Category Archives: christianity

The House of Christmas GK Chesterton

The sequence of my selection of poems for Advent, Waiting on the Word, resumes on the 1st December, but on this last day of November, a little pause between Advent Sunday and December the 1st, I am prompted by a lovely image from Lancia Smith, which Draws on GK Chesterton’s poem, The House of Christmas, a poem which contemplates the way that God made himself homeless that we might at last come home, to record that poem for you here, though it is not in the anthology. As always you can hear it by either clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button.

The House of Christmas

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay on their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.
Here we have battle and blazing eyes,
And chance and honour and high surprise,
But our homes are under miraculous skies
Where the yule tale was begun.

A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost – how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.

This world is wild as an old wives’ tale,
And strange the plain things are,
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things
Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
Round an incredible star.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.


Filed under Poems, literature, christianity

CS Lewis: A Sonnet

Scribe of the Kingdom, Keeper of the Door

Scribe of the Kingdom, Keeper of the Door

As well as being the feast of Christ the King and St. Cecilia’s day, 22nd November is also the day CS Lewis died in 1963. I remember the great celebration of his life work and witness we had throughout 2013 and especially the honour and pleasure I had in Lecturing on him at St. Margaret’s Westminster and attending the ceremony whereby his memorial stone was installed in Poet’s corner. an event that would not have taken place without the hard work and forsight of Michael Ward amongst others. I wrote a  sonnet  for Lewis as part of that year of celebration., and so on the Anniversary of his death I am posting it again here. It has now been published in my volume of poems The Singing Bowl, with Canterbury Press.

As usual you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button, or on the title of the poem

CS Lewis

From ‘Beer and Beowulf’ to the seven heavens,

Whose music you conduct from sphere to sphere,

You are our portal to those hidden havens

Whence we return to bless our being here.

Scribe of the Kingdom, keeper of the door

Which opens on to all we might have lost,

Ward of a word-hoard in the deep hearts core

Telling the tale of Love from first to last.

Generous, capacious, open, free,

Your wardrobe-mind has furnished us with worlds

Through which to travel, whence we learn to see

Along the beam, and hear at last the heralds,

Sounding their summons, through the stars that sing,

Whose call at sunrise brings us to our King.

Your wardrobe mind has furnished us with worlds

Your wardrobe mind has furnished us with worlds



Filed under christianity, Inklings, Poems

Jazz Vespers: Walk with Me -The Third Fall

Jazz Vespers arranged by Dan Forshaw

Jazz Vespers arranged by Dan Forshaw

Here’s a thing for St. Cecilia’s Day (22nd November). Dan Forshaw, the great Jazz Saxophonist, has just sent this lovely recording from the Jazz Vespers at Westminster Central Hall. Its a fabulous setting of Jesus Walk With Me into which Dan set my sonnet ‘The Third Fall’, performed here by the actor Darren Raymond, who was also reading passages from Martin Luther King that evening as part of the celebration of Black History Month. I’m really honoured to have my poem included in this fabulous event, and to hear it so well set and rendered. You can hear it by clicking on the ‘play’ button or the title. I’ve given the words of the poem and there is a full list of all the musicians below

Walk with Me/Jesus Falls


IX Jesus falls the third time


He weeps with you and with you he will stay

When all your staying power has run out

You can’t go on, you go on anyway.

He stumbles just beside you when the doubt

That always haunts you, cuts you down at last

And takes away the hope that drove you on.

This is the third fall and it hurts the worst,

This long descent through darkness to depression

From which there seems no rising and no will

To rise, or breathe or bear your own heart beat.

Twice you survived; this third will surely kill,

And you could almost wish for that defeat

Except that in the cold hell where you freeze

You find your God beside you on his knees.

Vocals Juliet Kelly

Sax Dan Forshaw
Piano Chris Grey
Bass Joel Humann
Drums Richard Morgan

Read by Darren Raymond

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Filed under christianity, Poems, Theology and Arts

I Am the Resurrection and the Life

2105504I am returning, after various diversions, to the series of sermons and sonnets on the mysterious I Am sayings in John’s Gospel which I mentioned to you in a previous post. In the midst of so many crises, so much sudden carnage, so much grief and bereavement, perhaps its good to return to that poignant and painful moment in John’s Gospel when the desperately grieving Martha confronts Jesus with the loss of her brother Lazarus and asks him why he wasn’t there, why he didn’t prevent it. And she wins from Jesus, who weeps for Lazarus as much as his sisters, the declaration ‘I Am the Resurrection and the Life’. The new life, and the redemption of all things is already in our midst to inspire our hope, the true good ending, the ‘eucatastrophe’ as Tolkien calls it, has come to meet us in the midst. Below I have pasted part of the passage from St. John, then the poem I wrote in response, a kind of dialogue with Jesus, which you can hear by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button, And then the sermon I preached on this text at Girton on All Souls day. I hope you find some of this helpful. The Poem will be published in my next book Parable and Paradox which will come out with Canterbury Press in 2016

John 11:20-27:

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’


I Am the Resurrection 

“I am the resurrection and the life” John 11:25


How can you be the final resurrection?

