Category Archives: imagination

A sonnet for St. Benedict

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On July the 11th the Church celebrates the feast of St. Benedict of Nursia, the gentle founder of the Benedictine order and by extension the father of Monasticism. A moderate and modest man he would have been astonished to learn that his ‘simple school for prayer’, his ‘modest rule for beginners’ led to the foundation of communities which kept the Christian flame alight through dark ages, preserved not only Christian faith, scripture, and culture,but also the best of Classical Pagan learning and culture, fed the poor, transformed societies, promoted learning and scholarship, and today provides solace, grounding, perspective and retreat not only to monks and nuns but to millions of lay people around the world.
Here is my sonnet for Benedict, drawing largely on phrases from the Rule, I dedicate it to the sisters at Turvey Abbey. It appears in my new book with Canterbury Press, The Singing Bowl

The book is now back in stock on bothAmazon UK and USA and physical copies are available in Canada via Steve Bell. It is now also out on Kindle. Please feel free to make use of this, and my other sonnets in church services and to copy and share them. If you can mention the book from which they are taken that would be great.

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

Benedict

You sought to start a simple school of prayer,
A modest, gentle, moderate attempt,
With nothing made too harsh or hard to bear,
No treating or retreating with contempt,
A little rule, a small obedience
That sets aside, and tills the chosen ground,
Fruitful humility, chosen innocence,
A binding by which freedom might be found

You call us all to live, and see good days,
Centre in Christ and enter in his peace,
To seek his Way amidst our many ways,
Find blessedness in blessing, peace in praise,
To clear and keep for Love a sacred space
That we might be beginners in God’s grace.

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Parable and Paradox: A Biblical Index

Parable and Paradox hi resI am pleased to know that Parable and Paradox is finding a wide readership, and I know that a number of readers hope to use the book as a resource in worship and preaching. To that end I thought it might be helpful to provide a full Biblical Index. For all the sonnets on specific sayings of Jesus, I provide the text of the saying directly before the sonnet in the book itself, but there are of course many wider Biblical references and people preparing to preach or pray from a particular text may wish to look it up here and see if there is a poem that might help them.

Those wishing to know more about the book and my hopes and purpose in writing it, might like to read the in-depth interview about it conducted by Lancia Smith Here

Here is the index:

Parable and Paradox: A Biblical Index

 

Genesis:         1:1 -2:3 Seven Whole Days pp: 79-82

18:1-16 Abraham and Sarah at Mamre p: 22

32:22-32 Jacob Wrestles with the Angel p:23

 

Exodus           3:13-15 Before Abraham Was I Am p: 55

 

Matthew        4:17 Repent p: 29

4:30-32 The Lest of All Seeds p: 34

5:3-12 Beatitudes p: 30

5:29-30 Better To Enter Life Maimed p: 41

5:42 As If p: 31

6:9-13 Seven Sonnets on the Lord’s Prayer pp: 65-71

6:24 The Mammon of Unrighteousness p: 43

10:34-35 A Sword p: 40

10:40 Whoever Welcomes p: 37

11:15 ‘He Who Has Ears To Hear p: 28

13:3-9 The Sower p: 48

13:31-32 The Least of All Seeds p: 34

13:33 Like Unto Leaven p: 32

15:21-28 It’s Not Fair! p: 35

18:5 Whoever Welcomes p: 37

18:8-9 Better To Enter Life Maimed p: 41

18:23-35 Forgive as We Forgive p: 69

19:30 First And Last p: 72

24:29-31 World’s End p: 73

25:40 A sonnet for the Unseen p: 11

25:41 Refusal p: 74

26:52 By The Sword 49

28:20 I Will Be with You p: 78

 

Mark              1:15 Repent p: 29

4:1-9 The Sower p: 48

4:24 Good Measure p: 47

7:24-30 It’s Not Fair! P: 35

7:31-37 Be Opened p: 36

8:4-8 The Sower p: 48

8:31-33 Get Thee Behind Me Satan p: 38

9:36-37 Whoever Welcomes p: 37

9:43 Better To Enter Life Maimed p: 41

10:21 Sell All You Have p: 42

10:31 First and Last p: 72

12:28-31 Five Dialogues on the Two Great Commandments pp: 50-54

13:24-29 World’s End p: 73

 

