At the back of All Saints', Hawnby there's a collection of poetry books; also pens and paper, and a folder marked "Fresh Poems In Here", for visitors to the church to contribute their own work.

It's a poetic spot, with the River Rye always audible in the background, rushing by; and the little church encircled by trees, as romantic as a Caspar David Friedrich painting.

So we're keen to welcome poets.

Fresh Poems In Here

For the "Fresh Poems" folder, we welcome every sort of work, from the most sophisticated to the simplest.

Nor does it have to be especially religious, in the conventional sense. Or, for that matter, orthodox. But whatever is heart-felt, and honest, we believe counts to God's glory anyhow.



Consider the famous lines of William Blake:

And did those feet in ancient time

Walk upon England's mountains green?

And was the holy Lamb of God

On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the countenance divine

Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

And was Jerusalem builded here,

Among those dark satanic mills?

When Blake speaks about Jesus, as he does here, he means Jesus as a symbol of true free-spirited poetic imaginativeness, in general. And when he speaks of Jerusalem, he means the work of such imaginativeness, transforming the world. In these lines, therefore, his real question is: whether we can actually find the poetic resources we need, for our salvation, buried deep within the cultural tradition we've inherited?

The 'dark satanic mills', on the other hand, are a symbol not only of oppressive industrial capitalism, but of spiritual oppression of every sort. Which, for Blake, included everything belonging to the Establishment; and especially the established church. Every Anglican church building is also therefore - in Blake's terms - one of those 'mills'.

When it comes to the construction of 'the new Jerusalem', Blake for his part certainly didn't think the Church of England would ever have much to contribute. Yet, we've converted his poem into one of our hymns - he'd have been amazed.

And may God grant that we can yet prove him wrong!

Upper Ryedale Parish   All Saints, Hawnby    Poetry Church