That resurrection hasn’t happened yet.

Our broken world is still bent on destruction,

No sun can rise before that sun has set.

Our faith looks back to father Abraham

And toward to the one who is to come

How can you speak as though he knew your name?

How can you say: before he was I am?


Begin in me and I will read your riddle

And teach you truths my Spirit will defend

I am the End who meets you in the middle,

The new Beginning hidden in the End.

I am the victory, the end of strife

I am the resurrection and the life.


You can listen to my sermon on this passage, which also includes a reading on this poem, by clicking HERE


Filed under christianity, Girton, Poems

An interview about my new book with Lancia Smith

image courtesy of Lancia E Smith

image courtesy of Lancia E Smith

The Photographer and astute interviewer Lancia Smith has kindly marked my birthday today by publishing an interview about my new book Waiting on the Word. You can read the full interview from her Website Cultivating the True the Good and the Beautiful by clicking HERE. Readers of the book who are going to read the selected poem each day may like to know that Lancia will generously be providing an image for each poem each day and I will be providing a recording. Both image and recording will be posted on both our sites.

Meantime to give you a flavour here are two snippets from the fuller interview interspersed with one or two of Lancia’s own pictures, with which her site is so liberally adorned:

What is the tie in observing rituals and the seasons of our lives? Why does it matter?

AMG: Well, we can’t think of everything at once! We are creatures who were made to inhabit time, though we also carry eternity in our hearts, and to be in time is to experience one thing at a time, one moment at a time, to have to lose one moment in order to experience the next. The danger is that we lose not only the moment, but the meaning of the moment. We become so eager for the next thing that we abandon the rich legacy of all that we have already been given.

The aim of observing regular times and celebrations, shared with a wider Christian community, is to stem that loss, and even reverse that flow.

By setting these celebrations in time, giving them each a recurring day in the year we can get Time, who takes things way to be Time who restores them. Time the thief becomes Time the provider! 


Image LanciaESmith poem Grevel Lindop

Image LanciaESmith poem Grevel Lindop

You have poets from a highly rich range of voices: men and women, people of faith and people not-yet-persuaded of faith, old poets and younger ones, black and white, widely known and some virtually never heard of, and a diverse range of styles from sonnets to free verse.  How did you choose which poems to use in this anthology and what are you using as the guiding principle in the order you placed them in the book?

AMG: Well, if I glance for a moment at my bookshelves, and perhaps if you glance at yours, or better still at the piles of opened books that are lying about sometimes on top of one another, I notice no apartheid, only a glad and free communion. On the desk in front of me Seamus Heaney happens to be leaning against Milton, the seventeenth century English protestant and the 20th century Catholic seem to be rubbing along fine, united by poetry. My Leonard Cohen, and my Dylan Thomas have somehow found themselves on either side of my George Herbert, and I can just imagine the conversation between these three poets, all haunted by a sense of the holy, all dogged by a melancholy undertow, all three of them wrestling with the heartbreaking alternations between ecstasy and routine. And if I turn from my outward and visible library to the bookshelves of my mind, where the books are not fixed but wander freely, where the pages and the very texts themselves are all alive and interleaved, where a line of Donne’s is suddenly harmonized with a line of Dylan’s, I find that magical things happen! I hope to make some of the same magic when I make an anthology like this. I know that academics have quartered and quarantined these poets into different categories, according to period, style, belief, world view etc. That has its place and purpose but it’s not what I’m doing here. In these anthologies I am not trying to impress the professors, I am breaking bread, sharing good things with my fellow pilgrims. Now because we are pilgrims, and there are staging posts along the way, special points in Advent to think about the antiphons, particular times in Epiphany to remember certain mysteries. I have ordered these poems to highlight those staging posts, but I have also tried to get some surprising conversations started, to put poems next to each other whose insights might highlight each other. For example I have put a poem of Donne’s and a poem of Scott Cairn’s next to each other, they are very different in period and style and yet both poets have something of the same heady mix of sensual attention, intellectual muscle, and rich spirituality.

But I also wanted a continuous thread of beauty, of something magical and numinous. Grevel’s poem, beautiful in itself, also speaks to the reader about looking out for beauty, threading beautiful glimpses together, which is very much what I hope will be happening in this anthology.

