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This is an archived website containing material relating to Dr Rowan Williams’ time as Archbishop of Canterbury, which ended on 31st December 2012

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Language under stress: poetry and faith

Fiona Sampson and Archbishop Rowan. Photo: Nick Cunard.

Wednesday 20th June 2012

Archbishop Rowan Williams met with poet and critic Fiona Sampson to discuss poetic and religious language at an event organised by the Royal Society of Literature and presented by its President, Colin Thubron.

The conversation began with the relationship between poetry and liturgy, and went on to consider register and rhetoric, metre and musicality, understatement and excess. Dr Williams spoke about his own experiences as a poet and translator, and said that growing up in a home where both Welsh and English were spoken had awakened him early to the notion that there is always more than one way of saying something. 

The Archbishop touched on the work of fellow poets such as Geoffrey Hill and George Herbert throughout the evening, and took questions from the audience at the end.  Summing up the power of poetic language, Dr Williams said "a mystery is not a corruptly protected secret - it is an invitation".  

Listen to the conversation here [28 Mb, 58 mins]

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