Tag Archives: adventure

From one voice to many; the adventures of a sonnet

with JAC at Abbey Road Studio One!

with JAC at Abbey Road Studio One!

In my last post I shared with you a sonnet called O Sapientia, the first of my seven sonnets for the O Advent Antiphons, the other six of which I will be posting as we move through Advent. And in an earlier post still I told you about what a moving experience it was when Steve Bell took some of my sonnets and set them or parts of them, into the songs he sings. Now I want to tell you about another musical adventure that befell that first sonnet O Sapientia. Once again, as with Steve, this adventure came about thanks to the amazing mix of artists musicians and poets that thrives around the CS Lewis Foundation’sOxbridge’ Conferences. It happened that JAC Redford, the distinguished Californian composer and orchestrater (He was lead orchestrator for Skyfall!) was at one of these conferences and heard my O Sapientia. He took it home and the next thing I knew was that the next ‘Oxbridge’ was going to feature the world premiers of a JAC Redford setting of O Sapientia for full choir!

Attending that concert was an extraordinary experience. As a poet I can only write and read one line at a time, in a single voice. But as I write I can sense myriad possibilities, many voices, which I can only suggest by summoning the wider penumbra of connotations and the multivalent possibilities and latent energies in words themselves. I was particularly conscious of this linear constraint as I was writing O Sapientia, which moves from the opening single voiced word ‘I’ and ends with the multitudinous word ‘everything’.

Well when I heard JAC’s piece it came as a gift and a revelation! At last I was hearing aloud something of the rich layering of many voices and possibilities I could hear in my head. It was amazing and I wished there had been a recording of it. Well I have good news. JAC has arranged for Ben Parry to record it with the Peters Edition Chorale, . Here it is.

Just as with my experiences with Steve Bell, though in a completely different genre, I feel that the little seed I have sown has blossomed in surprising and beautiful ways.

(Another surprising adventure arising from this sonnet was that I got to hang out with JAC in Abbey Road Studios whilst a brilliant studio orchestra recorded the music for Skyfall!)

Now, best of all I can tell you that on Thursday 5th December at 8pm in St. Edward’s Church Cambridge you can come and hear the World Premiere of JAC’s setting of the complete sequence of my Antiphon sonnets. We hope that these will later be broadcast, next Advent on BBC Radio, but tomorrow is your opportunity to hear them in advance, and live! If you want to check out the book from which the sonnets come, click on this title: Sounding the Seasons

Here are the words of the sonnet again if you’d like to see them whilst you listen:

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,

attingens a fine usque ad finem,

fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:

veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

 

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,

reaching from one end to the other mightily,

and sweetly ordering all things:

Come and teach us the way of prudence.

 

O Sapientia

I cannot think unless I have been thought,

Nor can I speak unless I have been spoken.

I cannot teach except as I am taught,

Or break the bread except as I am broken.

O Mind behind the mind through which I seek,

O Light within the light by which I see,

O Word beneath the words with which I speak,

O founding, unfound Wisdom, finding me,

O sounding Song whose depth is sounding me,

O Memory of time, reminding me,

My Ground of Being, always grounding me,

My Maker’s Bounding Line, defining me,

Come, hidden Wisdom, come with all you bring,

Come to me now, disguised as everything.

8 Comments

Filed under imagination, Music, Poems, Songs

In Bewley’s Coffee House; a poem for Bloomsday

In Bewley’s

The 16th of June is Bloomsday, the day on which Joyce’s masterpiece Ulysses is set. I have never been in Dublin on the day itself but here’s a sonnet remembering my first day in Dublin, in Bewley’s Oriental Coffee house, about to set off on one of the most significant adventures of my life. This poem will appear in the section ‘Local Habitations’ in my new Collection The Singing Bowl which will come out with Canterbury Press this November.

as always you can hear the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button or on the title

In Bewley’s 

I look up, hands around my coffee cup,
On Grafton street in Bewley’s coffee shop,
Blue Mountain, Java and Colombian
The labels are a journey on their own
Then the aroma as they’re ground by hand,
Beans broken open. Out of every land,
Separate savours float across this room
Of dark mahogany, to a softer bloom
Of stained glass windows, where I sit apart
Warming my hands, and waiting on my heart
To call me to adventure. I have found my voice,
Yeats in my pocket, backpack full of Joyce ,
I’m nineteen, it is nineteen seventy-seven
And Dublin is the very gate of heaven.

