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The Splash of Words: Believing in Poetry

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Whether you love poetry or haven't read it since school, The Splash of Words will help you rediscover poetry's power to startle, challenge and reframe your vision. Like throwing a pebble into water, a poem causes a 'splash of words' whose ripples can transform the way we see the world, ourselves and God. Through thirty selected poems, from the fourteenth century to the pres Whether you love poetry or haven't read it since school, The Splash of Words will help you rediscover poetry's power to startle, challenge and reframe your vision. Like throwing a pebble into water, a poem causes a 'splash of words' whose ripples can transform the way we see the world, ourselves and God. Through thirty selected poems, from the fourteenth century to the present day, Mark Oakley explores poetry's power to stir our settled ways of viewing the world and faith, shift our perceptions and even transform who we are.


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Whether you love poetry or haven't read it since school, The Splash of Words will help you rediscover poetry's power to startle, challenge and reframe your vision. Like throwing a pebble into water, a poem causes a 'splash of words' whose ripples can transform the way we see the world, ourselves and God. Through thirty selected poems, from the fourteenth century to the pres Whether you love poetry or haven't read it since school, The Splash of Words will help you rediscover poetry's power to startle, challenge and reframe your vision. Like throwing a pebble into water, a poem causes a 'splash of words' whose ripples can transform the way we see the world, ourselves and God. Through thirty selected poems, from the fourteenth century to the present day, Mark Oakley explores poetry's power to stir our settled ways of viewing the world and faith, shift our perceptions and even transform who we are.

30 review for The Splash of Words: Believing in Poetry

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael Cayley

    A book to savour. Each chapter consists of a poem followed by thoughts by Mark Oakley. Most of the poems are likely to be unfamiliar to the reader, and all are good. Janet Morley has produced books with the same structure, but Mark Oakley’s approach is a bit different. Where Janet Morley relates her thoughts closely to the text of the poems, with a lot of close reading of them and explanations of how they work as literature, Mark Oakley generally focuses less on literary criticism: there is some A book to savour. Each chapter consists of a poem followed by thoughts by Mark Oakley. Most of the poems are likely to be unfamiliar to the reader, and all are good. Janet Morley has produced books with the same structure, but Mark Oakley’s approach is a bit different. Where Janet Morley relates her thoughts closely to the text of the poems, with a lot of close reading of them and explanations of how they work as literature, Mark Oakley generally focuses less on literary criticism: there is some brief biographical information about the poets, but to a large extent he uses the poems as springboards into wider reflections, often including extensive quotes from other poems and often referring to his own experiences. The reflections are deep, with much to meditate on. There is a long preface discussing how to read poems – and how to read the Bible in a similar way, opening ourselves to the resonances of the text and Bible imagery and the possibility of widely varying interpretations. Mark Oakley argues against literalist reading of the Bible, and frequently in the rest of the book advocates a religion that is open rather than prescriptive. It is almost worth buying the book for the preface alone. This is a book to take slowly, no more than a chapter a day. I loved it, and expect to return to it frequently.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Hilary Campbell

    A glorious collection of poems from a wide range of sources and across the ages. Mark affirms the perception that 'God is in the world as poetry is in the poem'. The personal reflections on the way poetry has challenged, encouraged, accompanied his life, are honest and powerful. The book is a treasure to lift the heart and mind and recover the precious pearl that is meant to be at the heart of faith. A glorious collection of poems from a wide range of sources and across the ages. Mark affirms the perception that 'God is in the world as poetry is in the poem'. The personal reflections on the way poetry has challenged, encouraged, accompanied his life, are honest and powerful. The book is a treasure to lift the heart and mind and recover the precious pearl that is meant to be at the heart of faith.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    This book really was an unexpected delight. I am very much the target reader as described in the introduction - put off poetry at school by having to learn poems that I hated and which were never properly explained. I love books that expand your knowledge (I now realise how little I knew about famous poets like WH Auden, Dylan Thomas, Emily Dickinson, George Herbert and even Thomas Hardy whose novels I have read, but whom I had never thought of as a poet and whose relationship with his wife as d This book really was an unexpected delight. I am very much the target reader as described in the introduction - put off poetry at school by having to learn poems that I hated and which were never properly explained. I love books that expand your knowledge (I now realise how little I knew about famous poets like WH Auden, Dylan Thomas, Emily Dickinson, George Herbert and even Thomas Hardy whose novels I have read, but whom I had never thought of as a poet and whose relationship with his wife as described in the book I found fascinating) and also set you off on to other books to read and this one has not only done that but introduced to me to a whole form of literature (poetry) that I would never have considered reading before. It was ideal for the beginner as each poem has a chapter covering the poet, his other work and explaining the meaning of the poem. Without the latter, some of the poems meant nothing to me to start with but on a second reading became clear. The collection of about 30 poems, all by different poets, is varied and includes something that will appeal to everyone. Really a book to read slowly and savour - I read a poem each night - and one that I am very sad to have come to the end of. Written from a Christian perspective but a very liberal one and definitely accessible to all.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Katedurie50

