Malcolm Guite is a priest, poet, songwriter, and chaplain of Girton College, Cambridge. He’s also served as a chaplain at our Glen Workshops in Santa Fe. I came to know Guite’s work through the online community Sick Pilgrim, where his book, Sounding the Seasons, a collection of sonnets inspired by the liturgical year, is much beloved. The artists in Sick Pilgrim, many of whom are struggling to make sense of their Christian faith in the context of their work, also love the figure of Guite himself. To give you an idea of why, he’s been described as what you might get if John Donne journeyed to Middle Earth by way of San Francisco, took musical cues from Jerry Garcia and fashion tips from Bilbo Baggins, and rode back on a Harley.
Guite is the author of five books of poetry, including two chapbooks and three full-length collections. His book Mariner is a biography of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, shaped and structured around the story he told in his most famous poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” The Tablet predicted it would become a classic of Christian spirituality.
Scott Cairns has said that Coleridge is a poet he remains in conversation with when he writes. He’s one of the dead poets Cairns says he keeps on his desk. His eight books of poetry include Idiot Psalms and Slow Pilgrim. He’s an editorial advisor to Image and the director of the MFA program at Seattle Pacific University, and his poems and essays have appeared in many of our issues. He’s also the author of one of the books that stays on my own writing desk: The End of Suffering, Finding Purpose in Pain.
Cairns said in an interview that he no longer looks at poetry as an expressive art, but more as a way of knowing. He puts words on the page, trusting the language will lead into seeing something he hadn’t anticipated.
Both Guite and Cairns open up new ways of thinking about what it means to be an artist of faith. David Jennings brought them together in Santa Fe to read from their work, and to talk about the enduring influence of Coleridge, their mutual obsession with time, and how writing and reading poetry can help us to heal experiences of “bad church.”