Kenny: a sonnet from Ordinary Saints

‘Kenny’ by Bruce Herman

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.



Filed under imagination

11 responses to “Kenny: a sonnet from Ordinary Saints

  1. William Myers

    A praiseworthy project – how nice to know Kenny through poem and paining. Note: It’s Down Syndrome, named for the English physician John Down.

  2. Wonderful sonnet and project! Thank you.

  3. msjhjohnson

    Thanks for this beautiful poem about my brother, Kenny! It rings so true in my heart. You’ve captured a lovely aspect of this dear saintly man- boy!

  4. Grace Dunn

    Thank you for all you share with us and for reminding us that beauty is all around.

  5. Nicky

    Thank you Malcolm. So much language on social media is angry, accusing and belittling. And most of the noise flying around us involves conflict and who can shout loudest. And then you post a beautiful poem and remind us of what is really important.

  6. David C Brown

    Very touching.
    To adapt from a thought about one of my friends:

    This small pleasure waits
    Mid great ones – Kenny in his
    Body of glory!

  7. Thank you for this beautiful and heartwarming work, Malcolm and Bruce. I miss my dear uncle Kenny. Nathaniel Hansen

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