Tag Archives: imagination

Off to the Westminster Lewisfest!

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

Tomorrow I travel down to Westminster Abbey to give my paper on Lewis and the Truth of Imagination, as well as to enjoy hearing Alastair McGrath, Michael Ward and others. I shall stay the night at the Abbey and then on Friday join the glad throng to hear Rowan Williams preach and see the plaque for Lewis unveiled in Poets’ Corner. Then on Saturday I will join Rowan Williams and Helen Cooper for a further conference on Lewis at Magdalene College in Cambridge. Now both my papers, the one at Westminster and the one at Magdalene, are going to end with poems. So, though I have posted these two poems before, I thought I’d put them together here, by way of a taster for the papers to come.

Both poems come from my new collection The Singing Bowl, and, as usual, you can hear them by clicking on the titles or the ‘play’ button.

So my paper on Lewis’s achievement as a poet and imaginative writer will end with this:



CS Lewis

From ‘beer and Beowulf’ to the seven heavens,

Whose music you conduct from sphere to sphere,

You are our portal to those hidden havens

Whence we return to bless our being here.

Scribe of the Kingdom, keeper of the door

Which opens on to all we might have lost,

Ward of a word-hoard in the deep hearts core,

Telling the tale of Love from first to last.

Generous, capacious, open, free,

Your wardrobe-mind has furnished us with worlds

Through which to travel, whence we learn to see

Along the beam, and hear at last the heralds

Sounding their summons, through the stars that sing,

Whose call at sunrise brings us to our King

Magdalene College Cambridge

Magdalene College Cambridge

And my paper at Magdalene on The Abolition of Man will end with this ‘found sonnet’ drawn entirely from that book:



Imagine

(A found sonnet from The Abolition of Man by CS Lewis)

Imagine a new natural philosophy;

I hardly know what I am asking for;

Far-off echoes, that primeval sense,

With blood and sap, Man’s pre-historic piety,

Continually conscious, continually…

Alive, alive and growing like a tree

And trees as dryads, or as beautiful,

The bleeding trees in Virgil and in Spenser

The tree of knowledge and the tree of life

Growing together, that great ritual

Pattern of nature, beauties branching out

The cosmic order, ceremonial,

Regenerate science, seeing from within…

To participate is to be truly human.

1 Comment

Filed under imagination, Inklings, Poems

A Birthday Sonnet for Samuel Taylor Coleridge

samuelcoleridgeThe great Poet, philosopher, and Christian sage, Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born on the 21st of October in 1772, so I cant resist re-posting this sonnet for his birthday!.

I could not begin to reckon the debt I owe him; for his poetry, for his personal and Christian wisdom, above all for his brilliant exploration and defence of the poetic imagination as a truth bearing faculty which participates in, and is redeemed by the Logos, the living Word, himself the Divine Imagination. We are only now coming to appreciate the depth and range of what he achieved, his contemporaries scarcely understood him, and his Victorian successors looked down in judgement at what htey saw as the shipwreck of his life. Something of that experience of rejection, twinned with deep Christian conviction, can be seen in the epitaph he wrote for himself:

Stop, Christian passer-by!—Stop, child of God,
And read with gentle breast. Beneath this sod
A poet lies, or that which once seemed he.
O, lift one thought in prayer for S. T. C.;
That he who many a year with toil of breath
Found death in life, may here find life in death!
Mercy for praise—to be forgiven for fame
He asked, and hoped, through Christ. Do thou the same!

From my teenage raptures when I was first enchanted by Kubla Khan and the Ancient Mariner, to my struggles and adventures in the middle of life STC has been my companion and guide.In the chapter on Coleridge in my book Faith Hope and Poetry I have set out an account of his thinking and made the case for his central importance in our own age, but what I offer here is a sonnet celebrating his legacy, drawing on that epitaph I mentioned above, one of a sequence of sonnets on my fellow christians which will be part of my new book The Singing Bowl, coming out on October 25th with the Canterbury Press. If you are in Cambridge then why not come to the launch in St. Edward’s church at 7:30pm on November 6th?

As Always you can hear the poem by clicking on the title or clicking the ‘play’ button.



Samuel Taylor Coleridge

‘Stop, Christian passer-by!—Stop, child of God!’

You made your epitaph imperative,

And stopped this wedding guest! But I am glad

To stop with you and start again, to live

From that pure source, the all-renewing stream,

Whose living power is imagination,

And know myself a child of the I AM,

Open and loving to his whole creation.

Your glittering eye taught mine to pierce the veil,

To let his light transfigure all my seeing,

To serve the shaping Spirit whom I feel,

And make with him the poem of my being.

