Sunday 13 December 2020

Sunday 13th December - Advent at Home 3

 This post is part of the 'Advent at Home' group, hosted by Angela Almond at Tracing Rainbows 

The theme for this coming week in my Advent book is 'Journeying' (the first theme was 'waiting', the second was 'accepting')

and today's poem by R S Thomas is 'Wrong?' I need to maybe apologise if this looks more like an analysis of a poem; I never studied poetry at school, so this is all a new exploration for me!


Where is that place apart
you summon us to? Noisily
we seek it and have no time
to stay. Stars are distant;
is it more distant still,
out in the dark in the shadow
of thought itself? No wonder
it recedes as we calculate
its proximity in light years.

Maybe we were mistaken
at the beginning or took later
a wrong turning. In curved space
one can travel for ever and not recognise
one’s arrivals. I feel rather
you are at our shoulder, whispering
of the still pool we could sit down
by; of the tree of quietness
that is at hand; cautioning us
to prepare not for the breathless journeys
into confusion, but for the stepping
aside through the invisible
veil that is about us into a state
not place of innocence and delight.

I am still trying to work out how R S Thomas shapes his sentences into a poem. It definitely reads differently to me according to which format I read. 

As prose, the sentences arranged into two paragraphs, the word orders are 'odd', the sudden changes of 'topic' are disorientating and it is harder to get to the meaning of each sentence. 

As separate sentences, the words lose meaning and power. Each sentence seemed fairly ordinary, until I reached the last one, which sprawls over ten lines, pausing at four commas and semi-colons (and a couple more would be helpful!). Each pause gave me time to create a picture, of the still pool I could sit by, the tree of quietness I could share space with, and then the headlong rush of words to finish with after the phrase 'breathless journeys into confusion'. 

Is this the message of Advent... that breathless hurry to get ready for Christmas will sabotage any hope of reaching that state, not place, of innocence and delight?

And would I have discovered this message if I had not paused by the still pool and the tree of quiet in my journey through the poem instead of reading at my usual pace of hurry?


  1. Thank you for this. It often takes me three or four (or more) readings of a poem before I "get it" - but I appreciate the insights and challenges along the way. I didn't know this one, but it is food for thought. And yes, Advent is about finding time in all the preparation to prepare our hearts. Thanks again

  2. Yes, poetry reading takes time, which is why I couldn't get much out of it while I was still working, and made "a poem a day" one of my retirement goals. Enjoying these R S Thomas offerings from you.

  3. Ah, yes, definitely reading a poem takes time. And actually, that time really does help us to slow down!