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Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Sounding the Seasons: Malcolm Guite

With its new battery under the bonnet my little red Nissan sped up the M11 this evening before beginning an increasingly frantic search for parking in a city built for cyclists. Too late, as a result, for the opening reception I arrived at St Edward King & Martyr Cambridge as Malcolm Guite completed his introduction to Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year and began his reading, also utilising the voices of friends and family, of the "profound and beautiful utterance ... patterned but also refreshingly spontaneous" found in the dozen or so sonnets selected from the series that, interspersed with music inspired by the verse, formed the substance of this launch event for the book.

In posts here and here Malcolm has told the story of two musical collaborations inspired by this sonnet sequence. He retold parts of those tales tonight before reading the sonnets which inspired compositions  by Steve Bell and J.A.C. Redford to which we then listened. It is surely somewhat unusual for poems to have such an impact prior to their publication. It was his initial posting of the poems on his blog which helped to build a sufficiently responsive audience to convince Canterbury Press that publication was viable, as well as enabling them to be found by Steve Bell.

Cold ketchup smeared fingers held greasy kebab and chips to my lips as I hurried to retrieve my little red Nissan and return home at a reasonable hour. All well worth it, however, for the experience of allowing Malcolm's images, words, rhythms and rhymes to "fall fresh on the ears, enrich and deepen understanding and open up new resonances":

Concentrated meaning, condensed
and tightly held in phrase and image;
depth charges, coiled springs,
exploding at the sound of speech.
Sprung rhythms sounding
the seasons, scattering ideas,
inspiring musicians and opening up
the lives of emotive readers.
Stories intersperse music and verse.
An object lesson - a parable -
in the bringing to birth
of yearning for learning,
keening for the dawn
of unfound wisdom finding me.

As I flagged up for those at the Seven Kings Fellowship of Churches Advent Service, Advent begins the journey that we undertake each year through the Christian calendar. This is why Sounding the Seasons has been launched and begins in Advent. Why not make it the companion you take on your journey through the Christian Year this year? 


Malcolm Guite - The Role of Poetry in Christian Life.

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