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Poetry evening - Camden & Lumen Poetry Project

Poets Ruth O'Callaghan, John F. Deane, Archbishop Rowan Williams, Fiona Sampson.

Tuesday 3rd July 2012

Archbishop Rowan Williams, with fellow poets Fiona Sampson and John F. Deane, contributed to a poetry evening held as part of the Camden and Lumen Poetry project which supports Cold Weather Shelters in Camden and Kings Cross.

The Poetry project is run by Ruth O'Callaghan.  Events are held throughout the year with proceeds going to the C4WS Cold Weather Shelters. C4WS is a church based ‘rolling shelter’ that provides emergency accommodation to street homeless, those at immediate risk of rough sleeping locally and ‘hidden homeless’. Through the partnerships of local churches the project has a unique ability to meet the practical needs of homeless individuals in Camden and the surrounding area without discrimination or favour.

Dr Williams, responding to the work of the shelters, read poems on the theme of living on the margins. Dr Williams read a number of his own poems, including 'Emmaus', 'Yellow Star' (about refugee Maria Elisaveta Scobtsova who fled to Paris after the Russian Revolution and spent the rest of her life looking after other refugees) and a recent poem inspired by his 2011 visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Dr Williams read alongside the highly-regarded poets John F. Deane and Fiona Sampson. John F. Deane’s chosen poems included ones written in response to a visit to the Holy Land. Fiona Sampson’s selection included 'The Miracle Tree', a poem inspired by a school trip to a ‘bleeding yew’ in a Welsh churchyard and which prompted Dr Williams to respond with his own poem about the same tree.

Later in the evening Archbishop Rowan paid tribute to Waldo Williams with 'Masterclass' and 'A View', and read haiku inspired by the 21 chapters of John's Gospel.  He finished with two poems from his 'Shakespeare in love' sequence: 'A Winter's Tale', and 'King Lear'. 

Listen here to an audio recording from part of the evening [10Mb, 10 mins]. 



First the sun, then the shadow,
so that I screw my eyes to see
my friend’s face, and its lines seem
different, and the voice shakes in the hot air.
Out of the rising white dust, feet
tread a shape, and, out of step,
another flat sound, stamped between voice
and ears, dancing in the gaps, and dodging
where words and feet do not fall.

When our eyes meet, I see bewilderment
(like mine); we cannot learn
the rhythm we are asked to walk,
and what we hear is not each other.
Between us is filled up, the silence
is filled up, lines of our hands
and faces pushed into shape
by the solid stranger, and the static
breaks up our waves like dropped stones.

So it is necessary to carry him with us,
cupped between hands and profiles,
so that the table is filled up, and as
the food is set and the first wine splashes,
a solid thumb and finger tear the thunderous
grey bread.  Now it is cold, even indoors,
and the light falls sharply on our bones;
the rain breathes out hard, dust blackens,
and our released voices shine with water. 

© Rowan Williams 2008 in Headwaters: poems by Rowan Williams (Oxford: Perpetua Press, 2008);  reproduced here by kind permission of the Perpetua Press


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