It was a lovely event and very well attended,. I signed and sold about 100 books which was very encouraging, but at the heart of the event was a reading of 12 of the sonnets, interwoven with the music that a couple of them had inspired. I shared the reading with some members of the church as well as friends and family so we had a variety of voices, and the music came courtesy of J.A.C. Redford’s setting of O Sapientia, about which I have blogged here, and Steve Bell’s reworking of ‘The Baptism of Christ. I have blogged about my collaboration with him here.
Honor Clare White kindly photographed the event and also recorded the readings. Her photos are interspersed over this post and more can be found on this facebook page. Click on the play button to hear the recording. Below the recording I have posted the texts of the sonnets being read if you would like to follow along.
Finally if you missed the launch and would like to buy a copy of the book. heres how to do it.
for the UK the books are being dispatched directly by Canterbury Press and arrive within a couple of days of order, you can get them here.
Or you can use Amazon here
For Canada and the US. Westminster John Knox are the North American Distributor but I see no sign of their having it yet, though it may arrive soon and I will post the link when it does. However you can also order it from this page on Amazon Canada and Amazon USA
Now here is Wednesday night’s reading and music! You may need to turn up the volume a little as it was recordd from an audience camera!
And here, together with some images of the readers are the sonnets that were read:
Prologue: Sounding the Seasons (Read by Malcolm)
Tangled in time, we go by hints and guesses,
Turning the wheel of each returning year.
But in the midst of failures and successes
We sometimes glimpse the Love that casts out fear.
Sometimes the heart remembers its own reasons
And beats a Sanctus as we sing our story,
Tracing the threads of grace, sounding the seasons
That lead at last through time to timeless glory.
From the first yearning for a Saviour’s birth
To the full joy of knowing sins forgiven
We start our journey here on God’s good earth
To catch an echo of the choirs of heaven.
I send these out, returning what was lent,
Turning to praise each ‘moment’s monument’.
The Lectern (read by Geoffrey Barnes)
Some rise on eagles’ wings, this one is plain,
Plain English workmanship in solid oak.
Age gracefully it says, go with the grain.
You walk towards an always open book,
Open as every life to every light,
Open to shade and shadow, day and night,
The changeless witness of your changing pain.
Be still the Lectern says, stand here and read.
Here are your mysteries, your love and fear,
And, running through them all, the slender thread
Of God’s strange grace, red as these ribbons, red
As your own blood when reading reads you here
And pierces joint and marrow… So you stand,
The lectern still beneath your trembling hand.
O Sapientia (read by Malcolm and then J.A.C. Redford’s setting sung by the Peters Edition Chorale
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.
New Year’s Day: Church Bells (read by Malcolm)
Not the bleak speak of mobile messages,
The soft chime of synthesised reminders,
Not texts, not pagers, data packages,
Not satnav or locators ever find us
As surely, soundly, deeply as these bells
That sound and find and call us all at once
‘Ears of my ears’ can hear, my body feels
This call to prayer that is itself a dance.
So ring them out in joy and jubilation,
Sound them in sorrow tolling for the lost,
O let them wake the church and rouse the nation,.
A sleeping lion stirred to life at last
Begin again they sing, again begin,
A ring and rhythm answered from within.
The Baptism of Christ (Read by Malcolm and then sung by Steve Bell from the Album Keening for the Dawn)
Beginning here we glimpse the Three-in-one;
The river runs, the clouds are torn apart,
The Father speaks, the Spirit and the Son
Reveal to us the single loving heart
That beats behind the being of all things
And calls and keeps and kindles us to light.
The dove descends, the spirit soars and sings
‘You are belovèd, you are my delight!’
In that swift light and life, as water spills
And streams around the Man like quickening rain,
The voice that made the universe reveals
The God in Man who makes it new again.
He calls us too, to step into that river,
Epiphany: 5 The Miracle at Cana (Read by Cathy Michell)
Here’s an epiphany to have and hold,
A truth that you can taste upon the tongue,
No distant shrines and canopies of gold
Or ladders to be clambered rung by rung,
But here and now, amidst your daily living,
Where you can taste and touch and feel and see,
The spring of love, the fount of all forgiving,
Flows when you need it, rich, abundant, free.
