Sunday, March 12, 2006

Voices and Vision

I promised to write something about this week’s CME "Voices and Vision: some reflections on God , prayer and ministry using the work of some 20th century poets".
With a title like that, nobody will be stunned to hear that I was hugely looking forward to this…
The poets chosen definitely surprised me,- which was an excellent start!
Yes, of course RS Thomas was there, and inspired the sort of discussion that he usually produces. Would he have got through ABM? How did his wife cope?
Is his vision actually Christian or is he so bleak that he has actually stepped outside the Christian framework altogether?
But alongside Thomas were Michael Rosen, Charles Causely (OK, maybe not so surprising) and Joolz.
Amazing stuff, some of it. Windows opened in all directions and I rushed home to place orders with amazon.
Each session was followed by a time to think and react, and we talked about the current belief in story…in having one’s story heard, and finding it thus authenticated… the implicit absolution granted if only someone can spare the time to hear and (crucially) to acknowledge that they have heard.
One piece by joolz concerned a horrific story heard at a party,- the sort of story that you long never to have heard…the sort that you are condemned to carry from this day forth….I remembered the Ancient Mariner, who though freed from the burden of the dead albatross was nonetheless compelled to tell his story endlessly…with no repetition seeming sufficient to bring him the peace and absolution he craved.
I thought about my own need to be heard…to authenticate the glimpses of God, the moments of spiritual reality by sharing them with someone else. That used to worry me so much. Why could I not own an experience until I had shared it with someone else?
And what do I do when they don’t understand its full meaning for me?

That, of course, is the everyday risk of the poet, whose words have a meaning that is something greater than the sum of their parts. He spreads his dreams under our feet, facing the danger that we may quite simply trample them, unheeding as we rush to the end of the line, the end of the sentence, skimming the surface of his words.
I considered poetry as Sacrament…a sign pointing to something so much greater than itself. But sometimes people react as if the words exist only in one dimension, as if they are all that there is, with no wider vistas beyond.
You either get it or you don’t…and that is a risk.
To express truth in poetry is to run the risk that it may remain unrecognised by everyone else…and that will hurt beyond measure.
Another image of incarnation?

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