the friend online
02 October 2009

Quaker thought in poetry

Gerard Benson epxlains how Quaker beliefs challenge him in his work

Iím a Quaker and Iím a poet. Both of these aspects of who I am are full-time. Theyíre not always compatible. There are things I write that I wouldnít submit to a Quaker publication. There are facets of my Quakerism that donít go into my poetry. Like you, Iím complicated. But as a Quaker must, I seek for unity, even within myself. I hope one day to integrate the poet and the Quaker.

As a Quaker I learn from silence. At a gathered Quaker Meeting I am given glimpses of the numinous that rise from the silence. I am also given (silent) calls to action. I find myself asked to spend my life outside the Meeting, not in silent contemplation but action; action where I feel the Quaker values I try and live by (truth, simplicity, peace and equality) need attention.

As a poet I learn from language. I love words and the way they behave, the sounds they make, their rhythms, their histories, their meanings, the ambiguities they offer. I love figurative speech. I could go on but Iím pressed for space. I love using patterns of words to express the truths of my heart and mind. Which returns me to my Quaker identity.

I can be indignant about injustice, about inequality, about massive sums spent on idiocies such as Trident. But I rarely write poetry about these things.

Iíve worked as a poet with psychiatric patients. That sometimes brought the Quaker and the poet face to face.

I write for children as well as adults. Much of the poetry I write for the young is imbued with my Quakerism. But I donít lecture, harass or bully. I offer pictures of events or states of being and trust readers to interpret as they will. Is A Small Star sci-fi or an ecological suggestion?

Gerard Benson was a founder of Poems on the Underground.

A Small Star
I live on a small star
Which itís my job to look after;
It whirls through space
Wrapped in a cloak of water.

It is a wonderful star:
Wherever you look thereís life,
Though itís held at either end
In a white fist of ice.

There are creatures that move
Through air, sea and earth,
And growing things everywhere
Make beauty from dirt.

Everything is alive!
Even the stones:
Dazzling crystals grow
Deep under the ground.

And all the things belong,
Each one to the other.
I live on a precious star
Which itís my job to look after.

Gerard Benson


This week's .pdf
In this week's online edition... rss edition

A testimony to Love
Judy Kirby, Editor
Circles of silence
Gerard Benson
A view of Quakers
David Wood
Testimony to peace
Helen Steven
Middle East witness
Ann Wright
Peace for all
Stephen Hanvey
Living the testimonies
Helen Drewery
Harvey Gillman
Testimony to Equality
Jonathan Dale
Committed relationships
Phil Lucas
Quaker thought in literature
Marina Lewycka
Quaker thought in poetry
Gerard Benson
Ros Smith
Marian Liebmann
Equality and social justice
Belinda Hopkins
Testimony to Simplicity
Jan Arriens and Marion McNaughton
Laurie Michaelis
Testimony to Truth
Linda Pegler
Integrity in public life
Tony Stoller

Things to do, where to stay, people to see etc...

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