Monday, 26 July 2010

Acts of Communion



My first collection of poetry, which is being published in early 2011 by Indigo Dreams, is called ‘Communion’. The title comes from a poem of the same name, which I wrote after visiting St Winifred’s Church in Branscombe, East Devon. But it’s neither a theological discourse nor a homily. Communion is a poem about the pleasures of the flesh.

Just opposite the doorway of St Winifred's, towards the rear of the nave, are the remains of a 15th century mural, believed to have depicted the Seven Deadly Sins, although only Lust has survived the depredations of Henry VIII, Oliver Cromwell and those restoration-crazed Victorians. The sinning couple are shown in each other’s arms, while a skeletal Devil standing to one side is running them through with a lance. Not that this seems to bother the lovers at all. Both are intent upon the other.

It was this defiant pleasure, this communion, that I wanted to celebrate. I imagined them partaking of each other in other churches I’d visited, from Wells Cathedral choir with its sumptuous embroideries and the worn stone steps of its Chapter House, to St Enodoc’s, a tiny Chapel of Ease in Trebetherick, Cornwall, which, over the course of three centuries, filled completely with sand and was known locally as Sinkininny Church. Its graveyard is now the last resting place of Sir John Betjeman.

Apparently, churches were major pulling-places in the past, and when I saw the high-walled Georgian box pews in Puxton Church in Somerset, I could easily picture the illicit fumblings that might have gone on there, out of sight of the rector and the rest of the congregation. I’m a coward, though, so in my poem the couple’s final act of communion takes place ‘beneath the fan-vaulting of trees’ (although you could argue that the cathedrals that are our woods and forests are the most sacred places of all).

The word 'communion' has a more general meaning, however: namely, a coming together to share what we have with others. To me, a lover of the written word, it encapsulates the ability of poetry to leap the chasms between us, to let us know we’re not alone. That's the spark of recognition I would love to strike in people when they read my poems. That's why I share what I write.

It’s these layers of meaning that prompted me to call my collection 'Communion': the sacred and the profane, all mingled together and holy as hell.




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