Parable and Paradox
Author Malcolm Guite
Publisher Canterbury Press £10.99
Malcolm Guite, chaplain, poet and theologian, has produced an absorbing and rewarding series of poems, characterised by simple but beautifully precise vocabulary. He is a careful and adept wordsmith and, while using biblical language, is not afraid to make it more effective by adding modern idiom where appropriate. All the poems are competent and well-wrought and many have memorable lines and cadences. Like the poems of Rowan Williams (whose influence may perhaps be detected), Guite’s work evokes emotion and careful reflection. For example in the highly topical sonnet, Christ Among the Refugees, we join ‘that fearful road of weariness and want/Through unforgiving heat and hate…’ knowing at the end that Christ has ‘pitched his tent’ among us – an allusion to John 1.14. At the heart of the book are fifty sonnets based on the words of Jesus and, in particular, his most challenging sayings: the ones that make us all uncomfortable. In this respect some of the poems are as effective as a hard-hitting sermon. This is an excellent book and is highly recommended for Christian teaching. It could be used by ministers and Christian leaders to supplement private prayer and devotion, for quotations in sermons, or for small group teaching and discussion.