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Poetry has always been a central element of Christian spirituality and is increasingly used in worship, in pastoral services and guided meditation. In Sounding the Seasons, Cambridge poet, priest and singer-songwriter Malcolm Guite transforms seventy lectionary readings into lucid, inspiring poems, for use in regular worship, seasonal services, meditative reading or on ret Poetry has always been a central element of Christian spirituality and is increasingly used in worship, in pastoral services and guided meditation. In Sounding the Seasons, Cambridge poet, priest and singer-songwriter Malcolm Guite transforms seventy lectionary readings into lucid, inspiring poems, for use in regular worship, seasonal services, meditative reading or on retreat. Already widely recognised, Malcolm's writing has been acclaimed by Rowan Williams and Luci Shaw, two leading contemporary religious poets. Seven Advent poems from this collection will appear in the next edition of Penguin's (US) Best Spiritual Writing edited by Philip Zaleski, alongside the work of writers such as Seamus Heaney and Annie Dillard. Malcolm Guite is Chaplain of Girton College, Cambridge. A performance poet and singer/songwriter, he lectures widely on poetry and theology in Britain and the US and has a large following on his website, www.malcolmguite.wordpress.com. He is a contributor to Reflections for Daily Prayer.


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Poetry has always been a central element of Christian spirituality and is increasingly used in worship, in pastoral services and guided meditation. In Sounding the Seasons, Cambridge poet, priest and singer-songwriter Malcolm Guite transforms seventy lectionary readings into lucid, inspiring poems, for use in regular worship, seasonal services, meditative reading or on ret Poetry has always been a central element of Christian spirituality and is increasingly used in worship, in pastoral services and guided meditation. In Sounding the Seasons, Cambridge poet, priest and singer-songwriter Malcolm Guite transforms seventy lectionary readings into lucid, inspiring poems, for use in regular worship, seasonal services, meditative reading or on retreat. Already widely recognised, Malcolm's writing has been acclaimed by Rowan Williams and Luci Shaw, two leading contemporary religious poets. Seven Advent poems from this collection will appear in the next edition of Penguin's (US) Best Spiritual Writing edited by Philip Zaleski, alongside the work of writers such as Seamus Heaney and Annie Dillard. Malcolm Guite is Chaplain of Girton College, Cambridge. A performance poet and singer/songwriter, he lectures widely on poetry and theology in Britain and the US and has a large following on his website, www.malcolmguite.wordpress.com. He is a contributor to Reflections for Daily Prayer.

30 review for Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year

  1. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Here's my review: I couldn't bear to bring it back to the library, so I had to buy it. These sonnets are deceptively simple, often hearkening back to familiar metaphors about light and wine and birth but always imbuing these symbols with new touches of meaning while upholding their full meaning as revealed in scripture. It is rare to read a poet who stirs the imagination with such fresh understandings of familiar truths. I've never been so moved by any depiction of Christ's crucifixion as I was Here's my review: I couldn't bear to bring it back to the library, so I had to buy it. These sonnets are deceptively simple, often hearkening back to familiar metaphors about light and wine and birth but always imbuing these symbols with new touches of meaning while upholding their full meaning as revealed in scripture. It is rare to read a poet who stirs the imagination with such fresh understandings of familiar truths. I've never been so moved by any depiction of Christ's crucifixion as I was by Guite's "Stations of the Cross" series. The words are ordinary, the cumulative effect is extraordinary.

  2. 5 out of 5

    John Thieme

    Guite's poems in "Sounding the Seasons" and in "The Singing Bowl" are exquisitely nuanced and subtle moments at the intersection of faith and captivating beauty. They are deeply insightful and his lines seem almost to sing aloud (I enjoy listening to the cadence and kindness in Guite's voice when I come across the audio of his reading these poems and comments on his blog). This is poetry in that holy moment of stillness and mindful quietude, the words resonate throughout the day and (with a nod Guite's poems in "Sounding the Seasons" and in "The Singing Bowl" are exquisitely nuanced and subtle moments at the intersection of faith and captivating beauty. They are deeply insightful and his lines seem almost to sing aloud (I enjoy listening to the cadence and kindness in Guite's voice when I come across the audio of his reading these poems and comments on his blog). This is poetry in that holy moment of stillness and mindful quietude, the words resonate throughout the day and (with a nod to Eliot) "echo thus in your mind". The poems stay with you both in their power and their delicacy. Each poem in this book is a invitation to pause, go inward, and feel the spirit. This is a book to enjoy over and over again--one that illuminates and breathes life into the lectionary and I find solace in these visible signs of a powerful and invisible grace. I read Guite's poems during the course of my devotions, along with Donne, Herbert, Traherne, and Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer.

