Tag Archives: Inklings

Patterns (Tree and Leaf) a poem about Tolkien

As today is Tolkien’s Birthday I thought I’d post this poem which was inspired by my memory of having once seen a grainy photograph of Tolkien leaning back into a tree contentedly and smoking his pipe, – something I quite often do myself. The memory of that image led me on to a reverie about life and leaves and Tolkien’s tree of tales. But when I came to look for the photo, to illustrate the poem here, I found that no single image answered to my remembered photo – but these two are closest – perhaps I had fused them together in my mind. At any rate here is the poem, which I included in my book ‘The Singing Bowl, published by Canterbury Press

As usual you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button


Patterns (Tree and Leaf)

Tolkien is leaning back into an oak
Old, gnarled, distinct in bole and burr
As, from the burr and bowl of his old pipe,
Packed with tightly patterned shreds of leaf,
The smoke ascends in rings and wreathes of air
To catch the autumn light and meet such leaves
As circle through its wreathes and patter down
In patterns of their own to the rich ground.

He contemplates again the tree of tales;
The roots of language and its rings of growth
‘The tongue and tale and teller all coeval’
And he becomes a pattern making patterns,
A tale telling tales and turning leaves,
From the print of thumb and finger on his pipe
To the print and press and pattern of his books
And all their prints and imprints in our minds
Out to this grainy patterned photograph
Of ‘Tolkien, leaning back into an oak’.

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CS Lewis and The Inklings ‘Ideas’ with CBC Part 2

lewis-inklings-featuredAs part of the commemorations for Cs Lewis’s ‘Jubilee’ year the Canadian Broadcasting Company have commissioned two in depth programmes on CS Lewis and the Inklings for their Flagship ‘Ideas’ series. I was happy to be involved with Frank Faulk in this endeavour and did an extensive interview with himwhich has been used in both programmes. I was impressed by the research he has done for this programme and the range of people he has speaking on it. Two good results of that research are first that he is not content with second hand cliches about Lewis but goes out of his way to scotch falsehoods, and secondly that he gives due weight to the neglected ‘other inklings’ beyond Lewis and Tolkien, and particularly gives the much-neglected Owen Barfield who is allowed at last to come into hi own. Finally, Faulk has, in my view rightly, identified Imagination, and the truth of Imagination as the key to the whole ‘Inklings endeavour. Here is my post on the first programme. Here us what CBC say to introduce the second program on their website:

C.S. Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Owen Barfield and Charles Williams were the core of the legendary literary group The Inklings at Oxford University. They were united by a love of myth and the belief that it is through the imagination that reality is illuminated. In Part 2 of this series,  producer Frank Faulk looks at C.S. Lewis’s conversion from atheism to Christianity, and his deep friendship with Tolkien, Barfield and Williams. Together Lewis and his three friends would forge a radical critique of modernity’s reductionist, mechanistic and materialistic understanding of reality. It is a critique that today remains more relevant than ever.

And here is the link to both the first and second programmes:

Lewis and the Inklings Part one

Lewis and the Inklings Part two

I hope you enjoy them.

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CS Lewis and The Inklings ‘Ideas’ with CBC

lewis-inklings-featuredAs part of the commemorations for Cs Lewis’s ‘Jubilee’ year the Canadian Broadcasting Company have commissioned two in depth programmes on CS Lewis and the Inklings for their Flagship ‘Ideas’ series. I was happy to be involved with Frank Faulk in this endeavour and did an extensive interview with him, some of which is used in this first programme and most of which will be in the second one, to be broadcast on the 17th to which I will post a link next week. I was impressed by the research he has done for this programme and the range of people he has speaking on it. Two good results of that research are first that he is not content with second hand cliches about Lewis but goes out of his way to scotch falsehoods, and secondly that he gives due weight to the neglected ‘other inklings’ beyond Lewis and Tolkien, and particularly gives the much-neglected Owen Barfield who is allowed at last to come into hi own. Finally, Faulk has, in my view rightly, identified Imagination, and the truth of Imagination as the key to the whole ‘Inklings endeavour. Here us what CBC say to introduce the program on their website:

C.S. LewisJRR TolkienOwen Barfield and Charles Williams were the core of the legendary literary group The Inklings at Oxford University. They were united by a love of myth and the belief that it is through the imagination that reality is illuminated. In this two-part series producer Frank Faulk first explores the early life of C.S. Lewis, and the experiences that would shape him on his journey to becoming one of the 20th century’s greatest thinkers and writers on Christianity. Part 2 airs Thursday, October 17.

And here is the link to the page from which you can listen to and download the program:

Lewis and the Inklings Part one

 

I hope you enjoy it.