3 Comments

Filed under literature, Poems

From one voice to many; the adventures of a sonnet

Composer JAC Redford

Composer JAC Redford

In my last post I shared with you a sonnet called O Sapientia, the first of my seven sonnets for the O Advent Antiphons, the other six of which I will be posting as we move through Advent. And in an earlier post still I told you about what a moving experience it was when Steve Bell took some of my sonnets and set them or parts of them, into the songs he sings. Now I want to tell you about another musical adventure that befell that first sonnet O Sapientia. Once again, as with Steve, this adventure came about thanks to the amazing mix of artists musicians and poets that thrives around the CS Lewis Foundation’sOxbridge’ Conferences. It happened that JAC Redford, the distinguished Californian composer and orchestrater (He has just done all the orchestration for Skyfall!) was at one of these conferences and heard my O Sapientia. He took it home and the next thing I knew was that the next ‘Oxbridge’ was going to feature the world premiers of a JAC Redford setting of O Sapientia for full choir!

Attending that concert was an extraordinary experience. As a poet I can only write and read one line at a time, in a single voice. But as I write I can sense myriad possibilities, many voices, which I can only suggest by summoning the wider penumbra of connotations and the multivalent possibilities and latent energies in words themselves. I was particularly conscious of this linear constraint as I was writing O Sapientia, which moves from the opening single voiced word ‘I’ and ends with the multitudinous word ‘everything’.

Well when I heard JAC’s piece it came as a gift and a revelation! At last I was hearing aloud something of the rich layering of many voices and possibilities I could hear in my head. It was amazing and I wished there had been a recording of it. Well I have good news. JAC has arranged for Ben Parry to record it with the Peters Edition Chorale, so that we can play it at the  launch of Sounding the Seasons at St. Edward’s on Wednesday 5th December. What is more, he’s given me permission to post the recording up here so you can have a chance to hear it even if you cant make the launch. Here it is.

Just as with my experiences with Steve Bell, though in a completely different genre, I feel that the little seed I have sown has blossomed in surprising and beautiful ways.

(Another surprising adventure arising from this sonnet was that I got to hang out with JAC in Abbey Road Studios whilst the LSO recorded the music for Skyfall!)

Here are the words of the sonnet again if you’d like to see them whilst you listen:

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,

attingens a fine usque ad finem,

fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:

veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

 

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,

reaching from one end to the other mightily,

and sweetly ordering all things:

Come and teach us the way of prudence.

 

O Sapientia

I cannot think unless I have been thought,

Nor can I speak unless I have been spoken.

I cannot teach except as I am taught,

Or break the bread except as I am broken.

O Mind behind the mind through which I seek,

O Light within the light by which I see,

O Word beneath the words with which I speak,

O founding, unfound Wisdom, finding me,

O sounding Song whose depth is sounding me,

O Memory of time, reminding me,

My Ground of Being, always grounding me,

My Maker’s Bounding Line, defining me,

Come, hidden Wisdom, come with all you bring,

Come to me now, disguised as everything.

15 Comments

Filed under imagination, Music, Poems, Songs

What has it got in its pocketses? Bilbo Baggins, GKC and Me

Martin Freeman does a good impression of me running to catch my plane

I have recently had the (for me) thrilling, and (for others) entertaining experience of emptying my pockets in public! I am just back from an adventure in America attending the wonderful Kindlingsfest on Orcas Island in the Pacific Northwest, a gathering of inklings-minded vagabonds and assorted poets and artists. But in order to get ‘there and back again’ I was obliged to pass through all kinds of searches and high security electronica at various airports. Now I had forgotten I would have to do this and had set off on the adventure, like a certain middle aged hobbit before me, without so much as a pocket hankerchief, but with the usual assortment of bits and pieces in the pockets of the trousers, waistcoat, and old tweed jacket I happened to be wearing when, at the bidding of Dick ‘Gandalf’ Staub, I dashed for the plane. Needless to say when I walked through the electronic arch I set alarm bells ringing. (what a pleasure to do literally what I have so often done metaphorically!) so I was obliged to retrace my steps and empty my pockets (all of them!) into one of their capacious plastic tubs. I was of course just as intrigued and curious as the various security officials as to what I would find there. As I began to retrieve the assortment of pipes, pipe-cleaners, unfinished poems, odd coins, pocket-knives, songs, fountain pens, guitar-picks, bottle-tops, tobacco-pouches, wine-corks, etc., I was suddenly reminded, as I often am, of two great literary moments. The first was of course Gollum’s famous question, to Bilbo, ‘What has it got in its pocketses?’ and I thought it was just as well the orcs hadn’t built Gollum any body scanners (these security devices are very orcish things – and to be honest some of the security guards looked pretty orcish too!) or he would never have got away with the ring. And the second literary recollection was of GK Chesterton’s wonderful essay ‘What I found in my pocket’. I dont think GKC would have fared too well with airport security either, in fact I’m not sure he would actually have fitted through the scanner at all, and as for explaining the sword-stick he habitually carried, well…

GKC. will he fit that body scanner?