  3. 4 out of 5

    M. Todd Webster

    Sonnets celebrating the Christian year go back at least to John Donne's "La Corona". Guite's cycle of meditative, celebratory poems owes much to Donne, to Herbert, and to the examples of other great Christian poets. I recommend this collection to anyone who likes traditional verse on Christian themes, or who aspires to write in sonnet form. It has the potential to teach much about writing poetry, to enhance private devotion, and to enrich public liturgy. Sonnets celebrating the Christian year go back at least to John Donne's "La Corona". Guite's cycle of meditative, celebratory poems owes much to Donne, to Herbert, and to the examples of other great Christian poets. I recommend this collection to anyone who likes traditional verse on Christian themes, or who aspires to write in sonnet form. It has the potential to teach much about writing poetry, to enhance private devotion, and to enrich public liturgy.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kyle McFerren

    It's nice to know there are still Christians who know how to make art. In Sounding the Seasons, Guite, an Anglican priest, has written sonnets for various holidays and occasions throughout the church year, including deeper reflections on the Stations of the Cross for Good Friday, and the O Antiphons for Advent. They reminded me a lot of a modern John Donne or George Herbert, and he says he was greatly influenced by both of them. I read this short collection in a few sittings, but I think it woul It's nice to know there are still Christians who know how to make art. In Sounding the Seasons, Guite, an Anglican priest, has written sonnets for various holidays and occasions throughout the church year, including deeper reflections on the Stations of the Cross for Good Friday, and the O Antiphons for Advent. They reminded me a lot of a modern John Donne or George Herbert, and he says he was greatly influenced by both of them. I read this short collection in a few sittings, but I think it would be especially beneficial as a kind of devotional reading to use throughout the church year. This is definitely a book that needs to be read more than once, so I'm sure I'll revisit it again before too long. For me, Guite's biggest strength is his ability to highlight the paradox in Jesus being fully divine and fully human, especially in his sonnet series for the Stations of the Cross. Like in his poem on Jesus being given the cross, he reflects on how Jesus, as creator, created the very tree which mankind made into a cross to crucify him: "we took his iron to edge an axe's blade/ we took the axe and laid it to the tree/ we made a cross of all that he has made/ and laid it on the one who made us free." Definitely a worthwhile read for Christians, and down-to-earth enough even for those who don't read much poetry.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Christy Whitsell

    I have liked his advent and lent volumes, and have done better reading those since they have specific seasons they align with. Not following a liturgical calendar, I didn’t have a clue when some of these in this Volume were supposed to be read, and thus lost track of the book for a while. I picked it back up w h reading daily and ignoring whether it aligned or not. Having said that, he has some great insights and beautifully expressed ideas in his poetry, and I will continue to read his books.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Johnston

    This is a magnificent series of sonnets, which follows the traditional church calendar. I read these sonnets as part of my morning meditation, prayer, and Bible readings, and I found them to be enriching and inspiring during these brief moments of contemplation and devotion. Guite's poems are a gift to the contemporary church, helping to bridge tradition, truth, and the concerns of our time. This is a magnificent series of sonnets, which follows the traditional church calendar. I read these sonnets as part of my morning meditation, prayer, and Bible readings, and I found them to be enriching and inspiring during these brief moments of contemplation and devotion. Guite's poems are a gift to the contemporary church, helping to bridge tradition, truth, and the concerns of our time.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kris

    Beautiful idea to incorporate little bits of literature within the church. He works with opposites and paradoxes to create a rich display of words, definitely exploring the doctrines of Christianity. Malcolm's words seem to flow forth easily, while still retaining a sense of mystery and meaning. He is definitely a gifted poet. Beautiful idea to incorporate little bits of literature within the church. He works with opposites and paradoxes to create a rich display of words, definitely exploring the doctrines of Christianity. Malcolm's words seem to flow forth easily, while still retaining a sense of mystery and meaning. He is definitely a gifted poet.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Allan Dickinson

    These sonnets are excellent - well-written and thoughts provoking.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amybarker

