After Prayer: a little taster from my next book

I have mentioned in a couple of previous posts that I have been working on a new book called ‘After Prayer’ which will come out with Canterbury Press in late October, and you can see above a little preview of it’s lovely cover.

The title sequence is a series of sonnets written in response to Herbert’s poem Prayer, and as I say in the preface to the book:

I learnt many things by doing this, but perhaps the most telling was the discovery that Prayer is not a random compendium, but rather a soul-story, a spiritual journey. Usually the images flash by us so fast in such dazzling array that we have scarcely time to consider their order, their narrative arc. But by slowing the poem down and reflecting on each image both in itself and in its place in the sequence I found myself taken on a journey from the feasting and fecundity of the opening image of the Church’s Banquet, through mystery and variety and then, with the Christian plummet,down into unsounded depths and uncharted waters, into the painful battle fields and the wounded places of engine against the almightie, sinners tower, Christ-side-piercing spear, and then eventually up again through a kind of chastened recovery, a training of the ear to hear new music, a kind of tune,until one glimpsed the bird of paradise and caught the scent of the land of spices, until one was brought at least to the brink of something understood. The journey, I soon realised, was not just Herbert’s but had, necessarily, to be mine as well. And I found that, paradoxically, by following Herbert’s trajectory so closely I was also enabled to recognise and tell something of my own story too.

So every so often I will be posting some poems from the new collection to give you an idea of what’s in store. So here is the opening poem of the sequence, reflecting on Herbert’s opening image: ‘Prayer the church’s banquet’. As usual you can hear me reading the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button.



The Church’s Banquet

Not some strict modicum, exact allowance,

Precise prescription, rigid regimen,

But beauty and gratuitous abundance,

Capacious grace, beyond comparison.

Not something hasty, always snatched alone;

Junkets of junk food, fuelling our dis-ease,

Not little snacklets eaten on the run,

But peace and plenty, taken at our ease.

Not to be worked for, not another task,

But love that’s lavished on us, full and free,

Course after course of hospitality,

And rich wine flowing from an unstopped flask.

He paid the price before we reached the inn,

And all He asks of us is to begin.


Filed under christianity, imagination, Poems

23 responses to “After Prayer: a little taster from my next book

  1. julielwitmer

    How exciting. Can’t wait to read them, each one.

  2. Karen Looby

    That is so beautiful. I am eager to read the whole book. Herbert’s poetry is high on my list of works to re-read and your words are always a feast for my soul. Your commentary on ‘Prayer’ was the first post of yours that I read.
    In December 2017, my husband and I attended an event in Toronto where you read and Steve Bell sang. To watch you as you read added a new depth to the enjoyment of your work.

    I have also read a book by Dennis Lennon, ‘Turning the Diamond’, in which he explores the images in the same poem. Incidentally, I purchased his book at G. David Bookseller right outside the church garden of St Edward’s, Cambridge.

  3. Wonderful.. capacious Grace . stays with me, and of course the last line. Deo gratias.

  4. Judith Sweetman

    A wonderful first poem and how appropriate as a “taster” for all the other poems we look forward to. Thank you!

    Sent from my iPhone


  5. Judith Sweetman

    Sorry- meant to post this in the comments section!

    Sent from my iPhone


  6. Andy Rowen

    Wow!! It’s a beautiful wordfest! Thanks Malcolm. X

  7. Evangeline DeMaster

    “Peace and plenty, taken at our ease”
    Sounds like beautiful fellowship.
    I so appreciate how you unpack for us one or two images in a poem and encourage us to do the same with others. Thank you.

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  10. Will there be an audio book CD for this one? I need a physical CD of the Seven Heavens poems 🙂

  11. Diane Fox Thurman

    I love this one! Looking forward to your book : )

    Sent from my iPhone


  12. Lee Anne McClymont

    Making the secular more sacred. Beautiful and moving to acknowledge the shortcomings of fast food without condemning those who live on it. Stay open. Stay in this space.
    My best,
    Lee Anne

  13. rmcburgess51

    How to pre-order? Happy to support you in your poetic endeavors and encourage your muse by purchasing your next book.

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