Starting Palm Sunday I am going to post a poem a day for Holy Week. Apart from an introductory sentence or two, the poems are allowed to speak for themselves. My own response to Easter is always enriched by the careful shaping and disciplined arranging of words and images that trigger surprise, subvert assumptions, and encourage theological imagination. Several poets have enriched and extended the range of my own imagination and sense of theological adventure.
Few can chisel words more sharply and fit them more precisely than George Herbert, and at the same time achieve such an exact balance between emotion and intellect, intimacy and distance, trustfulness and truth.
When it comes to alert critique of a world whose pain is mirrored in the cross, Denise Levertov articulates essential protest at such wounds as Vietnam, El Salvador and the various political cynicisms of her own times. Joan baez without the guitar.
Emily Dickinson's is a poet of the inner life, virtually a hermit all her adult life, but a militant soul for whom truth is to be told with rhetorical force - 'Tell all the truth but tell it slant' - because the truth is 'superb surprise'.
R S Thomas is the poet who for me, best captures the interrogative mood of hearts that recognise the mystery and tragedy of life, and the doubting faith and angry questions hurled at God speak of a trust at times more secure than a less questioning acquiescence.
Several hymn-writers, from Charles Wesley to Brian Wren, create the kind of poetry that can be sung by those gathered together for worship - that essential fusion of singability, grown-up language that doesn't try to bypass the mind, and words at the service of our experience of God, both articulating and at times replicating that experience - 'my chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed thee' -
I sing that and I'm already on my feet hurrying after Christ!
Some of these are going to be represented in this week's posts, some not. We all are likely to have our preferred ways of coming at the truth of Holy Week. I hope some of these poets enrich and extend your own theological imagination as we move towards Easter Sunday.