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Gwybodaeth Lyfryddol
Poems of Rowan Williams
Rowan Williams
ISBN: 9781870882163 (1870882164)Dyddiad Cyhoeddi Ionawr 2003
Cyhoeddwr: Perpetua Press, Rhydychen
Fformat: Clawr Meddal, 216x136 mm, 96 tudalen Iaith: Saesneg Adargraffu Ein Pris: £10.00   
Does dim Adolygiad Cwsmer i'r teitl hwn.
 
Ysgrifennwch Adolygiad Cwsmer
Casgliad o 65 cerdd gan Rowan Williams, Archesgob Caer-gaint, sef holl gerddi'r cyfrolau After Silent Centuries a Remembering Jerusalem a cherddi diweddar yn adlewyrchu ymateb i eitemau celf, ymweliad â Jerusalem a marwolaeth personau yr oedd yn eu caru a'u hedmygedd, gyda chyfieithiadau o waith Ann Griffiths, T. Gwynn Jones a Waldo Williams.

A collection of 65 poems by Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, being all the poems from the volumes After Silent Centuries and Remembering Jerusalem and recent poems reflecting responses to art items, a visit to Jerusalem and the death of persons he loved and admired, with translations of the work of Ann Griffiths, T. Gwynn Jones and Waldo Williams.
Liberals acclaim him, evangelists decry him. Appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in July 2002, Rowan Williams comes bearing, it seems - and despite himself - not peace but the sword of ecclesiastical division.

One wonders, then, what either flank in what promises to be a long-running intra-Anglican dogfight will make of the new primate's poetry. In 'Advent Calendar', three restrained stanzas prophesy a wintry second coming of Christ in terms of leaf-fall, frost and darkness; then a fourth explodes into rhetoric:

He will come, will come,
will come like crying in the night.
like blood, like breaking,
as the earth writhes to toss him free.
He will come like child.

Williams's passionate mysticism responds keenly both to the world of nature and to the art humankind has made out of its faith. In 'September Birds', he sees crows first as 'specks of stubble fire', scattered by the sun, then as 'netted' by oak-trees. There's a different kind of blaze in the extraordinary 'Our Lady of Vladimir', where the icon's Madonna speaks of the Christ-child as 'soft shining mistletoe to my black bark'.

But not all the poems are as eloquent as these. One or two are so obscure that I found it difficult to find a way into them. Williams can also get bogged down in abstractions, and he has a tendency to over-elaborate - particularly in longer poems. There is a strong sequence of poems on dying and death under the title 'Graves and Gates', with pieces on Rilke, Tolstoy, Nietzsche, Simone Weil and others. A smaller group of four poems, 'Celtia', expresses Williams's anti-romantic view of Celtic history. A closing section of translations includes versions of work by Ann Griffiths and Waldo Williams that opt for free-verse fluency and clarity of image rather than literality or structural tightness. It's an approach that sacrifices as much as it gains.

Richard Poole

It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgement should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.

