Category Archives: Theology and Arts

Songs and Sonnets: A New Venture!

Recording at Whitewater Studio

Recording at Whitewater Studio

In the midst of the stream of poetry that usually fills these posts I thought I’d pause to tell you all about a new venture in which I’m involved. My good Friends Steve Bell, Roy Salmond, and David Jennings have cooked up a plan for me to record an album combining my songs and poetry together in a single new work. the record will be called Songs and Sonnets. It will contain a new suite of songs together with new recordings of some favourites like The Green Man and Angels Unawares, but these will be interleaved with professional quality recordings of me reading a number of my poems, including many from my forthcoming book Parable and Paradox.

Uniquely these recordings will also include some versions of the poems with musical accompaniment and also with instrumentals by Steve Bell linking together some of the poetry sequences. I have already done my part of the recording in a series of wonderful sessions at Roy Salmond’s Whitewater Studio in British Columbia. Now Roy and Steve are bringing together a great group of professional musicians, design artists, and others to produce the final album and master it in the studio. In order to do this they need to raise some funds so that the musicians and others get properly paid and the whole record is produced to the highest possible standard. They have set up a crowdfunding Page here, and we have put together an entertaining video on that page to explain the whole project.

I am very honoured and moved that they have wanted to do this and taken the risks involved. In all the years I’ve run this blog I have always wanted everything on it to be free and will continue to keep everything here free, so I have never appealed for funds myself. But if you have enjoy these pages and make use of the poetry here, perhaps you could click the link and take a look at Steve And Roy’s Gofundme page and perhaps watch the video, If you feel able to share the link, or better still support the project in anyway I would be very grateful and so would they.

Songs and Sonnets as we hope it will eventually appear!

Songs and Sonnets as we hope it will eventually appear!

As a little sample of what’s to come, here are the lyrics of one of the new songs ‘Eyrie’ and a recording of an early ‘rough cut’ of the song to give you a glimpse of a little of what it might sound like on the finished record. I wrote this song in Durham North Carolina when I was artist in residence at duke University. I was staying high up in a little ‘eyrie’ in the attic of an old house and I composed the song very late one night on a guitar borrowed from a friend whilst I watched  a patch of moonlight, which poured in from the skylight above, making its way in bright reflections across the floor. I hope you enjoy it.

Malcolm

Eyrie

 

I

High in my eyrie in North Carolina

I take up your tender guitar

I’m thinking of home and all that I’ve left there

And maybe I’ve travelled too far

 

The skylight is open, the moonlight is brimming

And waltzing its way cross the floor

My body is aching and wants to be sleeping 

but my spirit is asking for more

 

High in my eyrie in North Carolina

I’m singing a song to the moon

And maybe it’s too late to learn from her waning

Or maybe it’s really too soon

 

II

I’ve travelled the low road and watched it unravel

I’m giving the high road a try

I’ll follow that highway and see where it leads me

And keep the bright moon in my eye

 

The heart is wide open, the true life is brimming

And yearning to come flowing through 

I lay down my burden and walk to the well head

And drink and then bring some to you

 

I traveled the low road and watched it unravel

But now on the high road  I roam

The long road, the straight road the old road the true road

The road that’ll lead me back home

 

III

I’m high in my eyrie in North Carolina

And soon I’ll return your guitar

It gave me this song and it brought me your blessing

I’ll hear it one day from afar

 

The skylight is open, the skyway is waiting

It’s time for this man to take flight

When you touch your guitar and it sings through your fingers

Give thanks for a song in the night

 

I’m down from my eyrie in North Carolina

And out through the ways of the world

And I’m leaving my love with the moon at the window

Hung high in the night like a pearl.

With Roy Salmond at the mixing desk

With Roy Salmond at the mixing desk

 

 

 

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A Sonnet for Trinity Sunday

20110619-000808.jpg

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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A Sonnet for Ascension Day

 Here is a sonnet for Ascension Day, May 5th this year, the glorious finale of the Easter Season.

In the mystery of the Ascension we reflect on the way in which, one sense Christ ‘leaves’ us and is taken away into Heaven, but in another sense he is given to us and to the world in a new and more universal way. He is no longer located only in one physical space to the exclusion of all others. He is in the Heaven which is at the heart of all things now and is universally accessible to all who call upon Him. And since His humanity is taken into Heaven, our humanity belongs there too, and is in a sense already there with him.”For you have died”, says St. Paul, “and your life is hidden with Christ in God”. In the Ascension Christ’s glory is at once revealed and concealed, and so is ours.  The sonnet form seemed to me one way to begin to tease these things out.

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 also available in Canada via Steve Bell. The book 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 if it appears in your browser or by clicking on the title of the poem.

I’m grateful to Oliver Neale for the image above, the image below was taken as we launched rockets to celebrate Ascension day at Girton College:

We have lift off!

