london fashion week now in soho - harry sounding very london in this poem!
harry graduated in july. so technically august is his first month making a life as a poet and it's all going rather well! admittedly he has been performing all over the place for the last few years while studying but you get the drift. he is up at edinburgh festival with his show the sunshine kid in the free fringe. this has been full very day so far and received some good reviews - see tvbomb and broadway baby for example. i loved this quote from the tv bomb review:
Underneath the veneer there is a melancholic yearning that often seeps through, a deep awareness of the intrinsic ache of the human condition. With this in mind, the poems develop into an argument for a positive outlook, for self-belief and for finding meaning somewhere within ourselves. This is a performance that will make you laugh and make you think; art at its transformative best.
as well as doing that he seems to have got himself invited into other events/shows to perform every day which is fun and how you get the word out about your show. this included an invite to perform on simon mayo's radio 2 show - a one minute poem reflecting the contents of the show. this went so well that he was invited back for the week. those shows are up on inlayer for mon, tues, weds, thurs of this week and no doubt the bbc web site as well (it's the first time i've listened to radio 2 for a while being more of a 6 music fan myself…).
i'm heading up to edinburgh on saturday to see the show and hang out and cheer him on which i'm looking forward to. the month will end up with him performing at greenbelt festival. today there is a big feature on him in the church times which is a rather lovely piece.
also this month (probably week) his TED talk will hit one million views by the looks of it - which is pretty amazing.
i can't imagine every month going quite so swimmingly but not a bad start!!! i'm thinking i probably should get a t-shirt saying 'harry baker's dad'. if you are in edinburgh saturday come to harry's show - see you there - though get there early by all accounts.
i always love seeing what people are creating in worship that is soulful and heartfelt and from the bottom up. proost has always tried to give voice to artists and communities in this way. i personally have always favoured liturgy and ideas that come this way round rather than being created for general use (though that has its place too). so i am pleased to say that there are two new resources on proost both of which capture this feel and approach
fear and dust is a book of poems, prayers and hymns to a wild creator god from tim watson who has a couple of other books on proost. as you know if you know proost we love poets! the good news is it's volume 1 so there will be more to follow… it's available as a pdf.
very nearly a whisper is an album of ambient music from dennis hendricksen who i met on a visit to canada. he is new on proost and there is a sample track on the page if you want to have a listen.
you can of course subscribe to proost for a year which means you can access any of the content when you like, including lots of resources for easter for example.
harry has another TED talk up - this time he was invited to take part in TED@StateStreet in london. on the power of self acceptance (and a little more wholesome than the don't flop battle!). i particularly like the line in 22 about the bankers being the robbers in a room presumably with a lot of people working in finance...
harry's latest don't flop battle is now online...
[update: sorry i should have put a health warning on this. do not watch with your kids - this is not a child friendly dinosaur poem! rap battles are well... battles but don't take it all too seriously. the backdrop to this is that a rapper took on his english teacher and don't flop ended up inviting poets who bring word play and trickery to compete with rappers with their insults and rhymes... and yes i wasn't posting this as a worship trick!]
harry has a book of his poetry out which looks amazing and well... very harry like!
he has even set up a web site where you can go and order copies and it's not yet too late to order for christmas.
jenny has written a very moving reflection on grief a year on from her dad's death - there is no path. she has stumbled across a beautiful poem caled gabriel by edward hirsch which has helped name something.
I did not know that the work of mourning
Is like carrying a bag of cement
Up a mountain at night...
...Look closely and you will see
Almost everyone carrying bags
Of cement on their shoulders
kate tempest was fantastic last night at the queen elizabeth hall on the southbank (which is such a great venue btw). i know i have enthused about her many times on the blog or twitter. she possesses or is perhaps possessed by a wonderful gift, the artful gift of crafting words, not just words for words sake but words that are compelled by a deeper drive or vision or calling for what is true and beautiful and just and alive and human. she is a prophet and stands in a line of prophets - those who see what others don't seem to see and who have always weighed their words and had something to say beyond cleverness or trickery or pleasure... those who are compelled to speak, entrusted with words, words of grief and hope.
she is from south london and has not lost her sense of self or roots which must be a challenge with the incredible roll she is on (mercury prize nominee, brand new ancients selling out, ted hughes award, lots of media attention right now and so on...). and she is at pains to show her thanks and humility which is refreshing.
the evening was the launch of a new book - hold your own - in which she tells a mythical tale of tiresias in an epic opening poem and then cracks open four of the tale's themes - childhood, womanhood, manhood, and blind profit. it's brilliant - you should get a copy and its all new material or at least its not in other publications of hers that i have seen. the tale of an old man who loses his eyes and yet becomes a seer, a blind prophet, is masterful.