    This is a book of beautiful Christian sonnets, that correspond with the liturgical calendar. I’ve read most of them through twice, trying to savor them in their appropriate time of year. Each poem is both convicting and encouraging, and I think there’s more that I could get out of them than I have. But this is what I’ve learned about poetry: you have to take your time and savor the words, examine and study them, maybe even memorize them. I think that’s why I memorized so much poetry when I was y This is a book of beautiful Christian sonnets, that correspond with the liturgical calendar. I’ve read most of them through twice, trying to savor them in their appropriate time of year. Each poem is both convicting and encouraging, and I think there’s more that I could get out of them than I have. But this is what I’ve learned about poetry: you have to take your time and savor the words, examine and study them, maybe even memorize them. I think that’s why I memorized so much poetry when I was younger, because to me, it was the easiest way processing poetry, when I just couldn’t take the time to sit and ponder. There’s a part of me that wants to memorize a lot of these poems, too. Especially “Christ the King”, which was especially convicting. But for now, I put the book on the shelf in my living room, in the hopes that I’ll put it out again someday. And I’m writing this review in the hopes that someone else will read it, and perhaps take more time with each poem than I did.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Harry Allagree

    I'm officially announcing that I'm addicted to the poetry of Malcolm Guite! This is a lovely, short book of sonnets for the various Christian liturgical seasons of the year. I recommend it especially to my colleagues who are Episcopal clergy. Fraser Watts, a member of the St. Edward King & Martyr in Cambridge, UK where Guite serves as Assistant Chaplain, adds a helpful article, "The sonnets and liturgy", in Appendix B. It's worth sharing the first lines of his "Prologue: Sounding the seasons": "T I'm officially announcing that I'm addicted to the poetry of Malcolm Guite! This is a lovely, short book of sonnets for the various Christian liturgical seasons of the year. I recommend it especially to my colleagues who are Episcopal clergy. Fraser Watts, a member of the St. Edward King & Martyr in Cambridge, UK where Guite serves as Assistant Chaplain, adds a helpful article, "The sonnets and liturgy", in Appendix B. It's worth sharing the first lines of his "Prologue: Sounding the seasons": "Tangled in time, we go by hints and guesses, Turning the wheel of each returning year. But in the midst of failures and successes We sometimes glimpse the love that casts out fear. Sometimes the heart remembers its own reasons And beats a Sanctus as we sing our story, Tracing the threads of grace, sounding the seasons That lead at last through time to timeless glory..."

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sherry Elmer

    In place of a review of this excellent small book of poetry, I will share one of the poems. I hope it will entice you to get a copy of this work for yourself. O Sapientia I cannot think unless I have been thought, Nor can I speak unless I have been spoken. I cannot teach except as I am taught, Or break the bread except as I am broken. O Mind behind the mind through which I seek, O Light within the light by which I see, O Word beneath the words with which I speak, O founding, unfound Wisdom, finding me, O In place of a review of this excellent small book of poetry, I will share one of the poems. I hope it will entice you to get a copy of this work for yourself. O Sapientia I cannot think unless I have been thought, Nor can I speak unless I have been spoken. I cannot teach except as I am taught, Or break the bread except as I am broken. O Mind behind the mind through which I seek, O Light within the light by which I see, O Word beneath the words with which I speak, O founding, unfound Wisdom, finding me, O sounding Song whose depth is sounding me, O Memory of time, reminding me, My Ground of Being, always grounding me, My Maker’s Bounding Line, defining me, Come, hidden Wisdom, come with all you bring, Come to me now, disguised as everything.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tamara Murphy

    I refer to Malcolm Guite’s sonnets as closely as I do to any other theologian I read and was delighted to introduce his work to our church’s reading group last year. In the collection Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year, Guite turns 70 lectionary readings into beautiful, poignant spiritual reflections. We read through this book as a companion to all our reading during 2018, reading several aloud each time we gathered. As a bonus, we grew in our understanding and apprecia I refer to Malcolm Guite’s sonnets as closely as I do to any other theologian I read and was delighted to introduce his work to our church’s reading group last year. In the collection Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year, Guite turns 70 lectionary readings into beautiful, poignant spiritual reflections. We read through this book as a companion to all our reading during 2018, reading several aloud each time we gathered. As a bonus, we grew in our understanding and appreciation for the sonnet as a classic poetic form.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ron

