Poetry: Two New Poems from Malcolm Guite

cross, sky, poetry, nature

Transpositions is excited to provide a platform for established as well as upcoming poets whose work pushes forward our own collective interest in the areas of theology, imagination, and the arts. Today, we offer two new poems from Malcolm Guite. 

How To Scan A Poet

My doctor tells me I will need a scan;
I tap a nervous rhythm with my feet,
‘Just count to five’, she says, ‘and then sit down.

The gist of it is printed on this sheet,
So read it over when you are at home.
We’ll have a clearer picture when we meet’.

I read the letter in a waiting room,
It’s language strangely rich for one like me
Image, Contrast, Resonance; a poem

Slips into view amidst the litany
Of Latin terms that make our medicine
A new poetic terminology.

The door is opened. I am ushered in
To lisp my list of symptoms, to rehearse
The undiscovered art of naming pain.

‘Its called deep inspiration, says the nurse,
‘Draw deep for me then simply hold your breath
And stay composed.’ So I compose this verse.

She says ‘We dye for contrast, to unearth
Each hidden image, which might bring
Some clue that takes us closer to the truth.

Be still and I will pass you through the ring,
Three passes, all in rhythm, and you’re free,
The resonance will show us everything’

And now my Muse says much the same to me,
Scanning these lines, and calling me to sing.


For Scott Cairns on his birthday

For everything coheres within the Logos;
Even those afternoons, lost in a maze
A stupefaction in the face of Chronos,
When only Idiot Psalms can voice His praise.
Everything coheres, our unbelief
Makes up the score that underscores our faith;
Your poetry makes music of our brief
Epiphanies vouchsafed in love and wrath.

The Man who harrowed Hell gave you a map
That you might make for us a pilgrims’ guide;
A mess of desolation laced with hope,
Communion with a whisky in the side.
As you restore the broken themes of praise
I lift my glass and bless our borrowed days



  • Malcolm Guite is a poet and singer-songwriter living in Cambridge. He is a priest, chaplain, teacher and author. His books include Mariner (2017), Parable and Paradox: Sonnets on the Sayings of Jesus and Other Poems (2016), Faith, Hope and Poetry (Routledge Studies in Theology, Imagination & the Arts) (2012), and Sounding the Seasons (2012), among others.

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