she weaves a mix of themes of pain and brokenness and struggle and fear throughout with an appeal to truth and humanness, to come home to your real passions and live out of the gift you bring and your own call. a short review can't do justice to the gig. it was so powerful and moving and truthful. there are some poets who are prophets (and poetry as a mode of speech is surely the mother tongue of prophets) - i remember the first time i saw jean binta breeze and feeling as though empires were collapsing and new worlds emerging simply through her words. kate does this - the gods of consumption are laid bare in all their pitiful ugliness and the powerful called to account. it would be easy to assume she is fueled by christian faith as the themes responate so strongly with what christ is about but i don't think that's the case (though i am sure she would enjoy a glass of wine with him) - the false gods of religion are equally dethroned for their perpetuation of control and fear and i think christianity is thrown in with that lot in her take. but she has met the holy, the unknown god whatever name she might give to him/her and she is shining - i'd love to ask her about that some day...
i hope she does well in the mercury prize but for me kate and her voice and her poems and her words is where it's at. make sure you see her doing spoken word and not just with the band...
there were so many lines that caught my attention and i will linger with in the coming days - "wherever you are from is a holy place" is from the poem these things i know.
am planning to head over to see martin daws and gav mart on tour on oct 15 in kingston. join us...
singer songwriter and arts curator gavin mart, + young person's poet laureate for wales martin daws - are coming to Kingston with a creative acoustic set that explores what
'it' is at the heart of the artist.
through expressions in songwriting, music, poetry and spoken word gav and martin explore the following questions:
how does the artist express their yearning for an understanding of something bigger?
what does god mean through the eyes of the artist today?
what is 'it' that triggers our creativity?
how is god understood in contemporary culture?
how can we connect with and support local artists within our communities?
there are so many new things at the moment which is fun! learning to love is a remarkable collection of poetry curated by chris goan. it's been a huge undertaking and has around 100 poets and 300 poems in it. it was a simple idea of chris' a while back and we put the word out that if there were poets interested in publishing to send proost poems. well that quickly became huge. but after sifting and organising, an amazing anthology is the result. i'm so grateful to chris and everyone who has contributed. lots of the poets are publishing for the first time in print i think. it's organised around themes such as protest or the world is broken or the far horizon. if you know any anthologies i guess it's closest in spirit to the series by neil astley - staying alive, being human.
anyway it's just come out on proost. it's available in the greenbelt bookshop. poets themselves can get copies if you know them. and you can order it direct through lulu.com . as ever it's also a pdf download through proost. but i have found that this kind of book i prefer to have a physical copy in my hand. i have actually read all through it twice now.
there is a slot each morning at 9am in the leaves venue at greenbelt to kick start the day of reflections by proost poets that chris is pulling together. do drop in to that.
as well as the contributers to this collection another exciting new thing is that poet harry baker has teamed up with musician chris read to create a 4 track ep but in silence. they are going under the name flock and the ep is available on proost. this is a really beautiful blend of prayerful spoken word artistry coupled with soulful music and song. it's called but in silence. i'll add the link here when it's up... but they will also be performing each morning in the proost poets slots.
i love poets! not just because one is in the family but there is something about this mode of speech that is poignant, direct, soulful, and somehow the language of prophets. when i'd read the anthology i was so inspired by the range of voices, the freedom of speech, the ability to say stuff that needs to be said but that somehow never makes it into sermons and worship songs. there is this undercurrent of voice that needs to be heard. i particularly love the section in the book called the far horizon... anyway have a look and see what you think!
harry is doing a series of ten videos on his observations of german culture and its nuances and differences with english. first up is a hilarious poem about felafels which moves between english and german in harry's usual word play trickery...
amazing to see he was name checked in this article in yesterday's guardian as a spoken word artist kanye west might aspire to be like!
chris has posted a series of 12 dispatches/short poems that he wrote and has posted on cliff tops at the start of such retreats. they are totally wonderful both for retreat and/or pilgrimage. the reason i have added them on pilgrimage is that i happen to have a series on the go for that and they seem to connect with the wild places and wild spirituality akin to the irish pilgrimage.
here's the first and go here to find all twelve...
