I’m just back from an exhausting, but stimulating, expedition to North America in which I travelled from Boston to Vancouver, from Seattle to Albuquerque, from Santa Fe to LA and then home, so I thought I’d share a little of my adventures on the way.
The adventures began flying in to Boston so as to speak at the CS Lewis Foundation‘s Eastern Regional conference in Amherst. The Conference was on the theme of Lewis and Truth in the Public square and I gave a keynote address, preached a sermon on the Sunday and led a seminar on poetry as well as giving a reading/performance of my songs and sonnets. There was an impressive mix of people from many walks of life and many different churches all drawn by the common strand of Lewis’s Mere Christianity, and the sense that his plea for the Faith as offering truths robust and relevant in the ‘public square’ and not just a private ‘lifestyle option was well worth exploring. A highlight of that conference for me was a visit to emily Dickinson’s house still preserved just as it was. Seeing the tiny desk on which she wrote such great poetry inspired a new poem in me which I have given in a separate blog post here.
Then it was a flight to Vancouver to spend a week at Regent College teaching a course called ‘ Poetic reflections on the sayings of Jesus’ which gave me a chance to develop the themes and ideas set out in my new poetry sequence Parable and Paradox. One of those themes was the way in which Jesus, in all his teachings, appeals directly to the imagination, as well as to the reason. In parables and paradoxes he asks us to imagine what the kingdom is like and to begin living, even now, as if we were already in it! Two poems in the new collection, particularly bring that into focus: ‘ As If’ and ‘Imagine’. The latter poem is also my own response to John Lennon’s song of the same name! As always you can hear the poetry by clicking on the title or the play button so here they are:
Matthew 5:42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
The Giver of all gifts asks me to give!
The Fountain from which every good thing flows,
The Life who spends himself that all might live,
The Root whence every bud and blossom grows,
Calls me, as if I knew no limitation,
As if I focused all his hidden force,
To be creative with his new creation,
To find my flow in him, my living source,
To live as if I had no fear of losing,
To spend as if I had no need to earn,
To turn my cheek as if it felt no bruising,
To lend as if I needed no return,
As if my debts and sins were all forgiven,
As if I too could body forth his Heaven.
Luke 6:37 Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Do not judge and you will not be judged.
Imagine if we took these words to heart,
Unselved ourselves and took another’s part,
Silenced the accuser, dropped the grudge…
Do not condemn, you will not be condemned.
Imagine if we lived our lives from this
And met each other’s outcasts face to face,
Imagine if the blood-dimmed tide was stemmed.
Forgive and you yourselves will be forgiven.
What if we walked together on this path,
What if the whole world laid aside it’s wrath,
And things were done on earth as though in heaven,
As though the heart’s dark knots were all undone,
As though this dreamer weren’t the only one?
My week at Regent ended with a wonderful invitation to join the poet Luci Shaw in one of her poetry readings, and so I had the opportunity to read to Luci in person, the poem I had written for her and published in Parable and Paradox. As always you can hear the poetry by clicking on the title or the play button. Here it is:
Luci I love the gift you have for green:
Green fingers in your garden, a green art
In writing too, a feel for life and growth,
Kindly encouragement and yet a keen
Eye for the form, for what needs weeding out
To give a poem room to breathe and grow.
I sense your patience when that growth is slow,
Knowing that slow growth bears a fuller fruit.
I love your eye for detail too, the rich
Particularity of earthy things,
The way you strike the right note till it sings,
And all you have withheld is within reach;
The poem opens for us, and makes room
For fleeting apprehensions to come home.
In my next post I will tell you about my holiday in the mountains in Whistler and my adventures at Kindlingsfest on Orcas Island!