Monday, July 11, 2016

Malcolm Guite’s “Parable and Paradox”

I find it extremely comforting – a blessed relief – to turn from the viciousness of the commentary about Brexit, the vote by the people of Britain to leave the EU, to poetry based on the sayings of Jesus and related themes. That’s what Parable and Paradox by poet, priest, and musician Malcom Guite is – a blessed relief.

Perhaps it’s the sonnet form Guite uses, a form that’s been around since at least the 1200s if not earlier. The sonnet is a 14-line poem that follows a specific rhyming pattern and structure. William Shakespeare used the form to write some of the most beautiful poems in the English language. So did Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

The sonnet is a favored form by Guite, and he uses it to reflect upon, ponder, question, celebrate, and commemorate. In this poem, he does all five of these:


Come dip a scallop shell into the font
For birth and blessings as child of God.
The living water rises from that fount
Whence all things come, that you may bathe and wade
And find the flow, and learn at last to follow
The course of Love upstream toward your home.
The day is done and all the fields lie fallow,
One thing is needful, one voice calls your name.

Take the true compass now, be compassed round
By clouds of witness, chords of love unbound.
Turn to the Son, begin your pilgrimage,
Take time with him to find your true direction.
He travels with you through this darkened age
And wake you every day to resurrection.

Read it aloud. The act of reading such a poem is itself calming and soothing.

Parable and Paradox includes 27 new poems on subjects ranging from Bible study to hospitality; 50 sonnets on the sayings of Jesus; and a concluding series of poems entitled “Seven Whole Days.” Two of the new poems are named for two American poets – Scott Cairns and Luci Shaw.

Malcolm Guite
Guite is a poet, an Anglican priest, chaplain of Girton College at the University of Cambridge, a lecturer and speaker, and a rock band musician part of the Cambridge-based group Mystery Train. He’s published several books, including several poetry collections, such as Sounding the Seasons, The Singing Bowl, and Word in the Wilderness. He’s a lecturer and speaker. And he’s a rock band musician part of the Cambridge-based group Mystery Train. He received his undergraduate and masters degrees from Cambridge, and a Ph.D from Durham University, where his dissertation focused on the poets Lancelot Andrewes and John Donne and their influence on T.S. Eliot.

Read these poems called Parable and Paradox. Find a quiet place to read them aloud. Read them, and calm your spirit.

Top photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

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