Category Archives: imagination

A Website Revamp (and cheese…)

poets curdle words until they bite

poets curdle words until they bite

This is just to let you know that I have had a little go at simplifying and improving this website. The blog works just as it always did and still gives you new poems and a searchable archive of all the old ones, together with recordings of them all. You can now use the tabs above to navigate to the Books Events and Home pages which have all been updated. There is a new page (also clickable on the tabs above called ‘Interviews‘ which gathers in one place links to various interviews I have given about my work, life and faith, particularly to the sequence of interviews on Lancia Smith’s excellent website Cultivating The True The Good and the Beautiful.

The other new thing is that I now have a dedicated email address for any enquiries about readings, lectures or performances, which is and can be found permanently on the Home Page. I hope these simplifications and improvements will be helpful.

In other news, here is a poem about cheese (and poetry)! As usual you can hear the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button.

‘The Poets Have Been Mysteriously Silent About Cheese’ GK Chesterton


Poets have been silent about cheese

Because whilst every  subject is the message,

Cheese is the very medium of their work.

We drink in language with our mothers milk,

But poets curdle words until they bite,

With substance and a flavour of their own:

So Donne is sharp and Geoffrey Hill is sour,

Larkin ascerbic, Tennyson has power

(But only taken late at night with port.)

,I like them all and sample every sort

From creamy Keats with his ‘mossed cottage trees’,

Tasting the words themselves like cottage cheese,

To Eliot, difficult, in cold collations,

Crumbling, and stuffed with other folk’s quotations.


Filed under imagination, Poems

Everything Holds Together

A while back I had an interesting, and indeed beautiful request from the talented singer-songwriter Alana Levandoski. She was making a new Album which would be a musical meditation on the great Hymn to Christ in the first chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, would I write a poem on Colossians 1:15-17 and read it so it could be woven into the music? I would be working alongside other poets like Scott Cairns and Luci Shaw. Would I do it? You bet I would!

here are the verses in Colossians that were the starting point:

He is the image of the unseen God, the first-born of all creation, for in him were created all things in heaven and on earth: everything visible and everything invisible, thrones, ruling forces, sovereignties, powers — all things were created through him and for him. He exists before all things and in him all things hold together.

Now the Album, Behold I Make All Things New, has come out and it is beautiful! Here is the poem. the Greek phrase in the poem ‘Eikon tou theou, means image of God and is taken directly from the Greek text of Paul’s letter

Everything Holds Together


Everything holds together, everything,

From stars that pierce the dark like living sparks,

To secret seeds that open every spring,

From spanning galaxies to spinning quarks,

Everything holds together and coheres,

Unfolding from the center whence it came.

And now that hidden heart of things appears,

The first-born of creation takes a name.


And shall I see the one through whom I am?

Shall I behold the one for whom I’m made,

The light in light, the flame within the flame,

Eikon tou theou, image of my God?

He comes, a little child, to bless my sight,

That I might come to him for life and light.

As usual you can hear me read it by clicking on the title or play button, but better still you can hear it with Alana’s music, hear the other three poems that are woven in with it and see the beautiful paintings by Julie Ann Stevens that go with the Album. You can check out Alana’s website here.


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Filed under christianity, imagination, Music, paintings, Poems

Whoever Welcomes

Icon of Christ with the Children

Icon of Christ with the Children

I come now to a reflection on the passage in chapter 9 in Mark’s gospel in which Jesus welcomes the child into the midst and then unfolds for us the very meaning of welcome, indeed unfolds the whole Gospel as a kind of welcome:

Mark 9 :36-37

Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’


I love the way each welcome seems nested and folded inside the other and it prompted this sonnet as part of my work in progress ‘Parable and Paradox. It was just after I had finished writing this poem that I first saw the terrible image of Aylan Kurdie’s little body washed up on the beach which only gave added urgency to our need to recover a gospel of welcome. In some ways this sonnet is a companion piece to my sonnet ‘Be Opened’

As always you can hear the sonnet by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button

Whoever Welcomes

‘Welcome’, the word is always on your lips,

Each welcome warms another one inside,

An interleaving of relationships,

An open door where arms are open wide.

