What I Saw In America

YOKE writer Malcolm Guite on his latest adventures for Christ.

Malcolm Guite

With the Theologian David Taylor in front of a Texan Bishop's Taco Truck! With the Theologian David Taylor in front of a Texan Bishop’s Taco Truck!

With Pastor and Theologian Matt Russell, sampling a local delicacy! With Pastor and Theologian Matt Russell, sampling a local delicacy!

I thought I would tell you a little bit about the fortnight’s trip to America from which I have just returned, and have cheekily borrowed at title from one of GK Chesterton’s later books. I can’t claim that my account will be as witty as his, though I must say many of his bon mots came to mind, not least, as the American Election looms large, his observation, in the chapter titled ‘Presidents and Problems’ that

‘All good Americans wish to fight the representatives they have chosen. All good Englishmen wish to forget the representatives they have chosen.’

My trip, like Gaul was divided into three parts: Houston Texas, Grove City Pennsylvania and Gloucester Massachusetts.

I flew to Houston to take part in a wonderful poetry initiative…

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A Facebook mugging…

Ugly Grace

Picture the scene; A family attired in Christmas jumpers, rosy-cheeked, gathered round an open fire after a bracing country walk. There’s a huge home cooked dinner on the table, a twinkly Christmas tree shimmering merrily in the corner, happy chatter, hearts all aglow.

If Facebook is to be believed, this was the scene for many families this Christmas.  And yet behind those happy selfie snaps, how much of it was a true reflection of their real lives?  How many families were struggling with resentment or ill-health or worries about the future?   How many paused from their squabbling just long enough to put a smiley picture on Twitter?

If you’ve looked at someone else’s Facebook, Instagram or Twitter this year and thought, why isn’t my Christmas like that? Why don’t I have as many friends?  Why isn’t my family happy...chances are, you’ve been the victim of a Facebook mugging.

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The First Sunday of Epiphany

Malcolm Guite

The dove descends, the spirit soars and sings

The season of Epiphany is an invitation to reflect on the many little ‘epiphanies’, glimpses of how things really are, which are vouchsafed us in the Gospel. The Lectionary readings for this first Sunday of Epiphany (Luke 3.15-17, 21-22) give us an opportunity to reflect on the moment when ‘the heavens opened’ at Jesus’ Baptism and we were given a glimpse of Father Son and Holy Spirit at the heart of all things. This sonnet is a reflection on that mystery. As always you can hear it by clicking on the ‘play’ sign or on the title of the poem. I am grateful to Margot Krebs Neale for the beautiful photograph, taken at the river Jordan which says as much as, if not more than the poem. The poem itself is from my collection Sounding the Seasons, published by Canterbury Press


Beginning…

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Find That One Good Thing—or Maybe Two

Father Chuck’s words echo my thoughts and experience RIGHT NOW.

Priest At Large

Many years of my life were spent in fulfilling other peoples’ expectations of me or dealing with their disappointment in me that I did not fulfill their expectations.

Many years of my life have been spent in carrying out others’ ideas of what they thought ministry should be for me, namely ministry in which I fit into a slot of an institution.

Many years of my life were lived in fulfilling a kind of spiritual ethos created for me. It is not true that religious conservatives are the only ones involved in thought management. Liberals and progressives often set unspoken but nonetheless clear parameters around what to think about specific issues and “beliefs.” In both cases an original thought can be defined as “going over to the other side.”

Many years of my life I gave time and energy to the vision and ministry of others where I often did…

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Our Mother-tongue Is Love; A Sonnet for Pentecost

Malcolm Guite is one of our YOKE authors as well as a poet, musician, priest and teacher.

Malcolm Guite

A Pentecost Banner at St. Michael ‘s Bartley Green

Continuing in ‘Sounding the Seasons’, my cycle of sonnets for the Church Year this is a sonnet meditating on and celebrating the themes and readings of Pentecost.