Ascension

We saw his light break through the cloud of glory
Whilst we were rooted still in time and place
As earth became a part of Heaven’s story
And heaven opened to his human face.
We saw him go and yet we were not parted
He took us with him to the heart of things
The heart that broke for all the broken-hearted
Is whole and Heaven-centred now, and sings,
Sings in the strength that rises out of weakness,
Sings through the clouds that veil him from our sight,
Whilst we our selves become his clouds of witness
And sing the waning darkness into light,
His light in us, and ours in him concealed,
Which all creation waits to see revealed .

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A Sonnet for the Annunciation

We miss the shimmer of the angels’ wings

The feast of the annunciation usually falls on March 25th, but this year, because that day was also GoodFriday, it has been transferred to April 4th. The Annunciation, the visit of Gabriel to the blessed virgin Mary, is that mysterious moment of awareness, assent and transformation in which eternity touches time. In my own small take on this mystery I have thought about vision, about what we allow ourselves to be aware of, and also about freedom, the way all things turn on our discernment and freedom.

As always I am indebted to Margot Krebs Neale for the accompanying images, and she has kindly offered the following note for the images that accompany this sonnet:

‘As I was making suggesting a picture for another sonnet, Malcolm said he was working on the Annunciation sonnet. A little cheeky I sent a picture of a beautifully blurred lily wondering if it might help. Malcolm liked it and could see angel wings in it, I thought we needed a face. A young woman of sixteen. One of the many 16 years old I know and love or…myself. I remembered and found this picture of me taken when I was 16 or 17. Why me? Because of the “We” of the first strophe, I read it like an “I” : We see so little, only surfaces, and yet we have a choice.

« Quel fruit lumineux portons-nous dans l’ombre de la chair? » What luminous fruit do we carry in the shade of our flesh?

« un fruit éternel enfant de la chair et de l’Esprit ». An eternal fruit, child of the flesh and the Spirit »

May we be granted the joy of giving it to the light.’

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 available in Canada via Steve Bell‘s Signpost Music. It is also out on Kindle. Please feel free to make use of these 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. You may also like to check out Steve Bell‘s wonderful Snippet eBook The Pilgrim Year, in which this sonnet also appears, together with some of my reflections on Fra Angelico’s great fresco of the Annunciation.

As usual you can hear the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ buton or on the title.

Annunciation

We see so little, stayed on surfaces,

We calculate the outsides of all things,

Preoccupied with our own purposes

We miss the shimmer of the angels’ wings,

They coruscate around us in their joy

A swirl of wheels and eyes and wings unfurled,

They guard the good we purpose to destroy,

A hidden blaze of glory in God’s world.

But on this day a young girl stopped to see

With open eyes and heart. She heard the voice;

The promise of His glory yet to be,

As time stood still for her to make a choice;

Gabriel knelt and not a feather stirred,

The Word himself was waiting on her word.

but on this day a young girl stopped to see

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Apostle -a sonnet for St. Paul

Image by Margot Krebs Neale

Continuing with Sounding the Seasons, my sonnet-sequence journey through the Church year, we approach the 25th of January, the day the Church keeps the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.I am posting this a little early as many churches will keep the feast this sunday the 24th of January, please feel free, if you wish, to make use of this poem in liturgy or bulletins, just add a note to say it is from my book Sounding the Seasons.

However often told or re-told, it is still an astonishing story. That Saul, the implacable enemy of Christianity, who came against the faith ‘breathing threats and slaughter’, should be chosen by God to be Christianity’s greatest proponant and apostle is just the first of a series of dazzling and life-changing paradoxes that flow from Paul’s writing. At the heart of these is the revelation of God’s sheer grace; finding the lost, loving the violent into light, and working everything through the very weakness of those who love him. Here’s a sonnet celebrating just a little of what I glimpse in the great Apostle.

As always you can hear the poem by clicking n the ‘play’ button if it appears, or on the title of the poem. You can get this book in the UK by ordering it from your local bookshop, or viaAmazon, and I am vey happy to say that both this and my other poetry book The Singing bowl are now available in North America from Steve Bell who has a good supply in stock. His page for my books is HERE

Apostle

An enemy whom God has made a friend,

A righteous man discounting righteousness,

Last to believe and first for God to send,

He found the fountain in the wilderness.

Thrown to the ground and raised at the same moment,

A prisoner who set his captors free,

A naked man with love his only garment,

A blinded man who helped the world to see,

A Jew who had been perfect in the law,

Blesses the flesh of every other race

And helps them see what the apostles saw;

The glory of the lord in Jesus’ face.

Strong in his weakness, joyful in his pains,

And bound by love, he freed us from our chains.

Caravaggio: The Conversion of St. Paul

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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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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 hatleychurch@gmail.com

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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