The Archbishop on the relationship of poetry and prayer
Sunday 7th March 2010The Archbishop of Canterbury, a published poet, shares his passion for poetry in an interview with Revd Richard Coles for BBC Songs of Praise. Speaking on the Psalms, he describes them as 'almost child-like intensity and immediacy'.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, a published poet, shares his passion for poetry in an interview with Revd Richard Coles for BBC Songs of Praise. Speaking on the Psalms, he describes them as 'almost child-like intensity and immediacy'.
Revd Richard Coles: Archbishop Rowan, many people say they find poetry difficult. What would you say to them?
Archbishop of Canterbury: I think difficult can be another word for exciting. If it is something that stretches you and suggests that actually language is more interesting and more lively than you ever imagined then it's well worth the difficulty.
RC: What makes a good poem?
ABC: I think it's a mixture of sheer music, the sound helps, which is why it's no good despising rhymes and meters because they're part of the music. The other thing is really vivid images.
The Archbishop reads:
Dominus regit me.
1 The Lord is my shepherd:
therefore can I lack nothing.
2 He shall feed me in a green pasture:
and lead me forth beside the waters of comfort.
RC: The Old Testament is full of poetry, most famously the 150 Psalms, and they've long had a place in Christian worship.
Is there a relationship do you think between poetry and prayer?
ABC: I think there is, I think that both of them are about what happens when you've ran out of ordinary language, both are about coming to the edge of something greater, something much more mysterious. Both of them are about the world being more than you can imagine it to be.
3 He shall convert my soul:
and bring me forth in the paths of righteousness,
for his Name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff comfort me.
RC: Why do you think the Psalms continue to speak to us?
ABC: Honesty, I think. It's the nakedness of the Psalm, the vulnerability. When the Psalmist or Psalmists are feeling murderously angry, they say so, they say 'God I'd like you to slaughter my enemies, please?' and when they're feeling joyful they say ' I can't begin to tell you how wonderful you are and the world you've made'. And there's that almost child-like intensity and immediacy, and that rings bells for everyone.