On Sept. 24, the Rev. Dr. Malcolm Guite concluded a month-long stay as the Divinity School’s first artist-in-residence with a lecture on Samuel T. Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” The lecture grew out of the research Guite conducted while at Duke and gave the audience a preview of a new spiritual biography he is writing that uses the poem to frame often-neglected dimensions of Coleridge’s spiritual and theological development.
While at Duke, Guite met individually with many students and faculty, performed his music and poetry as part of the Dean’s Songwriter Series, and gave several other public lectures, including a sermon at Goodson chapel. Guite’s first public lecture focused on George Herbert’s poem “Love” and the various poetic responses it has generated from poets including Christina Rosetti and Derek Walcott. Guite also shared his own poetry on a number of occasions and began working on a new collection of poetry inspired by the “Hard Sayings” of Jesus. Video and audio from Guite’s events are available on iTunes U.
Regarding his residency at Duke Divinity, Guite said that “the generous commitment and engagement I encountered here proved to be generative for me.” He said that conversations with students and faculty led to the sudden realization that the “idea of a host welcoming and making their guests comfortable was just the image I needed to understand my own poetic process—not that I marshal words and order them about, but rather that I try to make a space and extend an invitation that will welcome them; that I listen carefully to the words that arrive early, ask them to invite their friends; that my craft as a poet in form and rhyme is more about planning a good seating arrangment to make the most of my word-guests.”
Guite had previously visited Duke Divinity as a speaker and performer for the “Word Made Fresh” event in February of 2014, a three-day exploration of poetry, music and Christian imagination. He serves as Bye-Fellow and chaplain at Girton College at the University of Cambridge while supervising students in English and theology. He is a scholar of J.R.R. Tolkein, C.S. Lewis and the British poets, and is also a poet and singer-songwriter. His albums include The Green Man and Dancing through the Fire, and he has published four collections of poetry: Saying the Names (2002), The Magic Apple Tree (2004), Sounding the Seasons: Poetry for the Christian Year (2012), and most recently, The Singing Bowl (2013). His theological works include What Do Christians Believe? and Faith, Hope and Poetry: Theology and the Poetic Imagination.