Throughout the cycle, and more widely, I have been reflecting on the traditional ‘four elements’ of earth, air, water and fire. I have been considering how each of them expresses and embodies different aspects of the Gospel and of God’s goodness, as though the four elements were, in their own way, another four evangelists. In that context I was very struck by the way Scripture expresses the presence of the Holy Spirit through the three most dynamic of the four elements, the air, ( a mighty rushing wind, but also the breath of the spirit) water, (the waters of baptism, the river of life, the fountain springing up to eternal life promised by Jesus) and…

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I Am The Door of the Sheepfold: A Poem for Good Shepherd Sunday

I have been a shepherd of both the four foot and two foot type of flocks.

Malcolm Guite

I am the door of the Sheepfold I am the door of the Sheepfold Today, the 4th Sunday of Easter, the lectionary gives us the wonderful discourse of Jesus in the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel in which he reflects on the shepherd’s role and identifies himself as ‘the Good Shepherd’:

Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.

8All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.

9I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

10The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might haveitmore abundantly.

11I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for…

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Share the fabulous!

tammydark-300x300

My Chicago peep, Tammy Perlmutter, curates a fabulous blog called “Mudroom – Making Room in the Mess.” Tammy is a funny, creative, big-hearted force to be reckoned with at Jesus People USA. This month she has been sharing the honestly amazing work friends have been adding to the glorious mix at the Mudroom, featuring women and their work in faith. I chimed in with my meditations on our sister saint, Dorothy Day, of the Catholic Workers Movement, and a woman with many unexpected aspects. Here’s the link: http://wp.me/p56g3A-bc

Give it a boo and enjoy the party!
Dorothy Day children

In the Wilderness: 2 Jacob Wrestles With The Angel

Malcolm Guite, our poet-priest, writes on Jacob wrestling with an angel.

Malcolm Guite

DSCF9147Here is the second in my suite of seven sonnets on the theme of Wilderness composed in response to a set of paintings by Adan Boulter which will be exhibited along with the poems at St. Margaret’s Westminster . As before, I am giving you the initial sketch from Adam’s notebook with his pencilled notes (shown above) and then my sonnet in response. The finished paintings, made with both the sketch and the sonnet to hand, can be seen any day in lent at St. Margaret’s between 9am and 4pm.

In the first painting and sonnet Abraham welcomed the angels who were the harbingers of Isaac’s arrival. Now we skip  generation and Isaac’s own son has that life-changing encounter, that long wrestle in the dark that will change his name to Israel and change his future and ours for ever. This meeting with an angel is the harbinger of his…

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‘Two-Thirds of Publishing Is About Failure’

It is an uphill struggle, yet we continue to do it.

Longreads

My boss when I worked in London—someone who’d published Booker Prize winners, remember—used to say that two-thirds of publishing is about failure. I agree with that: it’s the nature of the business. And yet publishing is an industry that keeps attracting to it, in various ways, people who want it to be two-thirds about success.

There are dozens of obstacles to any given book succeeding. If a book succeeds it always does so against the odds. The odds in one generation might relate to the fact that people would rather be watching television than reading your book. The odds in the next generation might be that they’d rather be on their computer than reading your book. Once it was that people would rather be riding a bicycle than reading your book. It doesn’t do any good to be talking, as an author or publisher, about the obstacles. There are better…

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Oh Clavis; A Fourth Advent Antiphon and Sonnet

Malcolm Guite may be the best sonnet writer of our age. His Advent cycle of the “O” antiphons distills the spirituality of the this ancient cycle of prayer.

Malcolm Guite

Oh Clavis, Oh Key!

Of all the mystic titles of Christ, this is the one that connects most closely with our ‘secular’ psychology. We speak of the need on the one hand for ‘closure’ and on the other for ‘unlocking’, for ‘opening’, for  ‘liberation’. The same ideas are also there in the lines from O Come O Come Emmanuel that are drawn from this antiphon, which could easily be part of anybody’s work in good therapy:

“Make safe the way that leads on high,

and close the path to misery.”

I see this antiphon, and the sonnet I wrote in response  to it, as the ‘before’ picture that precdes the beautiful fifth antiphon O Oriens about Christ as the Dayspring and  when l wrote this sonnet I found that I had at last written something clear about my own experience of depression. I hope that others who have been in that…

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