Gellir defnyddio’r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatâd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru.
Gwybodaeth Bellach:
The Poems of Rowan Williams
The Poems of Rowan Williams is the work of the incumbent Archbishop of Canterbury. Reading his book, we are audience to a sincere voice rich in subtle inflection. Several of the poems in the collection, writes the author in the foreword, 'began as responses to visual works' and to 'some of the best-known and most frequently reproduced images in Early Christian art'. These include 'Rublev', 'Our Lady of Vladimir' and 'Feofan Grek: the Novgorod Frescoes'. Other art also inspires the poet. In 'Gwen John in Paris', for example, the Welsh artist, speaking in the first person, refers to herself as 'Mrs Noah'. She 'call[s] the beasts home together', and 'watch[es] the silent sky without doubt, in the soaked moonlit grass sleep[s] without dread' (9). 'Gwen John in Paris' underlines the poet's affinity with things which, while manifestly exotic, are essentially Welsh, and affirms that, a man of the pen, he sees the brush as a sister-tool. 'Celtia', a group of four poems, the poet tells us in his foreword, 'embodies a lasting scepticism about some modern romantic pictures of Celtic identity'. Thus, in 'Gundestrup: The Horned God', 'The Sky Falling', 'Posidonious and the Druid' and 'Altar to the Mothers', he looks at 'bits of the ancient Celtic world', 'artefacts from that age', and 'fragments from one or two of the classical writers who describe it'. 'Crossing' is a series of eight sonnets about love and interpersonal relationships. Modern images challenge the formality of the sonnet's twelve lines plus rhyming couplet: 'So did we ever have an assignation under the station clock? An intersection of complicated routes? Was there a break between connections when we might have snatched a word...?' In memory of R.S. Thomas, fellow Welshman, clergyman and poet, Rowan Williams gives us 'Deathship': 'At dawn, somewhere westward, the boat flares in a blaze of crying birds' (p. 73). (This image of passing from life by boat into the west is adopted by Gillian Clarke too in her elegy for R.S. Thomas: '...the seas dark and empty tonight, except for the one frail coracle borne out to sea, burning' (Making the Beds for the Dead, Carcanet 2004, p. 21). Remarkably, both Williams and Clarke imagine the floating bier aflame, fire on water consuming the remains of a legend.) The The Poems of Rowan Williams includes 'free translations' by the Archbishop from the Welsh of Ann Griffiths, 'a farmer's wife without formal education, who died in 1805, leaving a handful of hymns still remarkable for their bold and extravagant imagery and sustained emotional density' (Foreword, p. 8). Other Welsh texts translated freely are six poems by Waldo Williams, 'a visionary pacifist whose moral and cultural influence was (and is) immense' (8). Three poems from the German of Prague-born Rainer Maria Rilke complete the selection of translated work. The selection is a revealing one. Ann Griffith's hymns of jubilation contrast with Rilke's modernity: 'And I, while there is breath left to me, say, Thanksgiving...that there is a God to worship,' runs the translation of the former ('Hymn for the Mercy Seat). And of the latter: 'We don't know where to stand to look at the unwelcome destination, how to see our death' ('Experiencing Death'). Rowan's choice of Waldo's 'After Silent Centuries' ('Wedi'r Canrifoedd Mudan'), homage to 'the Catholic martyrs of Wales', a poem informed by an ecumenical and nationalist spirit, indicates a vision shared by the two Williamses: 'You'd have to tell a tale of them, a great, a memorable tale, if only Welshmen, you were, after all, a people'. 'Remembering Jerusalem' is a cluster of six pieces that include 'Jerusalem Limestone'. We read: '...the dust sits in the folds of clothes and lungs and larynx' and 'the terraces are rimmed with stone, white as a scrubbed doorstep'. While the titles 'Gethsemane' and 'Calvary' recall the New Testament, 'Advent Calendar', a lyrical prophecy, and a statement of simple faith, echoes passages from the Old: 'He will come like last leaf's fall...He will come like frost...He will come like dark...He will come, will come like crying in the night'. Similar emotion fuels the long poem 'Twelfth Night' whose theme is ageing and the passing of childhood. In 'Twelfth Night', Rowan Williams, as in other poems, forges lines of memorable poetry: 'In the dry winter chambers of the stars is infancy, a soul unhistoried, breathing new air, inheriting no dead man's speech'. But infancy and human life is not always shining and noble in these poems. In contrast to 'Twelfth Night' stands 'Penrhys' with its 'cartons and condoms and a few stray sheets of newspaper that the wind sticks across his face' and 'thin teenage mothers by the bus stop'. Ranging from subjects Biblical to this cold council estate in the Rhondda Valley, and from the music of Bach to that of Ann Griffiths, The Poems of Rowan Williams is a unique and profound collection by an eminent thinker, humanist and Welshman.
Cyfnewidfa LÍn Cymru/Wales Literature Exchange
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