We Who Still Wait- advent poetry/art/meditation project…

We who still wait

Our advent collaboration, inspired and curated by Si Smith, and involving Photographer Steve Broadway, Ian Adam’s meditations and poems by me is now available!

You can get hold of it here in dowload for now, but hopefully you can order it in actual paper soon too. (It would make a lovely Christmas present I reckon, in fact some of you might be getting just that!)

Any help with the social media spreading the word thing would be appreciated as ever…

Here is the blurb from the Proost website;

This beautiful Advent product evokes the sense of waiting and watching at this season. Its available here as a download for £3.50.

Expect beautiful poems, challenging punchy prayers and thoughts and some beautiful photography in this devotion resource aimed at taking you through the 25 days of December up to Christmas Day.

From the book, this is from Elizabeth:

They say every flapping scrapping life is 
A brand new miracle
– I see them all in the street
Displayed there by their miracle makers
For the rest of us to worship.


Four great artists have come together to make this book happen.  Chris Goan, Ian Adams, Steve Broadway and Si Smith have brought their collective creative wisdom together to shape a wonderful book and it’s one we’re very excited about here at Proost.

In addition to this version there is also a Bonus Edition available which includes all of Steve’s original photographs for personal use.  That edition is £5.

A hard copy of the book is currently being created and will be made available shortly.

That’s what set’s the poet free…

I am sort of in between jobs at the moment- one of the joys of doing agency work. There is a song that keeps coming in to my mind;

Having said that- on Sunday, I got paid for talking about poetry all day! It was such a lovely day that I kind of feel bad for even taking the money. The soup was good too- not a cold dog in sight.

I am referring to the poetry workshop that I ran for the Castle Lachlan Trust out at Inver Cottage Restaurant. I had three punters- and it was such a privilege to share a day full of words with them. Each person used poetry in different ways, but it felt like something was being set free in each of us…

Greenbelt 2014, reflections…


We are just unpacking from our road trip down to Greenbelt (topped off with a visit to family and a few hours spent at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.)

Greenbelt was great- new site was lovely, if a challenging place to get camping gear on and off (they must improve this for next year.) It has much more space and landscape interest than the old one.

Absolute highlight for me was meeting up with so many of the poets from the new Learning to Love book. The readings, even at 9AM in the morning,  went really well- in fact they felt very worshipful, particularly with Harry Baker and Chris Read’s contributions- their new EP ‘But in Silence‘ is an essential download.

I saw/heard very little this year- I spent far more time in conversation- including laughing a lot in the Jesus Arms with David and Mary-Lee, seeing our lovely old friends and former neighbours the McGoos and generally catching up with many people who Greenbelt gives me the pleasure of connection with.

Musical highlight for me would be Lau- who were simply brilliant, weaving folk magic from the mainstage.

I did not hear any of the main speakers- could not get into their venues, so need to download talks.

Main communion event made me weep. I think one’s bladder moves closer to the eyes as we get older. A field full of people singing gently, passing communion…

Here are a few photos, randomly selected;

Rumours of deeper things…


tents, in high wind

I am heading off with a group of friends to a small Hebridean Island for one of our ‘wilderness retreats’ next weekend.

Spring is here. Yesterday we played our first cricket match of the year (both Will and I out for 0 on a wet sappy pitch) and the garden is full of shy colours. I yearn for wild places.

My awareness of the significance of the wild in understanding myself, as well as trying to understand God, is a constant work in progress. I can make few definitive statements in relation to either. All I can say is that experience is more important than definition. So I continue to place myself in places where I hear rumours of deeper things…

In deep meditation

A few years ago I wrote a series of ‘dispatches’- short poems really- that I tied laminated onto bright card, then tagged to the top of canes. We have used them a few times, laid out along cliff tops or on circular routes around wild headlands. I was reviewing some material for this trip and decided not to use them again, but realised that the dispatches say almost everything about my own hopes and prayers for encounters with God. Here they are;


There are rumours-

Like smoke signals blurred in desert wind
They say

He is here

Not in metaphor
Not whipped up in the collective madness of charismata
Not just politely suggested by the high drama of religious ritual-


With mud on his shoes

Should I hide?

Should I stay in a fold of ground
And hope he does not walk my way?

I could never meet his eye
Knowing that the hidden parts of me will be
Wide open

How do I prepare?