There are rumours-
Like smoke signals blurred in desert wind
He is here
Not in metaphor
Not whipped up in the collective madness of charismata
Not just politely suggested by the high drama of religious ritual-
With mud on his shoes...
this statue of a pilgrim is at clonmacnoise in ireland. the site was at the crossroads of the east/west road and the shannon river i.e. bang in the middle of the trade routes. it was founded by st ciaron who only lived there for a year or so but a community was there for hundreds of years (and was ransacked over 40 times by various groups but somehow kept starting over again). this statue reminded me of the one i had seen on lindisfarne a couple of years ago - so powerful and evocative.
i have not done much pilgrimage. i have done plenty of retreats. but they are very different things. a retreat is space and silence and reflection and prayer. a pilgrimage (at least in a group) is conversation, journey, stories, exploration, laughter, prayer, community, place (and guiness!).
at the heart of this pilgrimage was a quest to try and connect with the wild spirit of irish christianity, and to be inspired by the stories and lives of some of the saints. we'd travel to the place, touch, taste, see, experience, imagine it, and hear the stories of the place. we'd have some of our own space at each place, and in several of the places would pray together and reflect on how the stories connected with our own stories. depending on how people like to process things conversations, journalling, group times, reading and some spiritual direction were all part of the mix.
i first came up with the idea for this trip when i read about michael mitton and russ parker's trip to wales a couple of years back. michael's poems caught my imagination and i felt there was something in the stories of the saints that resonated with me, and perhaps with pioneers today. michael and russ agreed to lead a trip for a group of us and so we benfitted so much from their experience and wisdom.
michael wrote a couple of new poems on this trip which he has added to his pages - i can't seem to link directly - so go to his site and click on books and select poems from the drop down menu. here's one of his new ones about sennach whose island we sailed round in a surging sea where we were graced with the site of the fins of a school of dolphins which was amazing
Sennach founded a monastery on the island of Illauntannig, just north of Castlegregory on the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland. Visitors to the island can still see the remains of the monastic community, including some beehive cells, a cross, church and burial ground. Access to the island is not easy!
Your hand that clutches the rim of your coracle
is the same that gently lifts its blessing
on your isle.
Such swells and currents don’t disturb you
for you dream them in your salty sleep.
You feel the surges of God in these waters
divine heaves and sighs
signs of the yearnings of God;
glimpses of the grace of God
in the fin of a passing dophin.
Is that why you set sail to this island
and built your tent from its rough earth?
I see you there, your blistered hand lifting dark stones
one upon the other
transforming these cold rocks into a vibrant home.
This your dysart, beckoning the surf of God
to break over the dry, dry land.
Oh Lord, when I settle too much on my mainland
take me back to these waters.
Let me feel again the movements of the great sea
the surgings of your restless heart.
Let me see the glittering surf
your life breaking through the waters my soul at last in tune with yours.
the feeling captured in the last verse is what i experienced on the pilgrimage - a longing and stirring for the same kind of wild spirit to be at work in me and indeed in cms pioneers and the church. we're tentatively planning another trip for pioneers next year. give me a shout if you are interested.
looking forward to seeing harry any hour now back from germany for christmas. he is doing one show in london while he is here as part of the bethlehem unwrapped festival. the whole festival looks great. but slammed up on 29 december is a night of spoken word featuring harry, disraeli and others. perfect for a night out after christmas. hope to see some of you there!!!
here's some blurb on the whole festival...
St James’s Piccadilly, London. December 23rd 2013 – January 5th 2014
Through music, food, art, poetry, debate and more Bethlehem Unwrapped goes behind the romanticised Christmas card images of the ancient city to show what life is like for people in Bethlehem today. The festival celebrates the culture and stories of those living behind the wall and their work for peace. Hope, humour and humanity are reflected throughout the programme, which brings together renowned musician and composerNigel Kennedy, chefs Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi, singer Reem Kelani, comediansMark Steel and Jeremy Hardy, activist and speaker Jeff Halper, actor Adjoa Andoh, film-maker Leila Sansour, video artist Larissa Sansour, writer and speaker Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, slam poets Harry Baker and Rafeef Ziadah and more.
Join us for the launch at 6pm on December 23rd for the unveiling of a major interactive art installation and find out about the rest of the exciting programme here.
love this piece by tina hodgett over at her blog and am making it worship trick 44 is series 4 (yes they are still going).
Life giver bread breaker storm sleeper blame taker
Scroll reader mask exposer sheep steerer wave treader
Temple razer truth wielder light exuder crowd amazer
Life enhancer, drinker, dancer
Cross bearer dazzle wearer law lover wine renewer
Story weaver, hurt healer, death drinker, God revealer
Lone lamb finder, Satan binder
Sight restorer, desert victor, sin forgiver, hymn singer
Morning pray-er, bondage breaker, bone straightener, peacemaker….
Bubbling up with joy river
Death defeater, grace ladler, never sinner, heart burner
Tempest husher, Spirit breather, show stealer, table turner…..
All the future in their eyes.
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