Sacred poetry and the way of the bard

Maurice Paul Stafford-Bower, co-Regional Coordinator for the Isle of Wight, shares this presentation given at the Unitarian Meeting House, Newport, July 2012:

Sacred poetry and the way of the bard, Pagan Federation community blogA few weeks ago, Isle of Wight multifaith minister-in-training Jude had to go away on a course and she asked me to step in, wearing my Druid hat (though not the robe!) to lead a poetry-themed service. In an ill-considered fit of bravado, I decided it would work best as a multimedia presentation, so I put it together that way and scripted the whole thing, timed down to the hour I was allowed. I called it ‘Sacred Poetry and The Way of the Bard’.

The intro ran:
“Poetry. What is it? And what possible relevance could it have to our lives? And, an even bigger question, perhaps: what conceivable relevance could it possibly have to our spiritual lives?”

And that’s when the projector fell out with my laptop and my carefully crafted presentation was reduced to a fraction of the screen. After hacking it for a few awkward minutes, I was finally able to carry on – though with rather less of the visual impact originally intended.

Nevertheless, I was able to play a video Mary-Ann and I recorded of a joint creation called ‘I Am – Eight Seasons’, with original music by my Druid co-priest, Malcolm Brown. For anyone interested, it’s on YouTube at:

We were then able to move on to cover definitions of poetry, with some contributions from the poets themselves, a number of readings (some by the original authors) of Dylan Thomas, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Robert Frost, John Masefield and W. H. Auden. We also looked at the poem, ‘Crossing The Bar’ by former Isle of Wight resident Alfred Lord Tennyson, which was of course also set to music as a hymn.

There was then a brief interlude about writing your own poetry with a short examination of the Bardic approach and the ‘poet’s toolbox’ (meter, rhyme, alliteration, etc) followed by a glimpse of Greek mythology and The Muses. We also looked at Taliesin’s ‘Song To The Wind’, a Bardic riddle, before moving on to the mighty William Blake and his ‘Auguries of Innocence’, as well as his iconic hymn, ‘Jerusalem’.

The penultimate presentation piece was a video of a reading of the poem, ‘Beannacht’ (Blessing), by its author, the late Rev John O’Donohue, who also wrote the beautiful book, ‘Anam Cara’ (Soul Friend), before I finished up with a reading of one of my own poems, called ‘The End’.

Despite the tech troubles, the presentation seemed to go down well in the end. Too well, perhaps. I’ve now been asked to repeat a poetry workshop I ran a year ago in aid of an Island woodland charity. But I’ll certainly need to have a few choice words with that projector first.

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