Image courtesy of Lancia Smith

Image courtesy of Lancia Smith


Filed under christianity, literature

Waiting on the Word: Advent Poetry and Events

Waiting on the Word

Waiting on the Word

The last Sunday of this month will see the beginning of Advent. I have just published Waiting on the Word, a new Anthology which offers the reader a poem a day throughout Advent and on through Christmas and Epiphany. I also offer a little reflective essay to go with each poem, which I hope will help the reader to get into the depths of the poem more easily and will draw out some of the Advent Themes and the way the poems link to each other. The book works entirely as a stand-alone thing and could be used privately or in groups, but I shall also be recording each poem and will post a recording of my reading of that day’s poem for each day of Advent on this blog, so that readers of the book who wish to, can also hear the poem being read. Readers of this blog can of course also enjoy hearing the poems, and might like to get hold of the book (which is also on Kindle) so that they can follow along the text and read the interpretive essay. I am also delighted to announce that Lancia Smith, the photographer and interviewer, will be posting a unique image for each day’s poem and you will be able to see those too on this website as well as on her excellent site Cultivating The True the Good and the Beautiful

If you would like to come along and hear some of the poetry read live, or to buy a signed copy of the book, then do come along to any of the following four events, all clustered around the beginning of Advent:

Friday 27th November 7:3pm: O Come O Come; an evening of poetry and reflection for Advent

St. Bennet’s Church, Bennet Street, Cambridge

Wednesday 2nd December 6pm: ‘Advent with Paula Gooder and Malcolm Guite’

St. Matthew’s Church 20 Great Peter street London SW1P 2BU Full Details HERE

Saturday 5th December 2-5pm: Advent Reflections on Waiting on The Word, including book signing and short service

Hatley St George Church, near Gamlingay, Cambridgeshire Further information from

Sunday 6th December: 1-2pm Sunday Forum at St Paul’s Cathedral, London with readings from Waiting on The Word

full details HERE

Advent Malcolm Guite (1)Advent reflections with Malcolm Guite Hatley St George Church December 5 2015

Paula event

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Filed under christianity, literature, Theology and Arts

All Saints and All Souls: A Last Beatitude

‘the faithful server’s on the coffee rota’

At this season of the year, on the 1st and 2nd of November, the Church keeps the feast two days running, with a pair of feasts; All Saints and All Souls, each of which begins with that wonderfully Biblical and inclusive little word  All. I remember the effect that little word had on me, coming again and again in the verses of psalm 145, when I read that psalm a little before my conversion, how as each ‘all’ seemed to widen the circle of God’s love, till I began to wonder if even I might be included in one of those alls.. Do you remember them?

9The LORD is loving to everyone *

and his compassion is over all his works.

10All your works praise you, O LORD, *

and your faithful servants bless you.


14The LORD is faithful in all his words *

and merciful in all his deeds.

15The LORD upholds all those who fall; *

he lifts up all those who are bowed down.

16The eyes of all wait upon you, O LORD, *

and you give them their food in due season.

17You open wide your hand *

and satisfy the needs of every living creature.

18The LORD is righteous in all his ways *

and loving in all his works.

19The LORD is near to all who call upon him, *

to all who call upon him faithfully.

In the end it was those two little alls in verse 14 that included me; ‘The Lord upholdeth all such as fall: and lifteth up all those that are down.’

Anyway to return to the two lovely alls of these feasts, All Saints and All Souls, I have been reflecting on how easy it is for us to be partial and selective, where God is generous inclusive, and especially of how when we think of great saints and holy souls, we tend immediately to think of already prominent people, the writers and teachers of the church, the priests and prophets, the big historical figures, people who already have a bit of the spotlight, people whom the world also admires. So in the spirit of the Beatitudes, and of Psalm 145, I thought I’d add to my sonnet sequence for this season, a little sonnet about the ones we overlook, but whom God knows and loves intimately. Its called A Last Beatitude. As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button. I borrowed the lovely image of serving coffee from the website of St. Laurence church Cowley Rd

This sonnet is  from Sounding the Seasons, the collection of my sonnets for the church year, published by Canterbury Press,

If your church is marking all saints or all souls day do feel free to print the words or use the recording.

A Last Beatitude

And blessèd are the ones we overlook;

The faithful servers on the coffee rota,

The ones who hold no candle, bell or book

But keep the books and tally up the quota,

The gentle souls who come to ‘do the flowers’,

The quiet ones who organise the fete,

Church sitters who give up their weekday hours,

Doorkeepers who may open heaven’s gate.

God knows the depths that often go unspoken

Amongst the shy, the quiet, and the kind,

Or the slow healing of a heart long broken

Placing each flower so for a year’s mind.

Invisible on earth, without a voice,

In heaven their angels glory and rejoice.


Filed under christianity, Poems, St. Edward's