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Breaking the Silence

Poetry and the Kenotic Word


Edited By Malgorzata Grzegorzewska, Jean Ward and Mark Burrows

This book of essays on poetic speech, viewed in a literary-critical, theological and philosophical light, explores the connections and disconnections between vulnerable human words, so often burdened with doubt and pain, and the ultimate kenosis of the divine Word on the Cross. An introductory discussion of language and prayer is followed by reflections linking poetry with religious experience and theology, especially apophatic, and questioning the ability of language to reach out beyond itself. The central section foregrounds the motif of the suffering flesh, while the final section, including essays on seventeenth-century English metaphysical poetry and several of the great poets of the twentieth century, is devoted to the sounds and rhythms which give a poem its own kind of «body».
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World as the Icon of the Word: Sacramental Imagination in R. S. Thomas’s Nature Poems


The whole earth is a living icon of the face of God (St. John of Damascus)

R. S. Thomas claimed repeatedly that the core of his twin vocation as a priest-poet was the mystery of Incarnation. In fact he came to see the whole created world as the sacrament that speaks of God: hence his interest in nature and in the physical realities which may direct the beholder towards spiritual truths. As he wrote, “The sacramental side is there at the root … I feel when I act as a poet or when I act as a priest that I am doing the same work: conveying the sacrament of the earth, God’s earth, to people” (Thomas in Brown, “Language, Poetry and Silence” 165). In one interview the poet added: “I’ve kept away from large centres of population therefore I can’t really say that I have discovered God in people so much as I have under the stars at night, and in the workings of the created world” (Baker 313).

The aim of this paper is to analyse the work of sacramental imagination in some selected nature poems by R. S. Thomas. It may be claimed that in these poems the world is presented as iconological, that is to say as the icon of the Logos. On the one hand, the created world seems to be translucent, half-revealing, half-hiding God’s presence, and always pointing beyond its own visibility towards the Invisible and Unnamable. On the other...

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