    I was enjoying this so much I'm sorry to have finished it. It's a book to be sipped and savoured, not rushed, so I was mostly reading two chapters a day, but occasionally one if it was more demanding (like the one on Auden - demanding but excellent). Mark Oakley is a gentle guide so the great twin frighteners of poetry and belief are approached with subtlety and a kind of reassurance. He knows what he is doing; when he draws out a poem - and a number of these I knew and loved already though some I was enjoying this so much I'm sorry to have finished it. It's a book to be sipped and savoured, not rushed, so I was mostly reading two chapters a day, but occasionally one if it was more demanding (like the one on Auden - demanding but excellent). Mark Oakley is a gentle guide so the great twin frighteners of poetry and belief are approached with subtlety and a kind of reassurance. He knows what he is doing; when he draws out a poem - and a number of these I knew and loved already though some, like the landay from Afghanistan, were completely new to me - his comments always show me something I hadn't seen before. Most poets represented are not in the church, or at best exist uneasily on its margins; some belong to other faiths. But the wider humanity and sense of wonder they inculcate endorse the book's underlying thesis that is we are to talk about God we need a bigger and braver languse than our liturgies. And that's where poets come in.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I started reading this a while ago and after a long break fought my way to the end. Oakley is sensitive to poetic mystery but unafraid to drag out structural and literary meaning from these light-filled poems. He has a fitting priestly gentleness that sees each poem as a penitent at confession.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rhiannon Grant

    A readable exploration of theological themes through short discussions of various poems.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Toby

    I'm just not quite sure what to make of this book - and I suppose that comes down to the difficulty of writing about poetry. The poems chosen are varied with a good mixture of familiar and new (and I particularly enjoyed some of the modern poets whom I had not yet encountered). Mark Oakley writes an extended essay/meditation for each poem which is illuminating and yet sometimes just too much. There is a danger at times of his voice and experiences drowning the poem and taking away the freshness I'm just not quite sure what to make of this book - and I suppose that comes down to the difficulty of writing about poetry. The poems chosen are varied with a good mixture of familiar and new (and I particularly enjoyed some of the modern poets whom I had not yet encountered). Mark Oakley writes an extended essay/meditation for each poem which is illuminating and yet sometimes just too much. There is a danger at times of his voice and experiences drowning the poem and taking away the freshness of reading it for the first time. From a Christian point of view he explores the place of faith in reading poetry, although I was often frustrated that faith at times seemed very much in the background, rather than foreground - a personal preference admittedly. For many, more conservative readers, the book will confirm their suspicion that poetry is the exclusive preserve of liberal theology. I don't believe that, but I must still confess that I prefer a little more solidity to the presentation of faith and scripture rather than a coalescence of doubt.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Joy Lenton

  9. 5 out of 5

    Simon Harvey

  10. 5 out of 5

    Anna Williams

  11. 5 out of 5

    Audrey Chalmers

  12. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Heath

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Chan

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jan

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ruth Irving

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nick Benson

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amy McCall

  18. 5 out of 5

    Graham

  19. 5 out of 5

    Laura

  20. 4 out of 5

    M.E. Ewart

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ravi

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ray

  23. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tony

  25. 4 out of 5

    Holly McGuigan

  26. 5 out of 5

    Randall

  27. 4 out of 5

    Paddy

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tim Nicholson

  29. 4 out of 5

    Colin Heber-Percy

  30. 4 out of 5

    Paul

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