Luke               2:21 The Naming of Jesus p: 27

6:20-23 Beatitudes p: 30

6:29-30 As If p: 31

6:37 Imagine p: 46

6:38 Good Measure p: 47

9:48 Whoever Welcomes p: 37

10:27 Five Dialogues on the Two Great Commandments pp: 50-54

10:25-37 The Good Samaritan p: 44

11:2-4 Seven Sonnets on the Lord’s Prayer pp 65-71

11:33 Beatitudes p: 30

12:51-53 A Sword p: 40

13:18-19 The Least Of All Seeds p: 34

13:20-21 Like Unto Leaven p: 32

13:30 First and Last p: 72

16: 9 & 13 The Mammon of Unrighteousness p: 43

21:25-28 World’s End p: 73

23:24 Father Forgive p: 75

24:17 Emmaus 1 p: 76

24:25-26 Emmaus 2 p: 77

 

John                3:16-17 So Loved The World p: 33

6:35 I Am The Bread Of Life p: 56

6:68 The Words of Life p: 39

8:12 I Am the Light of the World p: 57

8:58 Before Abraham Was I Am p: 55

10:7 I Am the Door of the Sheepfold p: 58

10:11 I Am the Good Shepherd 59

11:25 I Am the Resurrection p: 60

11:43 He Who Has Ears to Hear p: 28

12:24 A Grain of Wheat p: 63

14:1-3 Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled p: 64

14:6 I Am the Way the Truth and the Life p: 61

15:5 I Am the Vine p: 62

 

Acts                9:1-19 Paul Blinded Being Led Into Damascus p 24

 

Romans         2:1 Imagine p: 46

 

Colossians 1:15-17 Everything Holds Together p: 1

 

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A track from my new album!

Saying the Names by Faye Hall

Saying the Names by Faye Hall

I am delighted to say that we are well on with the project of recording my new record Songs and Sonnets, produced by Roy Salmond and Steve Bell. As a taster I thought I would share with you one of the poems on the record; Saying the Names. It was the poem which inspired the Faye Hall Painting that adorns the cover of the record. I had written the poem out by hand for her and she in turn incorporated these hand written lines from the poem throughout her painting, which I hope you can see in the image above. We are nearly, but not quite ‘there’ in our attempts to raise the funds to make this album’s production and release possible and if you would like to go over to the Gofundme Page‘, take a look at the video which tells you more and decide whether you would like to support it, that would be great. The record has both spoken word and song, and some of the poems also have a gentle musical or soundscape commentary as you will hear when you listen to this one. I hope you enjoy it. You can listen to the poem on Roy’s Soundcloud Page by clicking on the title, or from my files by clicking on the ‘play’ button. I have also given you all the words of the poem on this page. It was first published in my Canterbury Press book The Singing Bowl

 

Saying the Names

Dawn over Amble, and along the coast

light on the tide flows to Northumberland,

silvers the scales of herring freshly caught

and glowing in their boxes on the dock,

shivers the rainbow sheen on drops of diesel,

and lights, at last, the North Sea fishing fleet.

Tucked into harbour here, their buoyant lines

lift to the light on plated prows their names,

the ancient names picked out in this year’s paint:

Providence, Bold Venture, Star Divine

are first along the quay-side. Fruitful Bough

has stemmed the tides to bring her harvest in,

Orcadian Mist and Sacred Heart, Aspire,

their names are numinous, a found poem.

Those Bible-burnished phrases live and lift

into the brightening tide of morning light

and beg to be recited, chanted out,

for names are incantations, mysteries

made manifest like ships on the horizon.

Eastward their long line tapers towards dawn

and ends at last with Freedom, Radiant Morn.

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Columba and my calling.

