

 

The Risk of Birth, Christmas, 1973

This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war & hate
And a comet slashing the sky to warn
That time runs out & the sun burns late.
That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour & truth were trampled by scorn–
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.
When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by a comet the sky is torn–
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.

***

‘Reading The Season’ Posts over a Decade:

2018: A Verse from Madeleine L’Engle’s The Irrational Season

2017: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

2016: Silence by Shusaku Endo

2015: The Book of Ruth

2014: Lila by Marilynne Robinson

2012: Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis

2011: Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle 

2010: A Widening Light by Luci Shaw

2009: The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle

2008: The Bible and the New York Times by Fleming Rutledge 

2008: A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis

***

Published by

Arti

If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

23 thoughts on “Reading the Season: Poetry by Madeleine L’Engle”

    1. Acid Free Pulp,

      Madeleine L’Engle was a prolific writer of journals, novels, art criticism, fiction and poetry. Much to be explored. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment.

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  1. I own, and cherish, this anthology as well. Isn’t it interesting to find that she uses the phrase “the irrational season” here as she did in a title of her Crosswick Journal 3? Every time I read her, which is fairly often, I find something new and fresh. She has opened my eyes on numerous occasions with insights into faith and love. I saw her once, at Wheaton College, even have a picture of myself with her. She is such a special person, and it was such a loss to me when she died. Thanks for sharing these, Arti.

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    1. Bellezza,

      I love her Crosswicks Journals. The Irrational Season was one of my previous ‘Reading the Season’ posts, see the bottom links. And I’m all admiration to hear about your meeting her at Wheaton. I’m sure that must have been an inspiration. I’d met Lucy Shaw, years ago, actually had taken her journal writing course through Regent College. Memorable experience.

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  2. Many thanks for sharing these. I love L’Engle’s work, A Wrinkle in Time and the rest, of course, but also the Crosswicks Journals. Now I know where she got that one title! Will have to locate this collection, her trademarks so evident in it: the intelligence, the humor, the fascination with science and faith, and the music. Always the music…

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    1. ds,

      So glad you stop by. I’ve been by your third-storey window but have not seen any recent activity. Just wanted to see what the scenery there and say hi. Your CS now CG (Grad) will be home for Christmas soon? As for Madeleine L’Engle, she is a writer for all seasons. It has been a long while since I read her Crosswicks Journals, so maybe this is a good time to reread. Thanks again for stopping by the pond and have a wonderful Christmas! 😉

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    1. Alison,

      Yes, this book of poetry is all Madeleine L’Engle. Luci Shaw’s A Widening Light is a compilation of several poets. But yes, all good, and ever timely. For all seasons really. Now I’ve to explore something else for next year. 😉

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  3. Great post. I well remember reading “A Wrinkle in Time” as a girl and being thrilled at the way it showed that girls could be intelligent and interested in science and math. That book and its sequels had a huge impact on me. I didn’t know about her poetry. Lovely to learn more about her life and work!

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    1. Linnet,

      Thanks for stopping by the pond. Looks like a lot of readers had read Madeleine L’Engle in their younger days, and stopped at those trilogy. Her Journals are wonderful, her Walking on Water is insightful. Lots to explore. Science and faith to her present no conflicts. We need to hear her voice all the more especially now when it just looks like things are being polarized, or made partisan, either or. Thanks for throwing your two pebbles into the pond. Hope to hear from you again. 😉

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  4. Thank you so much for sharing these. I’d read “The Risk of Birth” only once or twice before, yet it’s been constantly in my mind as I’ve been trying to write my own poetry for the season. It was a delight to ‘meet’ a few more of L’Engle’s poems.

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    1. Lit~Lass,

      If you’d like to read more of ML’s poems, you really should get this book. It’s a comprehensive collection. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

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      1. I certainly shall read the whole collection asap. I also read your post with Luci Shaw’s breathtaking “Made Flesh”. Poems like that are vital in helping me cling to faith despite doubt, so again, thank you for introducing me to more Must Reads. 🙂

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  5. What I love most in all of these is “If Mary had been filled with reason, there would be no room for the child.” Good news for Mary, smart for all of us to remember every day. Thanks for this post. I’m reading it on a Sunday morning and it is an especially good time to be contemplative.

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    1. Jeanie,

      Yes, and on that notion she has entitled her one of her journals The Irrational Season. Well, I don’t know which comes first, but both are excellent.

      Like

    1. Nicola,

      And many more… Hope you’ll have a chance to read them. I particularly love her Crosswicks Journals. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment!

      Like

  6. So nice to be reminded of her poetry, and of the first of her works I read – “The Irrational Season”. I’m suddenly bemused – I haven’t seen that book around here in quite some time. I may have lent it, or lost it, or… I’ll have to look and replace it if it isn’t here – with a fresh read before it goes back on the shelves.

    You know, I think “After Annunciation” is in “The Irrational Season”. I seem to remember it as an epigraph, or a chapter heading. I’ll find out.

    “The Instruments” reminds me of one of my favorite aphorisms: “Play the music, not the instrument.”

    Lovely, lovely post for the season!

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    1. roughwighting,

      I love her Crosswick’s Journals. But it has been a long while since I last read them. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

      Like

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