"He's a Poet, Dammit."

This weekend, the Guardian's David Hare published an interview with Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.  In their wide-ranging conversation, Williams touches on the pitfalls of free-market capitalism, the insufficiency of logical arguments as conclusive "proof" for God's existence, and his struggle to maintain unity in an Anglican Communion that has been notoriously fractious in recent years.  On this last point in particular, Williams alludes to his effort to prevent the Communion from becoming "so balkanised that we talk only to people we like and agree with."



Somewhat unexpectedly in an interview discussing so many pressing theological and social questions, Williams seemed most animated when he was discussing poetry.  Himself a published poet, Williams was asked if he is happy to be mentioned with other prominent Welch "poet-priests" such as Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ, George Herbert and R.S. Thomas.  In response, the archbishop fumed:

"I always get annoyed when people call RS Thomas a poet-priest. He's a poet, dammit. And a very good one. The implication is that somehow a poet-priest can get away with things a real poet can't, or a real priest can't. I'm very huffy about that. But I do accept there's something in the pastoral office that does express itself appropriately in poetry. And the curious kind of invitation to the most vulnerable places in people that is part of priesthood does come up somewhere in poetic terms." 

Though Williams doesn't really get around to his feelings on being mentioned with the fellow Welch poets, his enthusiasm for the works of George Herbert is clear:

"Herbert's very important to me. Herbert's the man."

For others who may think Herbert's the man, or who are wondering if Williams's enthusiasm is well-placed, check here and here.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Beth Cioffoletti
6 years 10 months ago
I think Herbert's the man.  Thanks for the links.  I was familiar with the Love poem, but not The Collar.  I will be musing over that for a few days (or years), I think.
6 years 10 months ago
I'd add John O'Donohue to the list of contemporary priest-poets who are ''poets, dammit!''


Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Chilean clerical sex abuse survivors Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and Jose Andres Murillo in Rome, May 2. The three met Pope Francis individually at the Vatican April 27-29. The Vatican announced on May 22 that a second group of abuse victims will visit the pope in June (CNS photo/Paul Haring).
The encounters will take place from June 1-3 at Santa Marta, the Vatican guesthouse where Francis lives.
Gerard O’ConnellMay 22, 2018
Pope Francis talks with Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, as they arrive for a meeting in the synod hall at the Vatican in this Feb. 13, 2015, file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 
Righteous call-outs should be patterned after Cardinal O’Malley’s rebuke of Pope Francis on sex abuse.
Simcha FisherMay 22, 2018
In May, my cousin Christina and her husband Tyler were murdered in their home.
John J. ConleyMay 22, 2018
Follow Father Arturo Sosa's first visit to the Jesuits in Canada!
America StaffMay 22, 2018