A Few Things About Me
With the audio release of Sonnets for Christ the King, I am New Mexico’s first traditional lyric poet with Hispanic roots extending to the Reconquista. My colleagues in Scotland, however, consider me a poet of the Scottish diaspora because of my father’s heritage and the fact that I am not afraid to wear a kilt in public. With my mother’s Normand background, I am bilingual in French and compose in this language. It is not surprising, then, that my verses reflect the deep spirituality of the Siglo de Oro poets of Spain, the sniffy refinements of the French Pléïade, and the bold temperament of the Scots.
I released the audio version of Sonnets for Christ the King during Passion Week, April 6, 2017, in Las Vegas New Mexico, where my deceased mother was born and raised, to honor her faith, and her culture, both of which have profoundly influenced my poems.
The St. John’s College Years
At St. John’s College, where I obtained my B.A. in Literae Humaniores, I read the Nine Lyric Poets of Greece in their original dialects and translated some of the tragic choruses of the Attic playwrights. For my translations of some important sonnets of the French Renaissance (into Middle English), I earned the Henry M. Austin Poetry Prize. One of my professors, Charles Bell, an Oxonian, informed me that some of my sonnets surpassed many of Shakespeare’s. Indeed, a sequence of 154 sonnets I had then completed later received First Place in the Long Poem Section of the Scottish International Poetry Competition. Charles Bell assisted me greatly in the area of English prosody.
The Great Prize
A recent note concerning my prize appears in the Times Literary Supplement (London), January 27, 2017, page 40. Indeed, Maya Angelou had tracked me down at my university department and congratulated me for my achievement by phone. A few days later, doubtless by her intervention, a White House official interviewed me to place me on a list of persons of cultural interest, with the note “capable of reciting in public.”
At the Irvine Burns Club, one of Scotland’s oldest, I broke from tradition by reciting poems of Norman MacCaig and Hugh MacDiarmid rather than my own works. While in Scotland, I was privileged to meet the last of Alba’s great lyric poets, in particular the Lallans bard Samuel Gilliland, who remains my mentor in English lyric verse to this day. Meeting important literary personalities in the vibrant salons of Edinburgh society filled me with appreciation for the rich literary traditions of the Birthplace of Song.
Paris and the Poésie Dite Movement
I obtained my M.A. in French Studies with a minor in Italian at the University of New Mexico, where I had studied classic verse with Monsieur Roger Guichemerre and literary history with Madame Claude-Marie Senninger, both of the University of Paris (Sorbonne). The French Ministry of Culture subsequently hired me to teach English in a traditional French lycée.
While in Paris as Poet in Residence of the Club des Poètes, I was further formed by the city’s last true poet, Jean-Pierre Rosnay (1926-2009), a great hero of the Résistance. The poet’s lovely wife, Madame Marcelle, and their brilliant son, Monsieur Blaise, encouraged me along the path of la poésie dite, that is, poetry recited aloud from memory—a formidable movement at the time. I was very briefly a member of their famous troupe, the Troupe du Club des Poètes which performed in some of the poorest parts of Paris, primarily for school children. It is thus to France’s First Family of Poetry that I owe my decision to release the Sonnets for Christ the King in audio format prior to the printing of a hardcover edition. This follows a saying of Jean-Pierre Rosnay himself: “Mais Joseph,” he once exclaimed, “Books are only freezer chests of words. The human voice must thaw them out!”
Mme Colette Lecourt, a woman of the French theatre specializing in verse technique, gave me informal instructions. To supplement my income, I accepted the temporary post of literary consultant for director Vicky Messica’s production of Rimbaud et Verlaine at the Théâtre des Déchargeurs (off the Rue de Rivoli) where I also recited French lyric verse on two occasions. Most of my friends at the time were men and women of the Paris stage—including some Sociétaires (the traditional title given to actors of the Comédie Française), so I was very often in the theatre absorbing the verses of Molière, Corneille, Racine, and the Romantiques.
Some years later, I went on to study theology as a traditional cleric in Minor Orders (Porter, Lector, Acolyte, and Exorcist) in France, Switzerland, Italy, and the United States. Unfortunately, it soon became evident that I was the only student in my order who took St. Thomas seriously and was accused of “manualism” because of my Thomistic precision. Meanwhile, I lost my Homeric and Attic Greek and replaced it with New Testament and Patristic Greek. After advancing to the degree of theologian, I left the religious life and subsequently married the beautiful Lady of the Sonnets who has inspired all the love poems to be found in the Sonnets for Christ the King.
The Poet as a Young Man
Some of my highlights
Please join me in my crowdfunding campaign to insure that Sonnets for Christ the King, the first significant body of traditional lyric verse to appear in 100 years, will be enjoyed by readers throughout the world. Thank you.
Yet, New Mexico boasts two outstanding poets. Don Gaspar de Villagrá (1555-1620), who gives us a full-fledged foundational epic poem in 37 cantos of exquisite Spanish verse in his Historia de la Nueva Mexico (Madrid, 1610), and Fray Angelico Chavez (1910-1996), the priest, poet, painter, and second father of New Mexico history.
While Don Gaspar imparts the grandeur and boldness of our history, Fray Angelico offers profound insights into a Penitente land consecrated by the blood of our Franciscan martyrs. Fray Angelico’s verses are modest, almost thin, captivating the reader by their disarming innocence.
Conscious of my place in New Mexico’s literary history, I have endeavored to make the Sonnets for Christ the King a worthy and significant body of lyric verse not only to edify, but also to console, all readers everywhere.
Over the years, we have also enjoyed hosting visiting clergy, giving tours of Northern New Mexico, and preparing elaborate dinners for dear friends—even if I learned to cook in the seminary kitchens of France, Switzerland, and Italy. Fortunately, our native Gruet champagne—the “milk of New Mexico”—always manages to save the day.
“So Long Lives This…” Shakespeare’s Sonnets Live on Stage in collaboration with the Folger Shakespeare Library’s 2016 National First Folio Traveling Exhibit.
First and last American to win the Long Poem Section of the Scottish International Poetry Competition.
Fluent in French, conversational in Italian, read New Testament Greek and Late Latin.
Am faithful to the infallible principles of traditional lyric verse and reject the crippling dogmas of modernism.