    This book is a collection of sonnets that are tied to various points of the year. I read them all in one sitting. I think they would be better read a few at a time with time spent meditating on them. The end of the book had an interesting discussion on reading non-Bible passages in a worship service. It discussed the "not in the Bible" and shouldn't be read viewpoint vs. reading spiritual works. This book is a collection of sonnets that are tied to various points of the year. I read them all in one sitting. I think they would be better read a few at a time with time spent meditating on them. The end of the book had an interesting discussion on reading non-Bible passages in a worship service. It discussed the "not in the Bible" and shouldn't be read viewpoint vs. reading spiritual works.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Katerina

    Sounding the Seasons offers us seventy sonnets (short, 14-line poems) that cover the happenings of the Christian liturgical year. As someone relatively new to reading poetry, I found these enjoyable and accessible. Initially I read through the collection as a whole, but I plan to keep this little volume accessible for devotional usage. There is a helpful index in the back that ties the poems to passages in scripture.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    This is a very moving and beautiful collection of sonnets based on the main days in the liturgical calendar. I am deeply impressed by Guite's ability to communicate profound theological truths in such few words. These poems would be especially useful for being read aloud in a church service or for personal contemplation and devotions throughout the year. I originally borrowed this one from the library, but I plan to buy it and return again to each sonnet at its proper time. This is a very moving and beautiful collection of sonnets based on the main days in the liturgical calendar. I am deeply impressed by Guite's ability to communicate profound theological truths in such few words. These poems would be especially useful for being read aloud in a church service or for personal contemplation and devotions throughout the year. I originally borrowed this one from the library, but I plan to buy it and return again to each sonnet at its proper time.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rona

    As someone who just does not understand or like poetry usually, I would like to recommend this book highly. Malcolm came to our conference and read some of his poems; most of them leaving me in tears they are so beautiful. Read them. Pray them and you can live with them throughout the day. Beauty on the page!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cathie

    Lovely sonnets arranged to follow the liturgical year, including sonnets for the church itself, the Gospel writers, and various saint and feast days. An entire series for both Advent and Lent. Although a quick but enjoyable read, something I will return to again. A keeper.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Krystie Herndon

    Though some of the poems in this sonnet cycle seem to come from a more traditionally "high church" Roman Catholic worldview than I follow, I appreciate the general call to reflection and repentance that the author makes for all of us. Though some of the poems in this sonnet cycle seem to come from a more traditionally "high church" Roman Catholic worldview than I follow, I appreciate the general call to reflection and repentance that the author makes for all of us.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    4.5 stars

  20. 4 out of 5

    Karyn

    I really enjoyed this book of poetry

  21. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Smith

    Beautiful deep and worshipful

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kay Mcgriff

    This collection of exquisite sonnets journeys through the liturgical calendar. I have savored one each day and might just start all over again.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Cbarrett

    Simple, yet immensely rich and deep sonnet meditations following the church calendar. Guite turns memorable phrases to craft words and sounds for the service of the sonnet's theme. Recommend Simple, yet immensely rich and deep sonnet meditations following the church calendar. Guite turns memorable phrases to craft words and sounds for the service of the sonnet's theme. Recommend

  24. 4 out of 5

    Amy Harris

    Holy, evocative, beautiful. Guite's mastery of the sonnet form, combined with the subject matter of holy days throughout the liturgical calendar, is powerful. Holy, evocative, beautiful. Guite's mastery of the sonnet form, combined with the subject matter of holy days throughout the liturgical calendar, is powerful.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Katrina Tangen

    His Stations of the Cross sequence is brilliant--definitely worth the price of admission just for that. The rest vary for me, but it's nice to have a collection of poems for the church holidays. He also posts most of them on his blog along with audio of him reading it, so be sure to check that out too. His Stations of the Cross sequence is brilliant--definitely worth the price of admission just for that. The rest vary for me, but it's nice to have a collection of poems for the church holidays. He also posts most of them on his blog along with audio of him reading it, so be sure to check that out too.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Timothy Bartel

    A fine attempt at a sonnet sequence in an age almost devoid of such attempts.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Carole

    Moving and beautiful poems. To be read and reread.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Olivia

    If you love sonnets ...I couldn't get enough of this book. If you love sonnets ...I couldn't get enough of this book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Barb

  30. 4 out of 5

    Marion Hitchins

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