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Oxford, Winnipeg, Houston, Westminster!

oxford-collegesI mentioned Greenbelt in my last post, but I thought I’d cast my eye a little further ahead, up to the end of the year and let you know what else I am doing, in case any of my readers might be able to get to any of these events!

First up is the CS Lewis Jubilee Festival based at Holy Trinity church Headington, in Oxford. Holy Trinity was CS Lewis’s local parish church, and amidst all the grand institutional celebrations of his Jubilee ots great that his local parish church is putting on events too, and particularly good that these will also inclyde games and explorations for children in ‘Lewis Reserve’ the nature reserve that was part of the grounds of Lewis’s Oxford Home The Kilns. I will be giving a talk at 7:30pm Celebrating Lewis’s Imaginative writing, during which I will also play some songs and read some sonnets that he has inspired

winnipegThe following week I am flying to Winnipeg to hang out with the amazing Steve Bell and maybe write some songs. We will do a concert together in Winnipeg on thursday 26th. Full details here.

This is followed by a retreat on poetry, prayer and imagination, on the 27th and 28th September at the St. Benedict’s retreat centre in Winnipeg. Here is their poster with all the details: Malcolm guite

Downtown-main-artThen from November 8-10th I will be at the CS Lewis Foundations Fall conference in Houston Texas where I will be leading a ‘writers track’ on both the spiritualities and the practicalities of creative writing, and also leading meditations and performing some of my songs and sonnets. I hoe this conference will also be the occasion for the American Launch of my new book of poems The Singing Bowl (US Amazon page here)

100_8915_westminsterThen I will be back in the UK getting ready for the big celebration of Lewis on 21-22nd November at Westminster Abbey and unveiling of his memorial in poets corner. I will be speaking at the conference on 21st. Full details here.

Finally I will be back in Cambridge for a day conference on the 23rd in Magdalene, his old college, where I shall give a paper on the contemporary relevance of Lewis’s book The Abolition of Man. Rowan Williams and Helen Cooper will also be speaking at the Cambridge conference. The web page for the conference is here

Please keep an eye on the website for information as it will be updated frequently in the coming weeks with details of registration, information about the speakers and their paper titles. In the meantime, if you have any queries, please feel free to contact lewisascritic@gmail.com

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The Inklings; Fantasists or Prophets? The Complete Set.

CS Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams. JRR Tolkien: The Inklings!

Over the last month I have given a series of five talks at St. Edward King and Martyr in Cambridge, exploring the thesis that far from being backward-looking, reactionary or escapist, the Inklings were fully and prophetically engaged with the main streams of modernity, that they forsaw the coming crisis of meaning in the materialist West, and in particular the attendant crises of violence and environmntal degradation. I have tried to explain the way they forged a coherent alternative vision, which called for us to reintegrate Imagination and Reason as ways of knowing truth and relating to one another and the world. These talks have been recorded as audio and the last four were also filmed, and I have assembled on this page the complete set of links to these recordings so that anyone who wishes can return to this page when they have the time and follow the talks through in sequence.

Its been a remarkable experience putting together and delivering these talks, at once draining and exhilarating, and I have had a sense as they were delivered of a new synthesis coming together in my mind.  I hope therefore, when I have the opportunity, to write these talks up and tfurther explore and develop these ideas in book form. Watch this space!

I will give the audio links first and then the video. I should say that the sound level is very low for the third talk, on Charles williams so people may prefer to take that talk from the video. I am very grateful to Daniel Son for filming the last four talks.

Part 1 The Inklings Fantasists or prophets

Part 2 CS Lewis and the Cosmic Summer

Part 3 Owen Barfield; poetry and participation

Part 4 Charles Williams; the Pattern and Glory of Love (you will need to turn up the volume on this one!)

Part 5: Tolkien; Roots and Branches

 

Now here are the links to the youtube video of the last four talks, on the individual Inklings, kindly provided by Daniel Son. The CS Lewis video starts a couple of minutes into the talk but the rest are complete.

1 CS Lewis and the Cosmic Summer

2 Owen Barfield: Poetry and participation

3 Charles Williams, the Pattern and Glory of Love

4 Tolkien; Roots and Branches

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CS Lewis’s Lost Aeneid a brief review

CS Lewis’s Lost Aeneid; Arms and the Exile

edited by A.T. Reyes

Continuing my theme this year of Translation, I would like to share my toughts on a wonderful ‘new’ translation of parts of the Aeneid.

