Monthly Archives: October 2013

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  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.


Filed under imagination, literature

A Sonnet for St. Francis

st-francis-of-assisiIn honour of the great saint, whose feast day falls on October 4th, and as a reflection on the new Pope who has chosen that saint’s name, and so affirmed their common task, in Christ, to rebuild his Church, I thought I would post this sonnet which reflects the way Francis responded to Christ’s call by casting away the rich trappings he had inherited and embracing holy poverty.The sonnet, composed since his election, is also a prayer that Pope Francis the 1st will enable the wider church to do the same! As always you can hear the sonnet by clicking on the ‘play’ button or the title

My sonnets for the Christian Year are available from Canterbury Press Here and on Kindle here

This sonnet for Francis will appear in my new book The Singing Bowl, published on October 25th by Canterbury Press. come to the launch at St. Edwards Church at 7:30pm on 6th November

‘Francis, Rebuild My Church’; a sonnet for the Saint and for the new Pope

‘Francis rebuild my church which, as you see
Is falling into ruin.’ From the cross
Your saviour spoke to you and speaks to us
Again through you. Undoing set you free,
Loosened the traps of trappings, cast away
The trammelling of all that costly cloth
We wind our saviour in. At break of day
He set aside his grave-clothes. Your new birth
Came like a daybreak too, naked and true
To poverty and to the gospel call,
You woke to Christ and Christ awoke in you
And set to work through all your love and skill
To make our ruin good, to bless and heal
To wake the Christ in us and make us whole.
Pope Francis


Filed under christianity, Current affairs, Poems

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


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.


Filed under imagination, literature, Poems, Theology and Arts