I follow where you sail towards our haven,

Your wide wake lit with glimmerings of heaven.

Steve Bell captured me in ancient mariner mode!

Steve Bell captured me in ancient mariner mode!

2 Comments

Filed under christianity, imagination, Poems

CS Lewis and The Inklings ‘Ideas’ with CBC Part 2

lewis-inklings-featuredAs part of the commemorations for Cs Lewis’s ‘Jubilee’ year the Canadian Broadcasting Company have commissioned two in depth programmes on CS Lewis and the Inklings for their Flagship ‘Ideas’ series. I was happy to be involved with Frank Faulk in this endeavour and did an extensive interview with himwhich has been used in both programmes. I was impressed by the research he has done for this programme and the range of people he has speaking on it. Two good results of that research are first that he is not content with second hand cliches about Lewis but goes out of his way to scotch falsehoods, and secondly that he gives due weight to the neglected ‘other inklings’ beyond Lewis and Tolkien, and particularly gives the much-neglected Owen Barfield who is allowed at last to come into hi own. Finally, Faulk has, in my view rightly, identified Imagination, and the truth of Imagination as the key to the whole ‘Inklings endeavour. Here is my post on the first programme. Here us what CBC say to introduce the second program on their website:

C.S. Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Owen Barfield and Charles Williams were the core of the legendary literary group The Inklings at Oxford University. They were united by a love of myth and the belief that it is through the imagination that reality is illuminated. In Part 2 of this series,  producer Frank Faulk looks at C.S. Lewis’s conversion from atheism to Christianity, and his deep friendship with Tolkien, Barfield and Williams. Together Lewis and his three friends would forge a radical critique of modernity’s reductionist, mechanistic and materialistic understanding of reality. It is a critique that today remains more relevant than ever.

And here is the link to both the first and second programmes:

Lewis and the Inklings Part one

Lewis and the Inklings Part two

I hope you enjoy them.

3 Comments

Filed under Current affairs, Inklings, literature, Theology and Arts

CS Lewis and The Inklings ‘Ideas’ with CBC

lewis-inklings-featuredAs part of the commemorations for Cs Lewis’s ‘Jubilee’ year the Canadian Broadcasting Company have commissioned two in depth programmes on CS Lewis and the Inklings for their Flagship ‘Ideas’ series. I was happy to be involved with Frank Faulk in this endeavour and did an extensive interview with him, some of which is used in this first programme and most of which will be in the second one, to be broadcast on the 17th to which I will post a link next week. I was impressed by the research he has done for this programme and the range of people he has speaking on it. Two good results of that research are first that he is not content with second hand cliches about Lewis but goes out of his way to scotch falsehoods, and secondly that he gives due weight to the neglected ‘other inklings’ beyond Lewis and Tolkien, and particularly gives the much-neglected Owen Barfield who is allowed at last to come into hi own. Finally, Faulk has, in my view rightly, identified Imagination, and the truth of Imagination as the key to the whole ‘Inklings endeavour. Here us what CBC say to introduce the program on their website:

C.S. LewisJRR TolkienOwen Barfield and Charles Williams were the core of the legendary literary group The Inklings at Oxford University. They were united by a love of myth and the belief that it is through the imagination that reality is illuminated. In this two-part series producer Frank Faulk first explores the early life of C.S. Lewis, and the experiences that would shape him on his journey to becoming one of the 20th century’s greatest thinkers and writers on Christianity. Part 2 airs Thursday, October 17.

And here is the link to the page from which you can listen to and download the program:

Lewis and the Inklings Part one

 

I hope you enjoy it.

7 Comments

Filed under Current affairs, Inklings, literature, Theology and Arts

A Poetry Celebration for Kathleen Raine Oct. 12th at Girton

Kathleen Raine

Kathleen Raine

I am honoured to have been chosen to read at this year’s Poetry Celebration for Kathleen Raine, organized by The Temenos Acadamy,  as Kathleen was once a fellow of Girton, the Celebration this year is being held in her old college. The evening starts on 12th October at 6pm. readings from 6:45, and the evening finishes at 8pm. Tickets are available on the door or from temenosacadamy@myfastmail.com  Poets invited to read include Sebastian Barker, Hilary Davies, Jane Draycott, James Harpur, Grevel Lindop, and Clive Wilmer. Each poet will read from their own work and one poem of their choice by Kathleen Raine. I am going to read ‘Air’ from her suite of poems about the four elements so I will also be reading some of my own poems that play with or reflect on the traditional four elements, including this one about a walk in Grantchester Meadows, which will be published in my nest book The Singing Bowl:

As usual you can hear it by clicking on the title or on the ‘play’ sign

//



Out in the Elements

I crunch the gravel on my ravelled walks

And clabber with my boots in the wet clay

For I myself am clay that breathes and talks

Articulated earth, I move and pray

Alive at once to walk and be the way.