First welcome to the child and through the child

A welcome to the Saviour of the world

And through the Saviour’s welcome all are called

Home to the Father’s heart. Each call is curled

And nested in another, as you were

Nested and nestled in your mother’s womb,

As Mary carried One who carried her,

And we are wrapped in you, deep in the tomb,

Where you turn our rejection into welcome,

And death itself becomes our welcome home.



Filed under christianity, imagination

A Sonnet for St. Matthew’s Day

St. Matthew by Rebbecca Merry

September the 21st is St. Matthew’s day, so here, once more, is a sonnet for the Evangelist, drawn from my sonnet sequence Sounding the Seasons. Like my sonnets for the other three evangelists, it draws on the traditional association of each evangelist with one of the four living creatures around the throne of God. As I repost this in the midst of the current refugee crisis the final couplet seems more pressing than ever, as one aspect or another of things unfolding around us bring some facet of the gospel into even sharper focus.

As always you can hear it by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button. I am grateful to Rebecca Merry for the image above.


First of the four, saint Matthew is the Man;
A gospel that begins with generation,
Family lines entwine around the Son
Born in Judea, born for every nation
Born under Law that all the Law of Moses
Might be fulfilled and flower into Grace
As every word and deed in time discloses
Eternal love within a human face.

This is the gospel of the great reversal
A wayside weed is Solomon in glory
The smallest sparrow’s fall is universal
And Christ the heart of every human story
‘I will be with you, though you may not see
And all you do, you do it unto me’


Filed under christianity, imagination, literature, Poems

Be Opened

Ephphatha-Be-opened-300x198I have been meditating on the sayings of Jesus for my new poetry sequence Parable and Paradox, and as I reflected on the astonishing story in Mark 7:31-37 about the healing of the deaf and dumb man I was struck by how powerful and resonant was Jesus’ command ‘Be Opened!’. Mark thought it so important that he gave it to us in Aramaic as well as Greek: Ephthatha! Be Opened’.

I believe that all the sayings of Jeus recorded in the Gospels are not only his words to those particular people there and then, but are also his words to each of us individually, and to all of us collectively as the church and, more widely, as humanity, words that come to us quietly sometimes, or suddenly in crisis, but we must have ears to hear. As the church closes ranks against the world, as the world divides and fights against itself, as the razor wires go up around the edge of europe and the borders of the comfortable close against the needy, I feel more and more the urgency of Jesus great command Be opened!

As always you can hear my sonnet by clicking on the ‘play’ button or the title

Be opened


Mark 7: 31-37

31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ 35And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37They were astounded beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’

Be opened. Oh if only we might be!

Speak to a heart that’s closed in on itself:

‘Be opened and the truth will set you free’,

Speak to a world imprisoned in its wealth:

‘Be opened! Learn to learn from poverty’,

Speak to a church that closes and excludes,

And makes rejection its own litany:

‘Be opened, opened to the multitudes

For whom I died but whom you have dismissed

Be opened, opened, opened,’ how you sigh

And still we do not hear you. We have missed

Both cry and crisis, we make no reply.

Take us aside, for we are deaf and dumb

Spit on us Lord and touch each tongue-tied tongue.


Syrian migrants cross under a fence as they enter Hungary at the border with Serbia, near Roszke, August 27, 2015. Hungary made plans on Wednesday to reinforce its southern border with helicopters, mounted police and dogs, and was also considering using the army as record numbers of migrants, many of them Syrian refugees, passed through coils of razor-wire into Europe. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX1PU25

Syrian migrants cross under a fence as they enter Hungary at the border with Serbia, near Roszke, August 27, 2015. Hungary made plans on Wednesday to reinforce its southern border with helicopters, mounted police and dogs, and was also considering using the army as record numbers of migrants, many of them Syrian refugees, passed through coils of razor-wire into Europe. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RTX1PU25



Filed under christianity, imagination, Poems

Smoke Rings From My Pipe

A free man blowing smoke rings from his pipe (Photo Lancia Smith)

A free man blowing smoke rings from his pipe (Photo Lancia Smith)

I have been reading a collection of Ballades by GK Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc and their friends and it prompted this more playful piece of light verse about the pleasures of smoking my pipe and composing verse in the ‘Temple of Peace’, my trysting place with the muse. I have slightly tweaked the Ballade form by playing variations on the repeating line rather than simply repeating it verbatim. You can hear the poem, as usual, by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button. The atmospheric photo is by the wonderful photographer Lancia Smith. I hope you all enjoy this, it goes out particularly to my generous friend Jerry Root who gave me one of the most beautiful pipes I possess.

