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 is from my collection The Singing Bowl  published at the end of October by Canterbury Press and is also available on Amazon here

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

6 responses to “A Spell for National Poetry Day

  1. Love it! Thank you for this reminder of the meaning and power of words.

  2. Mary Tabb

    Hi Malcolm, Mary Tabb here. A quick question. Is it possible to send this post out on my email out by email to about 400 on my mailing list? I have a monthly letter that I send to women, mostly to encourage them in their CHRISTian Walk with CHRIST. Poetry is often included and I do want them to become acquainted with your excellent poetry. In case you don’t remember me, I am Donald Tabb’s wife; he was in your Poetry Class in Oxbridge ’08. He did come to Oxbridge this year but only for the first week. He wanted to take your Poetry class again, but you only offered it the second week in Cambridge. Needless to say, he was disappointed. May GOD be your continuous joy as you so faithfully channel it to your world, Mary Tabb

    • malcolmguite

      Dear Mary
      Thanks for writing yes by all means send this post out by email to your list. If you can include the blog address and mention that the poem is from The Singing Bowl, Canterbury Press, that would be great
      M

  3. Pingback: Poem / Poetry (National Poetry Writing Day) – “Ambrosial Moments” | toofulltowrite (I've started so I'll finish)

  4. Pingback: Malcolm Guite on Parable and Paradox

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