The root beneath, the branch above the tree

These hedges bright with blossom, white with May,

Everything concentrates, awaits in me

the coming of the One who sets creation free

Earth opens now to sudden drumming rains,

The raised and falling waters of the sea

Whose tidal pull and play is in my veins

Spilling and spreading, filling, flowing free

Whose ebb and flow is still at work in me

And in the wombing pulse of play and work

When heart beats pushed in waves of empathy

Till waters broke and bore me from the dark

And found this foundered shore and took me from the ark

As rain recedes I pause to fill my pipe

And kindle fire that flickers into light

And lights the leaf all curled and cured and ripe

Within a burr-starred bowl. How fierce and bright

It glows against the cold. And I delight

In taste and fragrance, watching whisps of grey

And graceful smoke in their brief flight,

As sun breaks from the clouds and lights my way

I feel the fire that makes the light that makes the day

Now air is all astir in breaks and blasts,

The last grey rags of cloud are blown aside

The hedgerows hush and rustle in the gusts

As clean winds whistle round me. Far and wide

Bent grasses and frail flowers lean aside

I breathe the world in with this brimming breeze

That tugs at me and eddies at my side

Quickens and flickers through the tangled trees

And breathes me back to life and brings me to my knees

Akin to every creature I will learn

From each and all the meaning of my birth

I love the dust to which I will return

The subtle substance of my mother earth,

From water born by fire fathered forth,

An index and epitome of nature,

I sum and summon all the world is worth,

And breathing now His elemental air

I find the One within, without, and everywhere.

4 Comments

Filed under imagination, literature

A Spell for National Poetry Day

Here is a poem called Spell, which I re-post for National Poetry Day, as it celebrates the magic powers of language itself. I have written in a previous post about the ‘daily miracle’ of our language and literacy, the magical way that words can summon up images, images that bring with them whole worlds, all the hidden correspondences between Word and World, a magic witnessed by the way a word like spell means both to spell a word and to make magic, the way chant is embedded in enchantment, the way even the dry word Grammar turns out to be cognate with Glamour in its oldest magical sense. But if all language is a kind of spell, it is a Good Spell (or Gospel as we later shortened that term). For Christian Faith points to a single source, in the Word, the Logos of God, for both the mystery of language and the mystery of being. Christ is the Word within all words, the Word behind all worlds.

Certainly many Christian writers have reflected on the paralells between the Genesis narrative in which God says “Let there be..” and each thing he summons springs into being, and the way, the uttering of words, the combination and recombination of a finite set of letters, can call into being the imaginary worlds, the sub-creations, as Tolkien calls them, that God in his Love has empowered us to create. It seems that being made as ‘Makers’ (the old word for poets) is one of the ways in which we are all made in God’s image.

Of course, because we are fallen we can abuse this gift of sub-creation, we can abuse language itself, making the very medium of creation a means of destruction. I have explored that shadow side of language in my poem “What IF…” But now I want to celebrate the God-given power and mystery of language, the magic of naming, the summoning powers entrusted to us in the twenty-six letters of our alphabet., in a sonnet I have simply called “Spell”. As always you can hear it by clicking on the title or pressing the ‘play’ button.

This poem will appear in my next collection The Singing Bowl which will be published at the end of October by Canterbury Press


Spell

Summon the summoners, the twenty-six

enchanters. Spelling silence into sound,

they bind and loose, they find and are not found.

Re-call the river-tongues from Alph to Styx,

summon the summoners, the shaping shapes

the grounds of sound, the generative gramma

signs of the Mystery, inscribed arcana

runes from the root-tree written in the deeps,

leaves from the tale-tree lifted, swift and free,

shining, re-combining in their dance

the genesis of every utterance,

pattering the pattern of the Tree.

Summon the summoners, and let them sing.

The summoners will summon Everything.