Anyway, let me pass discretely over the growing pile of oddments with which I  filled their plastic trays and tell you a little more of what GKC discovered in his pockets, and his reflections on those contents. The scene is set as GKC sits in a railway carriage and is asked by a ticket inspector for his ticket, so begins his epic quest:

I have only once in my life picked a pocket, and then (perhaps through some absent-mindedness) I picked my own. My act can really with some reason be so described. For in taking things out of my own pocket I had at least one of the more tense and quivering emotions of the thief; I had a complete ignorance and a profound curiosity as to what I should find there.

I’m with him all the way here, I was surprised and delighted with some of my ‘finds’ though I fear the security guards were less amused.

The first thing I came upon consisted of piles and heaps of Battersea tram tickets. There were enough to equip a paper chase. They shook down in showers like confetti. Primarily, of course, they touched my patriotic emotions, and brought tears to my eyes…

The next thing that I took out was a pocket-knife. A pocket-knife, I need hardly say, would require a thick book full of moral meditations all to itself. A knife typifies one of the most primary of those practical origins upon which as upon low, thick pillows all our human civilisation reposes. Metals, the mystery of the thing called iron and of the thing called steel, led me off half-dazed into a kind of dream. I saw into the intrails of dim, damp wood, where the first man among all the common stones found the strange stone. I saw a vague and violent battle, in which stone axes broke and stone knives were splintered against something shining and new in the hand of one desperate man. I heard all the hammers on all the anvils of the earth. I saw all the swords of Feudal and all the weals of Industrial war. For the knife is only a short sword; and the pocket-knife is a secret sword. I opened it and looked at that brilliant and terrible tongue which we call a blade; and I thought that perhaps it was the symbol of the oldest of the needs of man. The next moment I knew that I was wrong; for the thing that came next out of my pocket was a box of matches. Then I saw fire, which is stronger even than steel, the old, fierce female thing, the thing we all love, but dare not touch.

I had a little bladed pipe-tool for cleaning my pipes and I tried to share with the security guards who were asking me about it, some of GKC’s beautiful exposition of the mystery and symbolism of iron and the sword, but they were unconvinced, and sadly it had to be left behind. But let’s return to Chesterton in the railway carriage:

The next thing I found was a piece of chalk; and I saw in it all the art and all the frescoes of the world. The next was a coin of a very modest value; and I saw in it not only the image and superscription of our own Caesar, but all government and order since the world began. But I have not space to say what were the items in the long and splendid procession of poetical symbols that came pouring out. I cannot tell you all the things that were in my pocket. I can tell you one thing, however, that I could not find in my pocket. I allude to my railway ticket.

Ah well, unlike GKC, I did eventually come across my boarding pas and passport, and I was allowed to keep my pipe and pipe-cleaners, on strict promises of good behaviour!

Now I have a treat for you! I know where all the lovely things in GKC’s pocket, and indeed on his desk-top still are! As they would never get through airport security you will have to come and find them, when they are assembled next year in their new home in Oxford. I am a trustee of the GK Chesterton Library and soon, very soon, you will be able to come and see many of his personal effects and his own library of books full of his wonderful annotations, and his chalk drawings and his toy theatre, and so much more. You can read about the library trust here, and through this page you can support us, if you wish, in our efforts to get these treasures properly displayed and housed. You can also connect with the library on facebook here, and follow us on twitter here.

In my pockets I also had an iphone, which would have fascinated GKC, a natural born blogger and communicator. He once sent his wife a telegram saying ‘Am in Market Harborough. Where should I be?’ what might GKC have made of GPS?

several pocket’s full of oddments from GKC’s desk

16 Comments

Filed under literature

In Bewley’s Coffe House; a poem for Bloomsday

In Bewley’s

The 16th of June is Bloomsday, the day on which Joyce’s masterpiece Ulysses is set. I have never been in Dublin on the day itseld but here’s a sonnet remembering my first day in Dublin, in Bewley’s Oriental Coffee house, about to set off on one of the most significant adventures of my life.

as always you can hear the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button or on the title

In Bewley’s 

I look up, hands around my coffee cup,
On Grafton street in Bewley’s coffee shop,
Blue Mountain, Java and Colombian
The labels are a journey on their own
Then the aroma as they’re ground by hand,
Beans broken open. Out of every land,
Separate savours float across this room
Of dark mahogany, to a softer bloom
Of stained glass windows, where I sit apart
Warming my hands, and waiting on my heart
To call me to adventure. I have found my voice,
Yeats in my pocket, backpack full of Joyce ,
I’m nineteen, it is nineteen seventy-seven
And Dublin is the very gate of heaven.

7 Comments

Filed under Poems