A fierce dove racing in a fiercer gale

A fierce dove racing in a fiercer gale

June the 9th is Saint Columba’s day, a saint who has a special place for me, as somehow, he feels bound up in my own journey to Faith. When I was 19, and moving from  atheism, towards a greater spiritual openness, but by no means yet a Christian, I went for a long slow walk round Ireland. I went without a map because the Zen practice in which I was interested at the time, and on which I still draw in prayer, was always emphasizing ‘The map is not the reality”! You must utterly and absolutely be in the place you’re in, and let that place be what it is and teach what it has to teach without any overlay from your maps and preconceptions. So I took that literally and walked round Ireland without  a map, just keeping the sea on my left! One evening, St. John’s Eve it was, right at the end of my journey, I came round a headland at sunset into a beautiful little bay and inlet on the west coast in Donegal, just as the fires were being lit around the headlands for St. John’s Eve, and there was drinking and fiddle playing and dancing round the fires that evening. And I asked where I was, and they said Glencolmcille, and I felt a sudden quickening and sense of connection, as though a memory stirred. And they asked me my name and I said ‘Malcolm’, and they said, ‘Ah that is why you have come, because he has called you’, and I said ‘who?’ and they said ‘Colm has called you, Malcolm, for this is the place he fought his battle and gathered his disciples and from here he left for the white martyrdom and Scotland. And they told me the story of St. Columba, and the battle he had fought, of his repentance, his self-imposed exile, his journey with twelve disciples from this glen to Scotland where he founded the abbey of Iona from whence Scotland and much of the north of England was converted. ‘Of course he is calling you here’, they said, ‘for your name, in Gaelic means’ servant of Colm’, which is Columba. And as they spoke I remembered at last, right back into my childhood, how I had been told stories about this saint, and how I was named for him, and how my grandmother had published poems about him and sung her lullaby for the infant Columba over me as a child. I wandered down to the shore whence he had set sail and felt how thin the veil was, how something of heaven, whatever heaven might be, seemed to glimmer through the sky and the sea itself in this place. And I thought: ‘I’m not a Christian, and I don’t see how I could ever become one, but if I do ever become one, I’ll remember Columba and I’ll go to Iona and thank him’. Which I did, and I did. Now here’s my sonnet for the saint. This poem is now collected in my book The Singing Bowl from Canterbury Press which you can get on amazon, or better still, order from your local bookshop! If you are in Canada you can get it direct from the excellent Steve Bell’s online store Here

Columba

 You called me and I came to Colmcille

To learn at last the meaning of my name

Though you yourself were called, and not the caller,

He called through you and when He called I came.

Came to the edge at last, in Donegal,

Where bonfires burned and music lit the flame

As from the shore I glimpsed that ragged sail

The Spirit filled to drive you from your  home,

A fierce dove racing in a fiercer gale,

A swift wing flashing between sea and sky.

And with that glimpse I knew that I  would fly

And find you out and serve you for a season,

My heaven hidden like your native isle,

Though somehow glimmering on each horizon.

Glencolmcille, scene of a small epiphany

Glencolmcille, scene of a small epiphany

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A Trio of Sonnets for Corpus Christi

The Feast of Corpus Christi (the Body of Christ), which falls this year on the 26th of May, is really a celebration of the sacrament of Holy Communion. In mediaeval times there used to be wonderful processions in which the consecrated elements were taken out of the church on this day and processed on the streets, showing that the Word made flesh was not just in a box labelled ‘church’ but in our midst, just as He was on the streets of Nazareth and Jerusalem. Rebecca Merry‘s lovely art work ( above) has the feel of those mediaeval ‘showings’ on Corpus Christi.

For my contribution to Corpus Christi I am offering here a trio of sonnets about the experience of receiving Holy Communion, each from a slightly different angle. The first two sonnets were published in Sounding the Seasons, my cycle of seventy sonnets for the Church Year.The book is now back in stock on both Amazon UK and USA and physical copies are shortly to be available in Canada via Steve Bell. It is now also out on Kindle. Please feel free to make use of this, and my other sonnets in church services and to copy and share them. If you can mention the book from which they are taken that would be great. The third sonnet, which is about the 16th Century Oak communion Table in my church St. Edward King and Martyr, is from my book The Singing Bowl also published by Canterbury Press

Margot Krebs Neale has reflected on my phrases ‘He does not come in unimagined light ‘ and ‘to dye himself into experience’ with an image not simply of a stained glass window but of that dyed and refracted light itself reflected in water. I am grateful both to Rebecca and Margot for the way their work reflects on and develops mine. As always you can hear me read the poetry by clicking on the play button above each sonnet, if it appears, or on the title of the poem itself.


1 Love’s Choice

This bread is light, dissolving, almost air,

A little visitation on my tongue,

A wafer-thin sensation, hardly there.

This taste of wine is brief in flavour, flung

A moment to the palate’s roof and fled,

Even its aftertaste a memory.

Yet this is how He comes. Through wine and bread

Love chooses to be emptied into me.

He does not come in unimagined light

Too bright to be denied, too absolute

For consciousness, too strong for sight,

Leaving the seer blind, the poet mute;

Chooses instead to seep into each sense,

To dye himself into experience.