6 Comments

Filed under imagination, literature, Poems, Theology and Arts

A Sonnet for Samuel Taylor Coleridge

samuelcoleridgeThe great Poet, philosopher, and Christian sage, Samuel Taylor Coleridge died on July 25th, in 1834. I could not begin to reckon the debt I owe him; for his poetry, for his personal and Christian wisdom, above all for his brilliant exploration and defence of the poetic imagination as a truth bearing faculty which participates in, and is redeemed by the Logos, the living Word, himself the Divine Imagination. We are only now coming to appreciate the depth and range of what he achieved, his contemporaries scarcely understood him, and his Victorian successors looked down in judgement at what htey saw as the shipwreck of his life. Something of that experience of rejection, twinned with deep Christian conviction, can be seen in the epitaph he wrote for himself:

Stop, Christian passer-by!—Stop, child of God,
And read with gentle breast. Beneath this sod
A poet lies, or that which once seemed he.
O, lift one thought in prayer for S. T. C.;
That he who many a year with toil of breath
Found death in life, may here find life in death!
Mercy for praise—to be forgiven for fame
He asked, and hoped, through Christ. Do thou the same!

 

From my teenage raptures when I was first enchanted by Kubla Khan and the Ancient Mariner, to my struggles and adventures in the middle of life STC has been my companion and guide.In the chapter on Coleridge in my book Faith Hope and Poetry I have set out an account of his thinking and made the case for his central importance in our own age, but what I offer here is a sonnet celebrating his legacy, drawing on that epitaph I mentioned above, one of a sequence of sonnets on my fellow christians which will be part of my new book The Singing Bowl, coming out in November with the Canterbury Press.

As Always you can hear the poem by clicking on the title or clicking the ‘play’ button.



Samuel Taylor Coleridge

‘Stop, Christian passer-by!—Stop, child of God!’

You made your epitaph imperative,

And stopped this wedding guest! But I am glad

To stop with you and start again, to live

From that pure source, the all-renewing stream,

Whose living power is imagination,

And know myself a child of the I AM,

Open and loving to his whole creation.

Your glittering eye taught mine to pierce the veil,

To let his light transfigure all my seeing,

To serve the shaping Spirit whom I feel,

And make with him the poem of my being.

I follow where you sail towards our haven,

Your wide wake lit with glimmerings of heaven.

Steve Bell captured me in ancient mariner mode!

Steve Bell captured me in ancient mariner mode!

5 Comments

Filed under christianity, imagination, Poems

Kindling the Imagination; a Kindle Edition!

seasonsNearly twenty  years ago I went on a retreat with the aim of discerning, and then distilling into a single sentence, what I thought it was that God had put me on earth to do. This is the sentence I came up with:

I am here to use my love of language and my delight in poetry to kindle my own, and other peoples imaginations for Christ.

Its not surprising therefore that the verb ‘to kindle’ crops up quite often in my poetry. It occurs, for example, five times in my collection of seventy sonnets Sounding the Seasons. When I reached for that word kindle, on retreat in the early nineties of the last century I had no idea that the word would one day be a noun to describe a kind of Ebook that could be made instantly available to anyone anywhere. Now I have some issues with Amazon over their tax avoidance here in the UK, but I think their choice of name for their Ereader was inspired, for kindling a fire of light and longing, one light kindling and lighting another, the flame leaping from mind to mind across the world and over the generations, is just what reading, at its best, is all about.

So it is with some pleasure that I can say that today my book of sonnets is released on Kindle!

It should be easy to find and download via Amazon in any country but here are the links for the kindle edition for the UK, USA, and Canada:

Sounding the Seasons UK

Sounding the Seasons USA

Sounding the Seasons Canada

Finally here is one of the sonnets from the book in which I use the word kindle; this one is a celebration of all God’s unknown saints



All Saints

Though Satan breaks our dark glass into shards

Each shard still shines with Christ’s reflected light,

It glances from the eyes, kindles the words

Of all his unknown saints. The dark is bright

With quiet lives and steady lights undimmed,

The witness of the ones we shunned and shamed.

Plain in our sight and far beyond our seeing

He weaves them with us in the web of being

They stand beside us even as we grieve,

The lone and left behind whom no one claimed,

Unnumbered multitudes, he lifts above

The shadow of the gibbet and the grave,

To triumph where all saints are known and named;

The gathered glories of His wounded love.

8 Comments

Filed under imagination, Poems

On Reading the Commedia 9:The Rose

a white rose opens

a white rose opens

I come now to the final part my sequence of nine poems reflecting on the exprerience of reading, and re-reading Dante’s Commedia. By the end of the Paradiso Dante has taken us to the very limits of human thought and expression, to the brink of a reality which is beyond language, and yet which is the true source of all reality. That source is Love, ‘the Love that moves the sun and the other stars’, and the whole purpose of the poem is that we learn and choose also to be moved by, and find our peace, in that Love.

