Foreword by Oswin Gartside CR
‘What is a poet-in-residence?’ asked one brother.
We didn’t quite know. But our monastery has been enjoying residencies by artists for a number of years, and each time our eyes have been opened afresh, and we’ve made new friends. And we knew Maggie, and knew that she wrote and breathed poetry. So, in a moment of serendipity the idea came to birth of ringing the changes and welcoming a poet-in-residence.
Maggie is a well-known and respected spiritual director and retreat guide. Her unassuming skill in guiding souls to a greater vision chimes with her ability to connect words so that we read the world anew. We wanted to know more. So on October 21st 2017 Maggie arrived, joined the monks in our services and meals, and stayed until the beginning of Advent. She talked, listened, looked. She gathered fellow poets and invited an audience to talk poetry together. She read some of her verses to the brothers one memorable Autumn evening when the room seemed to grow closer and to hush, as unadorned words unspooled a lifetime’s empathy. And gradually a body of new poems emerged and we discovered them waiting for us, in our orchard, on unnoticed ledges in the monastery, at watch in church.
Here they are. Maggie’s voice, full of playfulness, uncovers the eternal in the most surprising of the things that surround us and in our human hurts. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we have.
And the brother who wondered what a poet-in-residence might be? He’s discovered a new talent of his own for connecting words and worlds and the heart; every day seems to bring a further poem. So may you.
Maggie Jackson, on being ‘Poet in Residence’
In 1979 I heard Ted Hughes give a poetry reading at the University of Leeds in what had once been the chapel for the Hostel of the Resurrection. I could not have imagined that many years later I would be made welcome not only as a Retreat Guide at the Community of the Resurrection, but as Poet in Residence in Autumn 2017.
In recent years I write mostly in my sitting room or garden at home, but to be given such wonderful hospitality, to live alongside inspiring people in a beautiful environment, and, above all, to soak up the silence and profound stillness of the monastery, made this a unique, productive and extremely creative experience.
During the six-week Residency I led two public events at the Mirfield Centre – a Quiet Day on the theme of The Tent of Meeting and a Poetry Salon along with Poet colleagues. I had the freedom, not just to write new poems and revise others, but to share my poetry with the many guests and visitors to the monastery who could pick up a poem in various locations, including the church and the garden. Perhaps the ‘event’ I valued the most was a more intimate evening spent reading my poems to the CR brethren themselves – a small way of thanking them for all they have given me.
Being available during the Residency to talk about poetry, and encourage others to write, was an immense pleasure. Many people told me how helpful they found my poems for their own contemplative prayer and I hope the poems in this collection will help many more readers in the same way.
Most of the poems in ‘Offertory’ were written during the Residency or were inspired by other visits to the Community of the Resurrection. Some poems emerged from prayer, others from observation or conversation, and prolonged silence stirred memories which demanded to be shared poetically.
To have the privilege of living in a prayerful community, and be given the time to write, fills me with gratitude. I am grateful to the CR brethren for their fellowship and for the generous and imaginative invitation to be their first Poet in Residence.
Maggie Jackson is a Spiritual Director, Retreat Guide and Poet. Now living in Selby, Maggie lived and worked in Leeds where she enjoyed a long career as a Youth & Community Worker. Having trained in Ignatian Spirituality she led a parish Spirituality programme in Leeds for seven years and has been a Retreat Guide at the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, since 2010. She has published poems in several anthologies and on websites, has given public poetry readings and led workshops linking poetry and spirituality. A Roman Catholic, committed to inter-faith and ecumenical dialogue, Maggie was ‘Poet in Residence’ at the Community of the Resurrection in Autumn 2017. ‘Offertory’ is the published outcome of this Residency. A further collection of poems –‘The Tent of Meeting – a Poet’s Encounters with the Divine’-will be published in 2018.