He does not come in unimagined light…


2 Hide and Seek

Ready or not, you tell me, here I come!

And so I know I’m hiding, and I know

My hiding-place is useless. You will come

And find me. You are searching high and low.

Today I’m hiding low, down here, below,

Below the sunlit surface others see.

Oh find me quickly, quickly come to me.

And here you come and here I come to you.

I come to you because you come to me.

You know my hiding places. I know you,

I reach you through your hiding-places too;

Touching the slender thread, but now I see –

Even in darkness I can see you shine,

Risen in bread, and revelling in wine.

3 This Table

The centuries have settled on this table
Deepened the grain beneath a clean white cloth
Which bears afresh our changing elements.
Year after year of prayer, in hope and trouble,
Were poured out here and blessed and broken, both
In aching absence and in absent presence.

This table too the earth herself has given
And human hands have made. Where candle-flame
At corners burns and turns the air to light
The oak once held its branches up to heaven,
Blessing the elements which it became,
Rooting the dew and rain, branching the light.

Because another tree can bear, unbearable,
For us, the weight of Love, so can this table

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A Sonnet for Trinity Sunday

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Continuing my cycle of sonnets for the Church year. Here is one for Trinity Sunday which I am posting a few days before, in case people would like to make use of it tomorrow.

By coming to us as the Son, revealing to us the Father, and sending to us the Spirit, Jesus revealed the deepest mystery; that God is not distant and alone, but is three in one, a communion of love who comes to make His home with us.

The Rublev Icon, above, shows the Three in One inviting us to share in that communion. If, as I believe, we are made in the image of God, as beings in communion with one another in the name of that Holy and Undivided Trnity whose being is communion, then we will find reflections and traces of the Trinitarian mystery in all our loving and making. I have tried to suggest this throughout the poem and especially in the phrase ‘makes us each the other’s inspiration’ and Margot Krebs Neale has taken this idea of mutual and coinherent inspiration and remaking in the remarkable image she has made in response to this sonnet which follows the poem, an image which involves the mutually -inspired work of three artists and is one picture woven of three images. She writes to me about this image:

“The Triune Poet makes us for His glory,

And makes us each the other’s inspiration.”

sent me in this direction…


The picture of you is by Lancia Smith

the picture of me is by Peter Nixon

the picture of the infinite is by an artist i don’t know

the composition is by me

As usual you can hear the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button if it appears or on the title of the poem.

Readers who are interested in my use of the word ‘coinherent’ will find out more by watching the video of my talk about the British theologian Charles Williams, a friend and fellow inkling of CS Lewis which can be found here.

This sonnet is drawn from my collection Sounding the Seasons, published by Canterbury Press here in England. The book is now back in stock on both Amazon UK and USA and physical copies are now available in Canada via Steve Bell. It is now also out on Kindle. Please feel free to make use of this, and my other sonnets in church services and to copy and share them. If you can mention the book from which they are taken that would be great..

Trinity Sunday

In the Beginning, not in time or space,

But in the quick before both space and time,

In Life, in Love, in co-inherent Grace,

In three in one and one in three, in rhyme,

In music, in the whole creation story,

In His own image, His imagination,

The Triune Poet makes us for His glory,

And makes us each the other’s inspiration.

He calls us out of darkness, chaos, chance,

To improvise a music of our own,

To sing the chord that calls us to the dance,

Three notes resounding from a single tone,

To sing the End in whom we all begin;

Our God beyond, beside us and within.

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7 sonnets on the Lord’s Prayer: 7 Thine is the Kingdom

given glories and a hidden Kingdom

given glories and a hidden Kingdom

This is the  last in the sequence of seven sonnets on the Lord’s Prayer which I am posting this week as part of the Church Of England’s Thy Kingdom Come week of prayer leading up to Pentecost. The Sonnets will be published together in my new book Parable and Paradox at the end of this month.

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

I am grateful to Philippa Pearson for choosing the images that accompany this series.

 

Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory

 

The kingdom and the power and the glory,

The very things we all want for ourselves!

We want to be the hero of the story

And leave the others on their dusty shelves.

How subtly we seek to keep the kingdom,

How brutally we hold on to the power,

Our glory always means another’s thralldom,

But still we strut and fret our little hour.

 

What might it mean to let it go forever,

To die to all that desperate desire,

To give the glory wholly to another,

Throw all we hold into that holy fire?

A wrenching loss and then a sudden freedom

In given glories and a hidden kingdom.

 

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