Lewis scholars have known for some time that he had been working on a translation of Virgil’s Aeneid, a poem which he loved, lived with, and learned from throughout his life. But only in the last few years has it been recovered and edited, and now it has been published and made available for everyone, and it has certainly been worth the wait! I had expected only fragments, perhaps no more than  a dozen lines here and another half dozen there, but what we get is the whole of book 1, most of book 2, substantial parts of the vital book 6 and then tantalising fragments from the other books. AT Reyes has done a splendid job of editing it all, giving a full facing page Latin text, writing fine summaries to fill in the gaps, and providing an excellent introduction which draws together Lewis’s many appreciations of Virgil in his critical prose and also his various discussions of the art of translation. The introduction alone will be a real resource both for Lewis scholars and for those for whom translation, its losses and gains is an endless fascination. But the heart of he book is in Lewis’s own long, loping, rangey verse translation, full of felicities and an unashamedly, beautiful, romantic and adventurous ‘take’ on its original.  Lewis has chosen rhyming couplets in English Alexandrines and deployed them to great efect. the Alexandrine is essentialy a line of iambic pentameter with an extra ‘foot’, an extra two syllables with a single stress, tacked on. This is what gives the verse its sense of bounding length, of stride, for an ear attuned to the more usual five stress line.

We know from various letters that Lewis read substantial parts of this translation at meetings of the Inklings, and it is clearly designed to be read aloud, and reads suerbly. To give you a flavour of what I mean I have read three passages for you onto audio boo, the links are below and I have chosen them to suggest the sheer range of effects Lewis is able to achieve with this verse form. They are all from book 1 and I hope they will whet your appetite to go out and read the whole thing for yourself.

As always you can hear the reading either by clicking on the play button if it appears in your browser, or if no play button appears you can click on the title of the extract and be taken to my audioboo page and play it there

The first passage is a description of the storm Juno sends to wreck the trojan fleet, lines 102-123. Reyes points out in his introduction that there are some striking paralells between this description, as Lewis translates it here, and his own description of the great storm in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Its stirring stuff. See what you think.

Juno’s Storm

The second passage is the one where Dido first sees Aeneas I give more of the context in the audioboo. This is line 585-609

Dido Meets Aeneas

The third passage tells how Venus sends her son Cupid in disguise to the feast dido has given Aeneas and causes her to fall in lve with him. this passage particularly shows Lewis power to summon sensuous and romantic language and imagery even in the sound of his words. as before I have given a little context and commentary as part of the audioboo recording. these are lines 683-720

Dido Falls in Love

For Lewis Virgil was a poet who could both celebrate the beauty and majesty of life in this world and at the same time keep the soul attuned to longing, kindle its desire, for the ‘ever-receding  shore’, for the land we long for. Virgil’s epic of the founding of the City of Rome becomes in his imagination, as it did in the imagination of Dante before him, the epic of our wondering, always longing journey towards the City of God.

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A Present (a Pipe) and a poem to go with them

I just spent a wonderful afternoon in the Orchard in Granchester with a group visiting from the Kiln’s CS Lewis’s Oxford home and now a center for Lewis Studies. Among the party was the celebrated Lewis scholar Jerry Root. As conversation deepened and turned to poetry Jerry and Kim Gilnett dug out their pipes and lit up. I ferreted in my pocket and found I had left my trusty Peterson at home when lo and behold Jerry produced a “spare”; a really beautiful old Peterson made in pre-republican days. It drew beautifully, sweet as a nut, and I gave it the care and attention it deserved. but you could have knocked me over with a smoke ring when Dr Root said ‘I can see you apreciate it why dont you keep it!’ A spontaneous act of generosity which perfectly embodied the idea we had been discussing which was the parodoxical  combination of a love for the manifold things of this world but at the same time a sufficient detatchment from them all to keep us alive to our yearning for eternity. We had been quoting the lovely mediaeval couplet with which Jack Bennet, who taught me, had concluded his encomium of Lewis (who taught him):

Love God, your neighbour and be merry

And give not for this world a cherry”

It was great to see that spirit alive in a fellow Lewis scholar. He had himself recieved the pipe as a gift and sometime, at the right moment, I shall pass it on to another amazed and appreciative pipe lover. Anyway this all prompts me to re-post the little poem I wrote about Tolkien and his Pipe, so here is the pipe: :

And here is the poem:

Tree and Leaf

Tolkien is leaning back into an oak
Old, gnarled, distinct in bole and burr
As, from the burr and bowl of his old pipe,
Packed with tightly patterned shreds of leaf,
The smoke ascends in rings and wreathes of air
To catch the autumn light and meet such leaves
As circle through its wreathes and patter down
In patterns of their own to the rich ground.

He contemplates again the tree of tales;
The roots of language and its rings of growth
‘The tongue and tale and teller all coeval’
And he becomes a pattern making patterns,
A tale telling tales and turning leaves,
From the print of thumb and finger on his pipe
To the print and press and pattern of his books
And all their prints and imprints in our minds
Out to this grainy patterned photograph
Of ‘Tolkien, leaning back into an oak’.

Thanks Jerry

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Filed under christianity, imagination, Inklings, literature, Poems, Theology and Arts