"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.

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Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 1 month 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.
7 years 1 month ago
I'd add John O'Donohue to the list of contemporary priest-poets who are ''poets, dammit!''


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