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.

‘Learning to Love’ book is now out!

Print

The book is now out!

You can get your copy (download or paper) here.

This from the blurb put out by Proost;

“We think this book typifies the reasons why Proost exists.  It’s promoting people’s art and creativity.  It’s giving people a voice and it’s sharing those voices with a wider audience.  It’s almost an incredible good and very moving collection of poems. For those reasons we think it’s a fantastic resource and hope you’ll visit the site and pick up a copy.”

Here’s a poem to give you a flavour by Sheena Bradley

Being true 

Before, I was not
And now, I am
In this place and at this time.
Rain, hail or shine I will hold up my head And bloom…

And not just so that I might be seen, That I might be admired
No, I do not need your praise.

Celebrated or unnoticed Until I’m trampled or I fade, For fade I will
I’ll bloom…

Imagining a poetry of Christian spirituality…

broken statue

I am still gathering poetry submissions for inclusion in an up and coming poetry collection to be published by Proost– please keep them coming in!

Proost is a company set up by Christians to gather together lots of the creativity coming out of the left field ragged edge of the church here in the UK. In doing this they have been incredibly encouraging to people (like me) whose output is unlikely to find other commercial outlets. The poetry collection was an attempt to broaden out this ethos still further.

In the process of looking at this, I have been forced once again to consider what I might understand as ‘Christian’ poetry, or even ‘spiritual’ poetry.

The tradition of church that I grew up has little time for poetry. The nearest we got to it were the lyrics of songs and hymns- with people like Matt Redman or Graham Kendrick as the most widely known contributors. The subject matter and style chosen for these songs is very limited, and goes something like this;

  • Substitutionary atonement
  • Over use of obvious rhyme structures- face/grace love/above died/justified
  • Over identification with love songs- ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ kind of stuff
  • Substitutionary atonement
  • Lack of room for questions, for uncertainty, for doubt
  • Lack of room for lament
  • Often driven by commercialism- what sells in the American mid west.
  • Substitutionary atonement

These songs became the cultural carriers of our faith- they gave us a proscribed language to describe our understanding of God but this left us only with a set of rather clichéd phrases that we rehashed over and over again- usually strapped to a good tune to make them more palatable.

Hardly surprisingly, those people that wrote poems at all in the churches I went to tended to write poems along these lines too, although this was a marginal practice, as the feeling was that the main forms of expression of faith were preaching the word, evangelising the lost and worshipping through singing.

There is of course a rich tradition of writing poetry in other Christian traditions- Hildegard of Bingen, Francis of Asisi, Teresa of Avila, John Donne, Christina Rossetti, Gerard Manley Hopkins, R.S. Thomas, Thomas Merton to name but a few. However, most of us do not know the work of these wonderful poets well, if at all. Some of them we know as people of faith, but the relationship that poetry has to the development of their spiritual understanding is far less clear. It is not something that we are schooled to even ask.

Eastern traditions are much clearer about this relationship. The Sufi tradition of poets like Rumi, Sanai and Attar are all famous because they were poets. The words they made arose from their spiritual journey- they were the very process of engagement with the divine, not an accidental by product. Here is a bit of Rumi to make the point, written around 800 years ago;

Say who I am

I am dust particles in sunlight
I am the round sun.

To the bits of dust I say, stay.
To the sun, keep moving.

I am morning mist,
And the breathing of evening.

I amwind in the top of a grove
and surf on the cliff.

Mast, rudder, helmsman and keel.
I am also the coral reef they founder on.

I am a tree with a trained parot in its branches.
Silence, thought and voice.

The musical air coming through a flute
A spark off a stone, a flickering
in metal. Both candle
and the moth crazy around it.

Rose and the nightingale
lost in the fragrance.

I am all orders of being, the circling galaxy,
the evolutionary intelligence, the lift
and the falling away. What is
and what isn’t.

What makes this poetry so wonderful to us is the freedom that exists in the middle of it- the sense of generosity, wonder and beauty. It opens something up- a window into something deeper. It seems to arise as much from personal experience- revelation even- as from a desire to proselytise or sell a particular idea to us. This is not Christian poetry- but then again, perhaps it is the poetry that we Christians need to be reading.

