I grew up very Protestant. So Protestant that I remember asking my RE teacher when I was about 10, “What’s the difference between Catholics and Christians?” It was in a “Do you have any questions for your teacher?” section of the workbook, and my teacher diplomatically replied, “Ask your parents about this.” I can’t remember if I asked them or how they answered if I did. But I grew up with a clear sense that Catholics (and probably Anglicans) valued tradition more than relationship with God. As such, I saw all traditions – Lent with them – as meaningless distractions from God.
As a young adult, and a reluctant Anglican, I came to find that Lent was actually a season that fit me quite nicely. My struggles with mental illness had made me acutely aware of my own dust, and had also made me search to recover the much-needed and neglected tradition of Christian lament. Lent, it turned out, offered something I craved in my devotional life.
But the other seasons have been harder to walk through. I am less inclined to the Hallelujahs of Easter or the rejoicing of Christmas. The longing of Advent is easier but I’m still often too much of a Scrooge to mix my lament with hope.
This is why I need all the seasons: because if I had control, the whole year would be Autumn and nothing grows that way. I need the home-ground advantage of Lent but I need also to see budding flowers and be reminded to hope, and I need to sit in the sunshine and celebrate the joys and the victories already here.
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Another preview from the collection, especially for today: Transfiguration Sunday.
The heart seeks Tabernacle:
on mountain-top, by river-bank, it longs
to settle, to hold the Presence safe,
within arm’s reach,
just the length of an Elijah’s-staff away.
Yet the false Tabernacles we weave
as curtains against truth
turn Transfiguration to self-help session
and seek double portions to allay the moment’s loss.
Day turns to night.
The chariot leaves; the mountain calls us down.
Beneath the vision’s light, what will we know
when ecstasy fades and the presence evades
our attempts at tabernacles?
In the heart’s dwelling-place when the moment is past,
will we descend to today’s implications?
When the glow recedes but the portion remains,
will we tend to the horsemen of Israel?
This week has seen lots of progress for The Swelling Year. I’ve finished selecting the poems and the first draft has been through its first check-over by another pair of eyes. I’ve also started the process with Lulu, the publisher I’ve chosen, and done the initial set-up of the crowdfunding campaign at Pozible. Lots of action!
Most excitingly, I’ve teed up a collaboration with my highly talented artist friend Robert Kingdom, who designed the banner for this site. Robert will be contributing some of his artwork to the project, and I’m looking forward to keeping you posted on what this will involve. In the meantime, here’s a sample of his work. Go and check out more at his website. And stay tuned for the next update!
When I first started writing my way through the church calendar back in 2012, I found that one English poet, John Keble, had beaten me to it in 1827. So I decided to pay tribute to him instead of trying to outdo him. The opening sequence of poems in Keble’s The Christian Year refers again and again to the way that our days and seasons “swell” with the expectancy of God’s glory. And so this seemed an apt image to use in my own cycle of poems.
In 2013, John Keble’s memorial day in the church calendar happened to fall on Good Friday. So here is a snippet from the poem that I wrote that day in memory of him:
If we could pause the swelling of our years
Enough to let our wounds rest in his wounds,
We might find hiding places for our shame
And tissue torn to daub up all our tears.
There all our sorrows sound their sweetest tunes
Within the broken triumph of his Name.
Stay tuned for more samples from The Swelling Year, and sign up to the mailing list via the “Contact” page to make sure you don’t miss any updates on the project’s progress.
Well, I’m in the throes of sorting through and collating six years of poems at the moment, and this one from 2016 struck me as fitting for both the time of year and this season of life. Stay tuned for more tasters of what will be in the anthology…
Resolution: Slow Fruit
Nothing purposed is instant. Fruit grows
first by roots spreading deep,
nutrients drawn, sunlight synthesised,
chlorophyll taking glory from green.
Look to the fig tree. If you see its buds,
Summer’s promise dangles, yet is not realised.
a kitten’s ball of yarn, or a note
waiting to resolve, a game
of slow expectancy.
New year brings blossoms
but fruit is never instant. Trees
ask for patient expectation.
Come here daily; look to leaves
yet wait before you pick.
Thanks for visiting!
This is the home page for my forthcoming book project, “The Swelling Year: Poems for Holy and Ordinary Days”.
The book will gather together poems written over the last six years, coming out of a growing interest in the ancient seasons of the church’s liturgical year and how these can shape our devotional lives.
These poems began with my “Swelling Year” project, back in 2012, when I started writing my way through each day of the Anglican church calendar. After I came full cycle through the year, I decided to keep going – not every day, but regularly revisiting the seasons of the year and the people, events, stories and themes that the calendar remembers.
At the start of 2019, I decided it was time to bring together the best of these six years of “writing liturgically”, and this site will be the place for updates on the project, including the launch (coming soon…!) of a crowdfunding campaign to get the book into people’s hands, on their devices and on their bookshelves. Please hit “Follow” and subscribe here if you want to know more, and spread the word to others who you think will be interested.
Meanwhile, you can find regular pieces of my writing at my home blog, The Consolations of Writing.
I hope to see you all here again soon!