I have no fine things-
No fine words
My shield of sophistication
Is broken

I am soft flesh laid bare
I am a fanfare to repeated failure

I am herald only to this

But this King wears no stately form
Wants no majesty

He walks gently
And has a humble heart

And he is-


Put down those things you carry
Sit with me a while
Stop making things so complicated
It is much simpler than that

Start from where you are
Not where you would like to be
Not where others say you should be
There may come a time
When I will warm your heart towards a new thing

But right now
I just want to warm your heart

It is not for you to cut a way into the undergrowth
Or make a road into the rocky places
Rather let us just walk
And see were this path will lead us
You and I


All around you is beauty
See it

Smell it

Feel it falling like manna

Look for softness in your heart
There I am
Look for tenderness
And it will be my Spirit
Calling you to community

My yoke rests easy
If you will wear it

And my burdens lie soft on the shoulders
If you will lift them

You are wrapped up in me
And I am bound up in you

We are held together by soft bindings
Like tender shoot and stake
Like mud and gentle rain
Like worn shoe and weary foot
Like tea and pot

Like universe and stars
Like ocean and rolling wave
Like fields and each blade of grass

There is now
And there is our still-to-come



And he was gone-

But still I am not alone

The Spirit is stirring the waters


The Far Horizon…

Sunbeam trinity


Things have been a bit slow here recently- this is mostly because I have been doing a lot of work editing poetry for the up and coming Proost Poetry Collection. I am really excited about this project now- after huge amounts of work it is finally coming together.

One of the things I have been doing is writing chapter introductions. By way of a teaser here is one of them;


Imagine one of those wet-into-wet Chinese landscape paintings in which

a flower holds your gaze to the foreground,

whilst line after line of mountains

climb and bleed into the distance.

It seems like there will always another ridge line,

another high corrie to cross.


I walk into the rain and the mist

Forced to trust that

there will be other flowers

in places beyond.


There was a time when everything felt permanent, or so we are told. Communities were solidly built around stratified social class structures. People began work at the age of 14 and spent their lives in the service of one employer; the chances are that this was where your parents also worked. Whole towns were organised around the shift patterns at mills/shipyards/mines. We worked together, then drank together afterwards. On Sundays we went to church together.

This was no utopia; there were always those for whom this kind of life felt like a kind of prison. They longed for adventure on the high seas, the promise of the New World. They felt thirst for distant spice filled forests, for tropical islands lapped by warm green waters, for feasting on strange beasts around a pioneer fireside and above all for freedom. Freedom from the tired old ways of doing things, freedom from old obligations and paradigms, freedom from the drab dull monochrome lives lived by their parents. Freedom from things that always remained the same and from the kind of religion that insisted that was how things should be.

Should I stay, or should I go? Perhaps we humans always have to make this decision. The going and the staying are not necessarily geographical concepts. Do we stay with what we know, or do we dare to imagine something new?

As well as putting up the stone buildings that anchor us to place, our faith can also be a mode of travel. Our history is littered with people who were convinced that God was telling them to go somewhere, to do something. These people have acheived amazing things.

I heard a story once that really helped me to understand the flowering of faith in different parts of our history. Revivals hit us from time to time, usually associated with people who are inspired to go to new places and dream of better things. These revivals can be like an erupting volcano, spewing out molten rock that flows out into the cracks and crevices of the landscape. Nothing can stand in its way.

After a while, the flow cools on the outside but it remains hot and plastic within, still moving slowly. However, eventually what is hot cools and solidifies. It can no longer move, but becomes solid rock.

It is from this rock that we build our Church, our religion.

The truth is, we need both those who go, and those who stay. The rocks that form the walls of the old cathedrals are beautiful.

But the mountains are calling me again…

cuilin ridge from Sgur nan Gilean

Hebrides, winter…

hebrides, snow storm

A wee poem I have been working on following a trip to Islay. Uncharacteristically optimistic and upbeat by my usual standards I thought… call it an antidote to a really crap day.


The horizon rises rust and golden

There is mild steel in the sky

But the curl of the sea still smiles at me

This light falls kind upon the eye


A cold north wind unfurls these coat-flags

Slapping like a laugh at the side of your face

Peat smoke clouds my watered eye

Our ship lies soft in harbour embrace

The poet in the pub, under the helicopter…


The news has been full of the terrible story of the police helicopter that crashed into the Clutha pub in Glasgow at the weekend. 9 people dead so far, as they still try to clear away the unstable remains of the old meeting place.

The pilot of the helicopter visited my kids school not so long ago…

One of the dead was a poet, John McGarrigle, who wrote of life in Glasgow with an honest voice- speaking of unemployment, drugs, human warmth and emotion in witty and funny ways. There seem to be a sad few of his poems on line, but there are a couple here. I did not know his work well, although had heard of him.

