I am happy to say that my new book ‘In Every Corner Sing’, is now out and in the world as a handsome little hardback. It is a collection of 73 of my little ‘Poet’s Corner’ pieces published each week in The Church Times. Each piece is short – between five and six hundred words, so its good for dipping into and taking up again without any fear of losing one place or the thread of things. So this post is to say that, though the book is already available from the publisher and from book shops we are going to have an official launch in the Fellows Drawing room at Girton College Cambridge on November 12th (my birthday!) from 7-8:30pm, and anyone who is in or near Cambridge and is free that evening is very welcome to come along. but do let me know if you’re coming, by emailing me at email@example.com so I can make sure there is enough in the way of wine, cheese and other refreshments. There will be copies available at a discount at the launch, which I would be happy to sign.
To whet your appetite, here is the little preface I’ve written to the whole book, which is itself about the same length as most of the individual pieces. See you in November!
In Every Corner Sing: Preface
It has been a pleasure to gather together these fugitive pieces, little glimpses and reflections from all corners of the country, curious corners of my mind, and a few of the odd corners and alleyways of our rich literature, the corners where the poets repose, sometimes confer, but always and everywhere, sing.
I was both honoured and daunted when the Church Times asked me to follow on from Ronald Blythe’s wonderful back page column ‘Word From Wormingford’. Nobody can follow Ronnie Blythe, but I was willing to try at least to fill the space, and I knew I shared with him some feeling for the beauty of the world around us and some common companionship with the poets whose music undergirds all our songs, especially George Herbert and Thomas Traherne, so my weekly column, gathered together here, was christened ‘Poet’s Corner’.
Reading through these pieces again is like being given back a little of my own life, seized back from seizing time, letting me repose again on a bench in Aldeburgh, a book room in Hawarden, a bridge in my lovely village of Linton.
Though each piece was written in and for its own moment, I see that certain themes and motifs have emerged and played with one another across the weeks of the year. One is the gift and grace of running water, so beautifully pictured in Roger Wagner’s lovely cover painting, ‘The River Of God’. For flowing water always gives me some sense of the hidden wellspring from which we all arise, the fresh renewing fount of all things, just upstream of utterance, a sense that though time never ceases to flow from and through us, we are as close now, as we will ever be, to its eternal source. And that motif itself speaks of another, emerging clearly as I read these pieces through: the sense that everything we see ‘out there’ is also somehow hidden deep with in us: the trees, the hills, the dewdrops on a blade of grass, are emblems of our inner life which could not be expressed or known without them: everything ‘out there’ is also ‘in here’. A third theme to emerge is a sense of companionship with other poets and writers, present and past. And in that sense it really has been ‘Poets’ Corner’. In that corner of Westminster Abbey we can see the monuments to all the great poets and writers whom we know and love, but it is not the outward and visible, the letters carved in stone, that count, it is the inward and spiritual: the poems written, and then sung in the heart. Time and again as I was writing these pieces, I sensed George Herbert, in one corner, and Seamus Heaney in another, giving me the words I needed just when I needed them. William Hazlitt was there when I reflected on the pleasure my books give me on a winter’s night, and Thomas Traherne met me with wisdom on London Bridge on the night that such terrible violence was inflicted there.
I hope that all these themes and motifs: the play of and grace of water, the gift of an emblem, the companionship of the poets, will be as richly and happily available to readers of this volume as they were to me when I wrote these little corner-pieces, and that something in each of them will stir and sing.