Monthly Archives: November 2010

A lovely photo-montage of the Lewis Foundation Conference

I would like to share a lovely photo-montage made by photographer Lancia Smith of the remarkable conference on CS Lewis; The Weight of glory, organised by the CS Lewis Foundation. Apart from the  abundance ofscholarship, the learning, and the spiritual formation that was going on, there was also an extraordinary sense of Joy, which was great, since Joy was one of  our themes. I think Lancia’s images catch that joy far better than my words could do, so here they are:

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Oh come, Oh come! Some Advent Reflections

Advent Sunday! The first sunday in the Church’s year. The beginning of a holy season in which we connect again with our inconsolable longing, as CS Lewis called it, our yearning for the One who is to come and is also, mysteriously, the One who has come already, come as child, come as fellow-sufferer, come as Saviour, and yet whose coming, already achieved, we hold at bay from ourselves, so that we have to learn afresh each year, even each day, how to let him come to us again.

In the first centuries the Church had a beautiful custom of prayng seven great prayers calling afresh on Christ to come, calling him by the mysterious titles he has in Isaiah, calling to him; O Wisdom. O Root! O Key  O Light! come to us!

I have responded to these seven “Great O” Antiphons, as they are called, with seven sonnets, revoicing them for our own age now, but preserving the heart of each, which is a prayer for Christ’s Advent for his coming, now in us, and at the end of time, in and for all. Over the course of this Advent season I shall post these sonnets onto my blog, so here is the first one; O Sapienita, (O Wisdom). I shall also give you the original o antiphon, in both Latin and English. You should also be able to hear the antiphons sung and hear me read the sonnet if you click on the play button just before the poem, or else click on the title of the sonnet to be taken to my audio page. Also check out the wonderful resources on the Advent Antiphons and aother mediaeval Wisdom on Julian holloway’s beautiful website  The Great O Antiphons

O Sapientia

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the
Most High,
reaching from one end to the other mightily,
and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.



O Sapientia

I cannot think unless I have been thought,

Nor can I speak unless I have been spoken.

I cannot teach except as I am taught,

Or break the bread except as I am broken.

O Mind behind the mind through which I seek,

O Light within the light by which I see,

O Word beneath the words with which I speak,

O founding, unfound Wisdom, finding me,

O sounding Song whose depth is sounding me,

O Memory of time, reminding me,

My Ground of Being, always grounding me,

My Maker’s Bounding Line, defining me,

Come, hidden Wisdom, come with all you bring,

Come to me now, disguised as everything.

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Filed under christianity, imagination, literature, Meditation, Poems

A New Painting and an Interview

I’m so fortunate to be surrounded by all sorts of creative people here but a couple of my friends have each in their own way, come up with a some surprises for me that I’d like to share here, not least because the insights and skills of these two friends ended up giving me some new insights into who I am and what I’m meant to be doing.

The first of these surprises was unveiled in the course of my Birthday gig at the Blue Ball. Henri Schmitt is a painter and musician whom I first met at a talk I was giving on Bob Dylan. He sings and plays guitar, mandolin and bozouki, and has occasionally played at my gigs. I knew he also painted but I had no idea how well or powerfully until last Thursday night when he unveiled a beautiful painting inspired by my song The Green Man and just gave it to me. I was  amazed both by the generosity and by the power of he painting itself. you will be too, here it is:

malcolm as green man

The Green Man

The second surprise ‘unveiling’, was the publication on her Rawgarden Blog of an interview by my friend Karen Wells, whose lovely felts and friendship had inspired my song Lente Lente. She does an occasional series called “from where I’m sitting; tales from a garden bench”. She chose her questions so well that I ended up saying more than I knew I knew about my vocation as a poet. Reading the interview on her blog turned out to be another revelation, rather like Henri’s painting, of who I am and who I am meant to be. Karen illustrated the interview with a picture she took in my garden, she is a real garden spirit and I always feel relaxed and rooted when she is around, maybe that’s why both the photo and the interview have brought out things I hardly knew were there.

I am still  sifting through, and learning from the rich experiences and new friends I made in Texas, but watch this space, I will be reflecting a little more on that soon.

Malcolm brings 'tales from a garden bench'

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Collateral Magic!

malcolm and noel sing 'Blowing in the wind"

I’m just back from the CS Lewis Foundation‘s writers retreat/CS Lewis conference in Texas at which I was speaking on the subject of CS Lewis’s great sermon The Weight of Glory, and also singing and reading a little poetry. It was a truly extraordinary weekend. First up was a session on the  friday night called “Collateral Magic: a revolution in word and song, which I did jointly with the amazing Noel Paul Stookey, the ‘Paul’ of Peter Paul and Mary. He is a fabulous musician, a witty raconteur, but also, as I discovered over the weekend, a very gracious and spiritually grounded person. He is in a wholly different league from me, a million times better known and, musically far more articulate and experienced, so he could so easily have made me feel nervous, inadequate, or simply out of place, instead he made me feel completely at home, as if I really belonged up there playing at his side, just naturally as a fellow musician and songwriter. And that generous spirit was something that just deepened as the weekend unfolded. We opened by singing ” I shall be released” together and then alternated playing and discussing our own songs before we finished with “Blowing in the wind ” as a duet. To join in singing that particular song with someone who had known Dylan from the outset and had a hit with it before he did, and to sing it together in a context in which we both knew that the wind in which the answers are blowing is the Ruach, the Pneuma, the Holy Spirit of God, was unforgettable. Among the songs I sang were ‘The Green Man’ and ‘Angels Unawares’, and hearing his familiar voice sing the chorus on a song of my own was indeed a piece of ‘collateral magic’. In fact the whole weekend was magic and thronging with angels unawares, I’ll write more about it, and about what Lewis called “The inconsolable secret” as time allows, but meanwhile, if you have facebook, this should get you to a video of our rendition of The Green Man: Malcolm and Noel sing The Green Man

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Filed under christianity, imagination, Music, Songs