Better than waters of some outer weeping,
That leave you still with all your hidden sin,
Here is a vintage richer for the keeping
That works its transformation from within.
‘What price?’ you ask me, as we raise the glass,
‘It cost our Saviour everything he has’
The Visitation (Read by Felicity Guite)
Here is a meeting made of hidden joys,
Of lightenings cloistered in a narrow place,
From quiet hearts the sudden flame of praise
And in the womb the quickening kick of grace.
Two women on the very edge of things
Unnoticed and unknown to men of power
But in their flesh the hidden Spirit sings
And in their lives the buds of blessing flower.
And Mary stands with all we call ‘too young’,
Elizabeth with all called ‘past their prime’.
They sing today for all the great unsung,
Women who turned eternity to time,
Favoured of heaven, outcast on the earth,
Prophets who bring the best in us to birth.
IX Jesus falls the third time (Read by Honor Clare White)
He weeps with you and with you he will stay
When all your staying power has run out
You can’t go on, you go on anyway.
He stumbles just beside you when the doubt
That always haunts you, cuts you down at last
And takes away the hope that drove you on.
This is the third fall and it hurts the worst,
This long descent through darkness to depression
From which there seems no rising and no will
To rise, or breathe or bear your own heart beat.
Twice you survived; this third will surely kill,
And you could almost wish for that defeat
Except that in the cold hell where you freeze
You find your God beside you on his knees.
St. Mary Magdalene (Read by Maggie guite)
Men called you light so as to load you down,
And burden you with their own weight of sin,
A woman forced to cover and contain
Those seven devils sent by Everyman.
But one man set you free and took your part,
One man knew and loved you to the core.
The broken alabaster of your heart
Revealed to him alone a hidden door,
Into a garden where the fountain sealed,
Could flow at last for him in healing tears,
Till, in another garden, he revealed
The perfect Love that cast out all your fears,
And quickened you with loves own sway and swing,
As light and lovely as the news you bring.
The Annunciation (Read By Ann Kember)
We see so little, stayed on surfaces,
We calculate the outsides of all things,
Preoccupied with our own purposes
We miss the shimmer of the angels’ wings.
They coruscate around us in their joy,
A swirl of wheels and eyes and wings unfurled;
They guard the good we purpose to destroy,
A hidden blaze of glory in God’s world.
But on this day a young girl stopped to see
With open eyes and heart. She heard the voice-
The promise of His glory yet to be
As time stood still for her to make a choice.
Gabriel knelt and not a feather stirred.
The Word himself was waiting on her word.
St. Thomas the Apostle (Read by Mick Kember)
“We do not know… how can we know the way?”
Courageous master of the awkward question,
You spoke the words the others dared not say
And cut through their evasion and abstraction.
O doubting Thomas, father of my faith,
You put your finger on the nub of things:
We cannot love some disembodied wraith,
But flesh and blood must be our king of kings.
Your teaching is to touch, embrace, anoint,
Feel after Him and find Him in the flesh.
Because He loved your awkward counter-point
The Word has heard and granted you your wish.
O place my hands with yours, help me divine
The wounded God whose wounds are healing mine.
All Saints: 1 The Gathered Glories (Read by Nicholas Blythe)
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 their threads into 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.
Epilogue: Sanctus (Read by Malcolm Guite)
We gather as his church on God’s good earth
And listen to the Requiem’s intense,
Long, love-laden keening, calling forth
Echoes of Eden, blessing every sense
With brimming blisses, every death with birth,
Until all passion passes into praise.
I bless the hidden threads that drew us here,
I bless this day, distinct amidst our days,
I bless the light, the music-laden air,
I bless the interweaving of our ways,
The lifting of the burdens that we bear,
I bless the broken body that we share.
Sanctus the heart, Sanctus the spirit cries,
Sanctus the flesh in every touch replies