Poems of war…

There was an interesting discussion on the radio a few days ago about war poetry, during which the question was asked again about why the voices of the Sasoon, Brooke and Owen are so powerful and evocative even so many years (and so many wars) later.

They capture for us the humanity and inhumanity of war in language so vivid and immediate that it resonates still.

But what of the war poets since? Can you name one? What poems told the story of the second world war, or the countless ones since? How many names can you bring to mind?

I read some poetry, but I can name none.

Perhaps this is because the voices of the world war poets bring something to us of a different time, when gentlemen went to war and discovered that there was nothing gentlemanly about industrial slaughter. A time when poetry was at the centre of literature and the arts, and when other forms of media were limited and closely managed.

Wars since then have increasingly been media events. Propaganda became as important as bullets, and image is all.

I wonder, in our mad information overloaded world, if the modern day equivalent of the poetry of Owen and Sasoon is the website Wikileaks.

But I am a poet (if that does not sound too pompous!)

So as we approach another remembrance day, here is a poem about war, and a poem hoping for peace-

A time for war

There is a time for all things under heaven


A time to dig trenches and put up barbed wire

Then run to our deaths into withering fire

A time for mass graves, for mums to wear black

Time to kill and to maim- a time to attack


A time to dehumanise, a time to breed hate

A time to decide the whole nations fate

A time when all truth is wrapped up in lies

For secret policemen and neighbourhood spies


A time to manipulate the news and the media

A time of unassailable powerful leaders

A time of expedient centralised power

Cometh the man in this our dark hour


A time for Guantanamo, a time for Auschwitz

A time of gas chambers and motherless kids

A time to throw rocks and let loose the rockets

A time for dead eyes fixed in dead sockets


A time for insurgents, a time to suppress

To disappear dissidents, and people oppress

Of brave freedom fighters and terrorist cells

A time for Robin Hoods and William Tells


In some foreign field or in our back yard

In red sucking mud or ground frozen hard

Lie the bones of our children who answered the call

Now glorious dead with their names on a wall


A time to break up and time to destroy

A time to make men of every small boy

Over by Christmas or just a bit more

Now is the time for us to make war

A time for peace

There is a time for all things under heaven.


There must come a time when canons will fall silent

And men start again to look beyond the battlements

Into the scarred and empty fields

Seeded still with land mines


There is a time to strike the white flags of surrender

And put away the banners of victory

A time when triumphalism

No longer seems to honour

The broken bodies

And the freshly dug graves


There must also come a time when displaced people

Dare to step beyond the bounds of the refugee camp

And walk the long road home


Surely too the day will come when guns will be melted into garden forks

And tanks will pull the plough

A time for doves instead of hawks

And lions to learn care for the cows


A time will come too when borders are open

And bitterness and hate are eroded by the resilience of a new generation

Who begin to replace fear with hope

And the need for revenge recedes


But for now the shadows cast will lie long

Across these broken houses

And the empty streets

In this brand new time of fragile peace.

Both poems from ‘Listing’, available from http://www.proost.com.)

The new book is out!

Forgive the conceit, because here is a plug for my new book!


‘Listing’ is a collection of poetry and meditations mostly inspired by some of those great lists in the Bible- the fruit of the Spirit, the Beatitudes, the ‘love’ passage in Corinthians and the ‘seasons’ passage in Ecclesiastes 3.

It is published by Proost- and available by clicking here.

Here is the Proost blurb from Jonny Baker;

Listing is a little gem, a surprise that came Proost’s way over the horizon from Chris Goan. He loves crafting words, playing with words, chewing over words, creating and re-creating worlds with words. His poems and meditations are a delight, spinning off from and opening up new takes on familiar verses of ancient wisdom from the scriptures. It’s the second book from Chris on proost. The first is the wonderful meditation he wrote to go along with Si Smith’s images of Christ’s journey into the wilderness ‘40’. The books is available as both hard copy or to download as pdf.

Thanks Jonny!

Go on- Buy two and give one away…

Aoradh @ Greenbelt, ’09…


I finally managed to get our booking form into Greenbelt yesterday- with a day to spare! Last minute as always!

This year, Aoradh are going to do some worship in ‘New Forms Cafe’- a space that is used as an alternative worship space for various groups. It looks as though about 7 of us will be going, and setting up an installation based loosely around a theme of ‘time’.

We will also be setting up some kind of poetry graffiti, on boards around the site- based around the ‘Ecclesiastes 3’ theme. Some of this poetry I have used on the blog, and will be part of a new book called ‘Listing’, published by Proost, hopefully out before the festival.

Speaking of Proost, Jonny tells me that they will be setting up a couple of evenings where Proost contributors will be doing their thing. I will probably be contributing to these in some way.

If you are going to Greenbelt, and read this blog, it would be great to say hello!

It is a considerable undertaking to get down to Greenbelt from Scotland. The distance is quite something, and it does not fit the school holidays up here- we have to take the kids out of school. But for me, the journey is made worth it for these reasons-

  1. Our group is small and isolated, and needs connections with the wider movement of God in our time
  2. We also need ideas and inspiration, and to connect with the creativity of others
  3. It is a safe place to continue exploring faith- full of people who adventure outwards in their engagement with the Word and the world
  4. It is a way that our ‘small theologies’ (worked out in small community) connect with ‘big theologies’ (worked out in culture)

hope to see to see you there!