What a way to go. Sitting with your friends in your regular seat in a the local, sharing stories like poetry…

I thought I would write my own tribute to John, by way of deep respect to those who have lost loved ones in Glasgow. Here is the first draft;

The death of John McGarrigle


John holds court in the Clutha

Spinning yarns like fag smoke

Filling the fug with the chug of laughter

Tapped, not canned

The drink at his lips was welcome

But not strictly necessary

Sentence cut short

By a tumbling helicopter


They say it came through the roof

Right above Johns seat

Where others deferred

To the Clutha poet


How should a poet meet his end

On some blasted heath?

Should they wear away like old parquet

Or a set of ill-fitting false teeth?


John had a poem in the curl of his glass

When the chopper fell down on his head

Proost poetry collection, editing, editing, editing…


A few people have asked how this project is getting on. The answer is that it is progressing nicely, but is a whole load of hard work! This is why the blog has been quiet of late- and I expect it to remain quiet for a while.

Hard work like this is no bad thing however as I find myself immersed in lovely words. I hope that we will start to release some sample poems in the run up to releasing the book, but in the first instance, I wanted to share with you another one written by a friend of mine, Susan.

I have two reasons for doing this- firstly because Susan is a wonderful poet who is far too modest, and also because of the subject matter.

Winter is upon us.

But this too shall pass…


Out of two dead aired weeks

Ice and snow crusted over

All things living, when only

The birds hardy enough

To fly from there to here

In the hope I had remembered

To fill the feeders  made

Themselves visible and sadness

Scabbed over my heart:

Sudden joy

A mild Late February dusk

Song from every hidden branch,

The world filled with urges,

The drive to survive

Faith returns -the garlic shoots

In strong green lines

The kale still stiff

The rituals of soil call me:

Tomorrow I begin again.


Air Force, Army leaders discuss new UAS concept of operations



“The traffic was murder this morning”

He said, adjusting the gas strut of his over-padded chair,

Punching in his password whilst

three thousand miles away the drone tunes to his direction.


He is surgeon,

Slicing clinically into canker

He is justice with a joystick

He is freedom at the press of a blood-red button

He has the wings of a dove and

Carrion claws of a vulture.

He takes his coffee black

With no sugar.


The screen throws green reflections at his designer glasses

The other side of the world lies dark

But still this unblinking eye in a moonless sky

Scans for movement

Waiting to unleash risk-free

Mechanical malevolence


At this elevation

People have no faces.

Winter, how to survive the darkness…

Winter sky from our house

Winter is now firmly with us. This morning Dunoon was sheathed in ice, and I sit here just after 5PM and it it totally dark outside.

I confess to dreading the dark long winters- longing for spring again. Like many of us, my mood always takes into itself some of the dark over the fallow season. Some of us have real issues with this- it makes us ill. If this is you, I hope that this year is easier than most.

As for me, I can not describe my ennui as anywhere near as severe as Seasonal Affective Disorder– rather I just get a bit stuck in a dark trough, so this year I am trying to re-order the way I think about winter. I know it to be beautiful, inspiring, meditative. A few years ago I wrote this poem at the sight of snow on the hills over the loch from where I live;


First snows


The first snows of winter bring their blessing

To the hills across the loch

Yesterday dull and grey

Now blue-white crystal and pure


Soon it will be gone

Rain will bring decay

Rending white all mottled brown

Until the snow, all rotten

Is released

Worming down into dark earth


But for now, my eyes are drawn to high lands

Captured by reflected sun

Sparkling, showing no shadow

Driving out the dark things of the winter


Dressing up light for the dancing

And leading me on


Dressing up light for the dancing

Then gone


CG 2005.

The strange fact, revealed today in Radio 4’s programme Digital Nation, darkness is good for you. The problem is that most of us rarely experience it- we surround ourselves with artificial light. We screw up our serotonin levels by staring at bright computer screens before we go to bed, we forget what the stars look like, or what it means to find a natural rhythm of day/night.

So, here is my suggestion- let us embrace darkness. Let us see it as a blanket wrapping us for rest, for friendship, for interior creativity.

Today I spent much of the day making things;

First this;

driftwood fish

Then, as the ultimate winter food stuff, a great big pan of pickle;


This evening I am going to spend some time with friends.

So, may your winter be full of darkness, so that you might rest from harsh artificial light.

May your interior spaces be warm and full of friendship and creativity.

And may the stark beauty of the fallow wild places speak to your heart.