I have been working on a sequence of ‘ekphrastic poems’, poems about paintings, called ‘Ordinary Saints’. These poems have been written to accompany a series of extraordinary portraits of so- called ‘ordinary people, family and friends, by the American artist Bruce Herman, and our aim, as painter and poet, together with JAC Redford, the composer, who is working with us on the same sequence, is to show that no one is ‘ordinary’, that all of us bear, in different ways, the image of God, that all of us can receive and express his love. Today I thought I would share the portrait of ‘Kenny’ and the poem I have written to go with it. Kenny, who is no longer wth us in this world, was a man of great charm and felt by many who knew and loved him to be something of a saint. He was also a man with Downs Syndrome, and that syndrome was itself in some ways the key to the gifts he had to offer. I have been fortunate to know some people with Downs and to be friends with parents and siblings of Downs people, and I wanted to take this opportunity, in celebrating Kenny, to celebrate them too.
I hope you enjoy the poem, as always you can hear me read it by clicking on the ‘play’ button or the title. If you would like to know more about the Ordinary Saints Project you can do so by clicking Here. If you would like to attend the premiers Laity Lodge from 26-28th October, where you can see all the paintings, hear JAC’s music, and hear me read the poems, you can find out more by clicking Here.
I love the colours and the textures here,
I love the way that Kenny shines in them
With keen attention, a mischievous grin,
And all the child-like wisdom of the seer.
God, who came down, sends out the ones with Downs
As children of the kingdom, signs of joy,
To teach us life again. Our riches cloy;
Our slick sophistication weaves us round
With snares and sneers; a wan, world-weary gauze
Covers the radiance of God’s creation,
We give a hasty glance, we never gaze.
But Kenny greets us here with pure elation
And speaks God’s grace with gratitude and glee,
An ordinary angel, who can see.