Smoke Rings From My Pipe

All the long day’s weariness is done

I’m free at last to do just as I will

Take out my pipe, admire the setting sun

Practice the art of simply sitting still

Thank God I have this briar bowl to fill,

I leave the world with all its hopeless hype,

Its pressures, and its ever-ringing till,

And let it go in smoke rings from my pipe


The hustle and the bustle, these I shun

The tasks that trouble and the cares that kill,

The false idea that there’s a race to run,

The pushing of that weary stone uphill,

The wretched i-phone’s all-insistent trill,

Whingers and whiners, each with their own gripe,

I pack them in tobacco leaves until

They’re blown away in smoke rings from my pipe


And then at last my real work is begun,

My chance to chant, to exercise the skill

Of summoning the muses, one by one,

To meet me in their temple, touch my quill

( I have a pen but quills are better still)

And when the soul is full, the time is ripe

Kindle the fire of poetry that will

Breathe and expand like smoke-rings from my pipe


Prince I have done with grinding at the mill,

These petty-pelting tyrants aren’t my type,

So lift me up and set me on a hill,

A free man blowing smoke rings from his pipe.



Filed under imagination

Come to the Launch of Waiting on the Word

Waiting on the Word

I am happy to announce that my new book Waiting On The Word is published by Canterbury Press this coming Monday. It is a companion volume to ‘The Word in the Wilderness’, my anthology of poetry for Lent, Holy Week and Easter, so if you enjoyed that I hope you will enjoy this. Waiting on the Word gives you a poem, and an opening out and reflection on that poem for every day from Advent Sunday, through to Christmas and beyond to the feast of Epiphany and the coming of the Wise Men.

Advent is to Christmas what Lent is to Easter, but sadly Advent has been swallowed up in the rush, the busyness and pressure to consume that dominate the Christmas Season. This book offers you the chance to step back and set a little time, about five minutes, each day to awaken your soul and kindle your imagination to prepare for and contemplate the great and joyful mystery which Christmas celebrates. I have chosen great poems from the past, by poets like Christina Rosetti, George Herbert, and Edmund Spenser, but I have also included some wonderful poems by distinguished contemporary poets like Scott Cairns and Luci Shaw. I have also included some of my own poems, some which may be familiar, like my sonnets on the Advent Antiphons, and some which are entirely new and have not been published before. After each poem I have written a brief reflection to help readers appreciate the depths of the poem itself and also to offer some thoughts and meditations on what it means to read that poem in our own day and age. I hope you enjoy it.

To launch the book into the world there will be a free event at Otley Hall, the beautiful, but easily accessible Elizabethan moated grange in Suffolk, and I would be glad if any readers of this blog could join me there for wine and cheese, some readings from the book and from my other poems, and a chance to meet and chat, and, if you wish, to buy a signed copy at a discount. Full details are below. For those who cannot make this event I have also listed below the other events between now and Advent at which you will be able to hear me read and buy a copy of the book. The book will of course also be available, from the end of this month, from the Publisher, Canterbury, from Amazon, and to order from your local Bookshop. I will be posting some little extracts from the book on this blog over the course of September and October.

You are invited to the Launch of

Waiting on the Word

an anthology of poems and reflections for

Advent, Christmas and Epiphany

At Otley Hall, Hall Lane, Otley, Ipswich, IP6 9PA

Thursday September 3rd, 6:30-8pm

This free event will include poetry readings, refreshments, and an opportunity to by signed copies at a discount

Contact for bookings and further details

Otley Hall

Otley Hall

Further events:

Friday 23rd of October 4pm Poetry reading at Sarum College Bookshop

Saturday 5th of December An Advent reflective afternoon with poems from Waiting on the Word starts 2pm at St. George’s Church, Hatley St. George

Sunday 6th December 12:30 ‘Sunday Forum’ at St. Paul’s Cathedral

an introduction to and readings from Waiting on the Word


Filed under imagination