We often forget that the Bible is a product too of middle eastern mystics, prophets and nomads in their search for God. We forget that around a third of the Bible is written as poetry- not just the obvious bits (Psalms) but we also have searing prophetic rants, apocalyptic weirdness  raunchy love poems, even St Paul seemed to be sneaking lyrics from hymns into his letters.

We needed the Bible to be a legal document, a constitional, foundational tool for life that we could mine for concrete instructional truth- what we got was lots of poetry- although we rarely see it as such. It is an interesting question as to whether reading the Bible as poetry changes how we engage with it.

But back to the point of this piece- which is a search for a new kind of Christian poetry- using language set free from the narrow cliches. An honest kind of poetry- that arises from a deep well of the Spirit within us. Poetry that does not shrink from pain, form ugliness, from doubt, from anger at God even. Poetry that asks questions as much as it answers them. Poetry that holds us to account for our actions- particularly those of us in power. Poetry that is skewed towards the weak, the broken, the poor (as these are the last made first.)

Poetry that can become the songs of the Kingdom of God that is woven into the fabric of our world- in each leaf, each ripple, each stratum, each child, each crack addict.

If you should come across poetry like this, you will recognise it for what it is, even if it disturbs you, discomforts you.

And if you do- send it my way!

Calling all poets!

words1

I would really appreciate your help in getting the message out there about this project- if you are a blogger/facebooker/twitterer would you mind reposting?

For a while now, I have been chewing on an idea about putting together a collection of poetry.

From time to time people send me things they have written- asking for feedback. I always really struggle to give feedback- I want to be honest, open and encouraging, but poetry is really subjective. What I find however, is that there is almost always gold in the dust. Most people who write do so to get into the depth of things, and the process opens us up- in my view, it opens us up to God (however you understand this.)

Much of this writing is personal- like many of the things I write, its primary purpose is personal spiritual discipline. However, some poems have a life beyond this- and become vehicles that allow other people to travel. It is these poems that I am interested in.

We are used to being told that our poetic voices are worth nothing- either because poetry has become so elitist, or because we doubt our inner voice. Poetry also has little or no commercial value in the consumer culture that we live in. However, we believe that poetry is more important now than ever- we need our poets our prophets and our malcontents.

So, if you write poetry and you have material that you think may be helpful to the spiritual journey of other people, then you might like to consider this;

We are looking for contributions to an collection of poetry to be published by Proost.

We intend this is to be a collection of voices in and around the margins of our churches and will bring together poets whose writing is not normally heard to be a resource for worship, contemplation, prayer and even faithful prophetic criticism.

Poems should fit broadly into one of the following categories/chapter headings;

  • Faith/doubt
  • Becoming
  • Losing
  • The world is beautiful
  • The world is broken
  • Inside/outside
  • Wilderness
  • Laughing out loud
  • The far horizon
  • Learning to love

Notes on selection process;

We are looking for poems with something to say- poems that open us up rather than close us down. Poetry at its best can be challenging, disturbing, uplifting, transforming and much more. If you write poems like this we want to hear from you. We are not interested in reputation or CV- rather we want to encourage those of you with a poetic/prophetic voice to let others hear it.

We will select poems for the collection if they fit the broad (and generous) ethos of the book and if they are of a quality and spiritual depth that moves us. This means that some very good poems may not be selected. We hope that you will understand that we lack the resources to give feedback on the reasons for our editorial decisions.

We would impose no proscribed form on the poems, but broadly speaking poems should be no more than 35-40 lines.

You may send up to 8 poems– simply because we know how difficult it can be to choose. We hope that this too might be a way of gathering some more unusual voices- many of us have at least one pearl in amongst the pebbles.

Please send poems by e-mail to thisfragiletent@gmail.com

About Proost

Proost is a small publishing outlet aimed at gathering together resources from the creative edges of Church. Most of the material is made available for download- although hard copies of books can be purchased via a print-on-demand service.

As recompense for your hard work and creativity, poets published will be eligible for a free download of their choice from the Proost website- which is chock full of music, art, movies, worship resources and books.

We look forward to reading your poems!

