Long admired as a compassionate churchman and as a scholar of the highest order, Rowan Williams, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, is also a poet of resounding voice and feeling whose verse, called "visionary yet earth-rooted," displays a genius for embodying abstract ideas in vivid, sensual images.
"The Poems of Rowan Williams" gathers together the best pieces from the Archbishop's two previous collections, "After Silent Centuries" (1994) and "Remembering Jerusalem" (2001), together with several new works. These powerful, moving meditations are for everyone, religious and nonreligious alike. Archbishop Williams speaks from the crucible of faith, yet his words emerge from the universal experience of life. As Williams himself says: "I dislike the idea of being a religious poet. I would prefer to be a poet for whom religious things mattered intensely."
The subject matter of these sixty-five poems ranges broadly -- the natural world, works of art, recollections of a visit to the Holy Land at Easter, thoughts arising from fragments of the ancient Celtic world, a modern Welsh scene, a group of thin girls awaiting at a bus stop. A particularly poignant group of poems captures Williams's reflections on death, arising first from his feelings of grief at the loss of loved ones (including his father and mother) and widening to include the last days of Tolstoy, Nietzsche in his madness, Rilke, Simone Weil, and Thomas Merton. There are also some free translations -- three well-known poems by Rilke and nine works by Welsh poets -- in which Williams succeeds marvelously in conveying the imagery and energy of the originals.
Williams's pen is lean and lyrical. His vision is penetrating andwise. More, his treatment of his subjects never fails to render them in suggestive, very often redemptive, ways. Readers from all walks of life with come to cherish this lovely collection of verse.