to Welcome To The
A poem is a door
between two worlds.
A good poem
opens from the everyday world of
circumstance in which it is being read or listened to, into a world of
in which surprising things happen and in which improbable things exist
If you are
lucky, as you stand in the doorway that
the poem has opened, you will find that this glimpse of these other
changes—sometimes forever—your understanding of the everyday world with
you thought you were familiar.
Which of these
worlds is the most real?
contains pieces written over a period of
twenty years. My first, home-produced, collection The
Place Where Socks Go appeared in 1985 in
response to demand for copies of poems performed at concerts with Geoff
Shattock. This grew into Breaking
the Chains (1992) which included The
sailing of the ark, and
is reprinted here unchanged apart from minor corrections and some
references. The remaining poems, written since 1992, are published here
the title Welcome to the real world in book form for the first time.
These poems are
doors with locks on them. You bring
to the poem the keys of your experience, and because your history and
not the same, not all these doors will open, or open completely, for
forty and living in the
This is not a
book of religious or devotional verse,
but its perspective is clearly Christian. There will be those who look
an underlying theology, to place it, for example, in an evangelical, or
liberal, or mystical tradition.
a binding logic to be found here:
that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus were both historical and
spiritual events, and are the defining expressions of God’s
But a very big
change is going on around us. At the
beginning of the 21st century we find ourselves firmly rooted in
the first radically new phase of western culture for over half a
(though to be firmly rooted in anything postmodern is, of course,
a contradiction in terms).
have given way to stories, positions to
views. We have become defined by what we consume, not what we produce.
has supplanted truth, in our debating as much as our advertising. The
of choice has become our principal form of worship, and we are tolerant
anything except dogma. Our identities dissolve into a series of
images—we are what we seem.
This is a
dramatic shift in our culture. The ground
was prepared by scientists: Einstein (with Relativity) and Heisenberg
quantum mechanics) discovered early in the 20th century that the
our universe are weird—and its scale huge—beyond all imagination. Both
space are relative and unpredictable. More disturbing than that, at the
limits of speed and mass, time and space become impossible to tell
the everyday world, nothing is really the way it seems.
desolation, this god of matter
to whose altar we have been dragged
sailing of the ark, sonnet 11)
Now, driven by
global commercial competition and the
24-hour casino of the stock market, we are rushing headlong into the
phase, that of the Internet, in which the 'real' is replaced by the
The pace of technological development in computing and medicine over
century will be staggering: its consequences are unimaginable.
including life itself, is up for grabs.
All of this
deals body blows to conventional thought
and behaviour. Formal Christianity is in the firing line as much, if
than anything else. 21st century postmodernity smiles blankly and
evangelical phariseeism and declines to be interested in its tedious
Of course this
is threatening. God as an objective
person is deeply unfashionable: in postmodern thought, everything is a
Already dismissed by philosophy as irrational and science as
unknowable, God is
now redefined by popular culture as a consumer option.
postmodernity is also liberating for
Christianity. It is no coincidence that Jesus chose the parable, and
postmodern emphasis on stories rather than creeds brings us closer to
century than, say, the mid 20th.
One of the most
empowering features of postmodernity
is that it is no respecter of person or tradition. It is not afraid to
the emperor has no clothes (or is at least clad in extremely threadbare
underwear). Christians have been doing the same and, having found they
been struck down with a thunderbolt for voicing their doubts and
been encouraged to think that there may be other ways to embrace
discipleship other than those formulated in the middle of the twentieth
around western prosperity and the Four Spiritual Laws.
sailing of the ark documents my own
journey into postmodern
Christianity. As I wrote in the original introduction to this poem, I
modern evangelicalism a creed spelled out in black and white, and the
the manger and the wilderness was not to be pinned down so easily.
does not say there is no objective
truth: it only says that, if there is, we can never know it. Postmodern
Christianity agrees that we can only know truth “as in a mirror,
Faith, hope and love are the means of access to the real world. Parable
metaphor—that is, poetry—provide some glimpses of it.
In this book,
ideas in different poems sometimes
appear at odds with one another; but life is not tidy, and for
point to Job, the Psalms and Ecclesiastes; more recently to Gerard
Hopkins' “terrible sonnets” and to James K Baxter, whose fractured
sonnet form I
borrowed for the
The style of
these pieces varies according to their
origin and purpose. Many were written with performance in mind (after
a decade of commissions for Christmas Carol services I think I have
Nativity from every angle with the possible exception of the donkey).
who wish to read or perform some of these pieces in worship services or
events I have provided some notes and an index of themes at the end of
I was determined not to write a
Millennium poem. Song
at the start of a century is it.
encouragement, criticism and
(unpaid!) commissions I am especially grateful to Mark
Montgomery, Stan and Judith Dakin, Gill Dallow, Colin and Mary
Duckworth, James and Mary Lazarus, Donald McRobbie, John and Carina
Jackie Runcorn, Geoff Shattock, Joanna Whitfield and most of all my
children Emma, Joel and Adam, and mother Joan.
For help and
advice in the production and marketing
of this book I am also indebted to Julianna Franchetti, Chris Gander,
Steve Taylor and Julie Woods.
sections of this book come to their
conclusive points at the cross. Christ’s instruction that “he who would
his life must lose it” goes beyond both reason and common sense: love
is literally absurd.
But I have found
these conclusions inescapable:
first, that God’s behaviour is subversive. Secondly, that all important
is paradoxical. And lastly, that love in the form of self-sacrificial
forgiveness is the most powerful force in the universe. These are
of the real world.
Godfrey Rust, 2000