Wordless Witness Video Poetry Readings

poetry, video
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Last year I wrote a book of poems based on incidents in the Gospels, called Wordless Witness. Here’s the blurb for it:

St. Ignatius gives some guidelines about how to pray with passages from scripture, especially the Gospels. He recommends that in order to enter more fully into a scene from the ministry of Jesus, for example, we try to imagine ourselves as one of the characters in the drama, maybe one of the protagonists, Peter, James, John? Or maybe imagine yourself as a bystander observing what was going on. But what if you took it further and imagined yourself as an inanimate object, a cup, a rock, a mountain, or an animal like the donkey on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem, or even something as insubstantial as the cloud that parted at Jesus baptism? All of these played a key role during the ministry of Jesus. What if you could see things through the eyes of these Wordless Witnesses.

The poems in this book take on this point of view and present Gospel events from a new and surprising angle, which sheds light on the nature of Jesus, and also what it must have been like to be close to the person who created the universe but humbled himself to come among us as a man.

It is fascinating to imagine what it might have been like to be one of those wordless witnesses and many of these poems delve into the circumstances leading up to the event itself, what actually happened and what the results were for the witness and the lead players.

So at the end of Lent 2020, I decided to record myself reading some of the poems – the last 6 in the book, which are “A Bowl,” “A Rooster,” “A Thorn Bush,” “A Sponge,” “A Spear,” and “A Cloth.” Each of them refers to elements surrounding the Passion of Jesus Christ and each tells its own story in the course of the poem. I created some movies to accompany my readings and these are now on YouTube on my channel under a separate playlist, HERE. I then posted the link on FaceBook and Twitter.

I think these poems are particularly helpful for Holy Week to prepare for Easter!

Publishing ‘An Act of Courage’

An Act of Courage
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I have just published my seventh book of poetry entitled An Act of Courage. It is a collection of poems I wrote during 2016 and it marks a change of pace for me, since I experimented with different styles and subjects. The book contains a selection of 53 poems chosen from the output of a rather prolific year when I produced more poetry than in any other previous year.

I tend to start off a poem with a certain phrase that seems good to me and then follow a line of images that come to my mind by describing them using metaphor and simile until the poem is finished. Whenever I reread one of my own poems those images come back into my mind like a little movie playing in my head. One of the things I have to watch out for, though, is making sure I seize a subject from the start and run with it, rather than rambling on without really saying anything tangible. Hopefully, I have achieved substance over miasma in this book.

I used to think that poetry was the result of articulating some strong emotion and the stronger the emotion the better the poetry. Unfortunately, the tendency to work up strong emotions can kick in and ruin a poem rather than enhance it. On the other hand, when I actually start a poem with something specific in mind that I want to say, usually the result is something that is usable. I’m not saying that there is no emotion that goes into poetry. All I’m saying is that, for me at least, that is not enough. When you can achieve both in a poem then you have a chance of producing something decent, or even great.

Aristotle’s rules for writing

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Aristotle was a philosopher from ancient Greece who was born about 384 BC in Stagira on the northern border of Greece. At the age of 17, he enrolled in Plato’s Academy where he studied a wide variety of different subjects. His writings include treatises on physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theater, music, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, and writing. In 343 BC, shortly after the death of Plato, Aristotle went off to tutor Alexander the Great. He went on to found his own school, the Lyceum, where he taught on many subjects, studied widely and wrote. Aristotle died in 322 BC. He had quite a bit to say about the theory of writing. Here are some of his quotes:

To write well, express yourself like the common people, but think like a wise man.

It is amazing how many times this tenet is broken by modern novelists. Literary novels can sometimes be guilty of flouting this rule and, I guess, that’s part of their mystique – but it’s also why they usually have a much smaller readership than the blockbusters and bestsellers that are read by millions. Often, literary novelists express themselves like the wise men, as well as thinking like wise men. Obviously, a good number of readers relish the challenge of keeping up with the intellectual gymnastics of the literary novelist or none of their books would never be sold. So perhaps there is room to bend or break this rule if you are writing in that particular genre.