To describe his journey, Dante used the astronomy of his day, but the truth of his message does not depend on one scientific model, or another, but on what lies behind the reality they model. In this poem I have tried to hint at the exprerience of reading Dante with our own, equally marvelous and mysterious cosmology in mind.

GuiteCommedia3If you have enjoyed reading these poems you may be interested to know that a Special Edition of them has been printed and bound in Florence by Aureo Anello Books. Printed in William Morris Troy Font, in a numbered limited edition of 250, these little chapbooks, with parchment covers, are being offered for a suggested donation of €15,00, to help the work of Anchoress and Dante Scholar Sister Julia Bolton Holloway who helps look after the famous ‘English Cemetry’ in Florence, where Elizabeth Barett Browning and other poets are buried. For Julia’s wonderful suite of web resources for Dante, Mother Julian, and mediaeval theology, start exploring here.  The special page telling you how to obtain Aureo Anello’s limited editions including my Dante poem is here.

I am Grateful to Margot Krebs Neale for the beautiful image of the rose, as usual you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play button.



9 The Rose

A white rose opens in a quiet arbour

Where I sit reading Dante, Paradise

Unfolding in me, opens hour by hour,

 

In sunlight and amidst the hum of bees

On a late afternoon. I think of how

Everything flowers, the whole universe

 

Itself is still unfolding even now

Sprung from a stem of singularity

Which petals time and space.  I think of how

 

The very elements that let my body be

Began and will continue in the stars

Whose light and distance frame our mystery,

 

And how my shadowed heart still loves, still bears

With every beat that animates  my being,

Eternal yearnings through the turning years.

 

I turn back to the lines that light my seeing

And lift me to the limits of all thought

And long that I might also find that freeing

 

And enabling Love, and so be caught

And lifted into His renewing Heaven.

Evening glimmers, and the stars come out,

 

Venus is shining clear, my prayers are woven

Into a sounding song, a symphony,

As all creation gives back what is given

 

In music made to praise the Mystery

Who is both gift and giver. Something stirs

A grace in me beyond my memory

 

I close the book and look up at the stars.

stars1

If you missed the earlier episodes, here are the links to the other poems in this sequence:

Previous poems in this Dante Series:

Inferno:

1 In Medias Res

2 Through the Gate

3 Vexila Regis

Purgatorio

4 De Magistro

5 Love in Idleness

6 Dancing Through the Fire

Paradiso

7  Look up

8 Circle Dance

7 Comments

Filed under imagination, literature, Poems

On Reading the Commedia 4: De Magistro

Dante with mount Purgatory in the background

Dante with mount Purgatory in the background

With this fourth poem in my Dante series we leave behind the dark and stifled atmosphere of the Inferno and contemplate the holy mountain of the Purgatorio. Here souls already bound for Paradise are enabled to purify, strengthen and re-order their capacity for love so as to be ready for the love and joy of Heaven when they get there. In this book Dante shows how friendship, love, poetry and art are all means whereby God prepares our souls for the great ascent.Dante fills Purgatorio with tributes to friends and poets who have helped him. I open my own ‘readers pilgrimage’ here with a tribute to the teacher who first showed me how to read Dante, thus giving me the gift of a lifetime. This poem first appeared at the front of my book Faith Hope and Poetry.

If you missed he earlier three poems in this series they are here:

1 In Medias Res

2 Through the Gate

3 Vexilla Regis

As always you can hear my poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play button’. I am grateful to Oliver Neale for the contemporary image that follows the poem.



4 De Magistro

I thank my God I have emerged at last,

blinking from Hell, to see these quiet stars

bewildered by the shadows that I cast.

 

You set me on this stair, in those rich hours

pacing your study, chanting poetry.

The Word in you revealed His quickening powers,

 

removed the daily veil, and let me see,

as sunlight played along your book-lined walls,

that words are windows onto mystery.

 

From Eden, whence the living fountain falls

in music, from the tower of ivory,

and from the hidden heart, He calls

 

in the language of Adam, creating memory

of unfallen speech. He sets creation

free from the carapace of history.

 

His image in us is Imagination,

His Spirit is a sacrifice of breath

upon the letters of His revelation.

 

In mid-most of the word-wood is a path

that leads back to the springs of truth in speech.

You showed it to me, kneeling on your hearth,

 

you showed me how my halting words might reach

to the mind’s Maker, to the source of Love,

and so you taught me what it means to teach.

 

Teaching, I have my ardours now to prove

climbing with joy the steps of Purgatory.

Teacher and pupil, both are on the move,

 

as fellow pilgrims on a needful journey.

photo by Oliver Neale

photo by Oliver Neale

6 Comments

Filed under literature, Poems