samuel-tonguePoetry is made of language and we live, and move, and have our being in language. Our thoughts, our hopes, our loves, and our faiths are expressed in language. But none of us are truly monoglot; our words and concepts are borrowed from other languages and dialects and as we travel and experience other cultures and faiths, we constantly translate ourselves into and out of other languages and traditions.

Poems are like this. I think of a poem as a made thing, an invention, from the Latin invenio, which means to both invent and discover. In writing a poem, in struggling to shape a response to the world, the poet is making it up as they go along, bringing words together in a form that tries to sound out a truth. But they are also discovering what they believe in the same moment. This is the precarious and exciting task of the writer as they follow the lines of the poem and begin to see where it is taking them.

In this workshop, we shall read some poems together to map out some of the paths other poets have taken across the terrain of faith and conversion. We’ll also think through how different languages and theologies are translated into the everyday world, incarnated and embodied. We shall then write some autobiographical pieces about our own experiences of moving between, into, and out of other faith traditions.


What people mean by faith

Sometimes what people mean by faith

is the ability to believe

in the sheer impossibility

of morning and the way

things happen outside ourselves

even before we wake.

An unseen cat scampers across

a stopped river of cold concrete.

A blackbird opens an orange rimmed eye

and sings. Streetlights flick off suddenly

leaving a slow afterglow of night

and, as the milk-bottles build up the doorstep,

someone receives a letter

giving him another reason to live.