Where the streams come from- poetry/soundscape release…

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As part of our Greenbelt installation, we put together some soundtracks of poetry and field recordings/sound scapes around wilderness themes- Sea, Woodland, River. The intention was to project them onto sculptural representations of the three locations using ultrasonic speakers, but the technology let us down somewhat, not to mention the appalling weather conditions.
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Anyway, rather than letting it go to waste, the poetry soundscapes are being released by Proost as an audio download. Each one is around 10-11 mins long.
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You can download it here for the bargain price of £1.99.
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This is the Proost blurb;
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Poetry and meditations by Chris Goan and read by members of Aoradh.

All streams flow into the sea yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from, there they will return.
(Ecclesiastes 1:7)
This collection of poems and meditation was first created for an installation used at Greenbelt Festival, but could be used for both personal and collective meditation. It combines soundscapes recorded in wilderness locations with poetry by Chris Goan and read by members of Aoradh, a community based in Dunoon, Argyll. The voices used in these recordings range from people aged 8 to 78 and with many different accents;
Netta Shannon, Simon Richardson, Helen Richardson, Emily Goan, Michaela Goan, Chris Goan, Sharon Barnard, Audrey Forest, Nick Smith, Paul Beautyman, Skye Beautyman.
Aoradh (meaning ‘adoration’) is shaped in many ways by our location and the wild places that surround us. It seeps into the words we write, and becomes the place where we seek to make worship and pilgrimage; from beach Pentecost bonfires to wilderness retreats on tiny islands.
The three meditation are as follows;
1. Sea.  Soundscapes recorded on a beach on the northern shore of Iona, and supplemented by further recordings made on the shoreline near Dunoon.
2. Woodland. Soundscapes recorded in woodland behind Chris’s house in Dunoon and on an early spring morning along Loch Striven, Cowal Peninsula.
3. River. Soundscapes recorded near streams flowing down into Loch Eck, Cowal Peninsular and Pucks Glen, near Dunoon.
Price: £1.99

Greenbelt beckons…

Aoradh spent tonight planning for some events we have up and coming- including our worship slot at Greenbelt Festival.

Greenbelt suddenly seems close, and we are still really at the ‘playing around with ideas’ stage. However, this is usually my favourite part of any project- the bit where you get to create things out of next to nothing- and how one idea sparks another, then another. The theme this year is ‘Dreams of home’- we are playing with some themes around the Feast of Tabernacles.

I am also doing some poetry with Proost– recorded and available on headsets around the site. I have not written that yet either! To be honest, I am a little worried about this- my poems tend to be so introspective and private- and these poems have to sit alongside those of two really great performance poets- European poetry slam champion Harry Baker and the equally brilliant Padraig O Tuama.

Oh dear- I can’t do that. Or that. I suppose that as ever, I need to stop worrying about what others do, and just trust that what I am/have is enough. I can do that. I think. Perhaps I will write a poem about it.

Anyway- there is lots of good stuff at GB this year- some music I really like- A Show of Hands, Kate Rusby,  as well as headline speakers Rob Bell and Brian McLaren.

If you are going this year, and you read this blog- drop me a line, perhaps we can share a beer/coffee.

Otherwise, Aoradh’s worship slot is on Friday night this year- 7pm I think…

 

 

Lengthening…

… is the English language root of the word Lent.

40 days

40 days of rain to flood the earth in Genesis

40 years for Israel to wander the desert

40 days of hunger for Moses as he waited for the law of God on Sinai

40 days for Jesus to wander and fast in the desert as preparation for 4 years

And for us- tomorrow we feast on pancakes, as our own 40 days begin- then our Lenten journey towards Easter begins, when Christians traditionally make preparation for remembering and celebrating the death and life of Jesus through prayer, repentance, serving others or self denial/fasting.

To mark the Lent journey on this blog, I am going to use a daily excerpt from ’40’- a collection of images by Si Smith and my words- available from Proost as a book, download or movie.

We in Aoradh have used it several times as a worship installation, but never as a daily Lent meditation.

I do not usually fast during Lent- observance of such things were not a big part of the Evangelical tradition I grew out of- too ‘Catholic’ probably. But this our family have discussed finding something to forgo as part of our celebration of Lent.

Emily suggested meat (we are vegetarian)

William suggested fruit and veg, as this would leave chocolate and chips- and so all the 10 year old food groups are covered.

I am not sure that they quite get it…