Since the recorded history of the Christian faith, poems have been written to articulate devotion and love of God, in such works from the New Testament, Gospel of Luke, Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis; and also Biblical poems are noted throughout the psalms from the Hebrew Bible.
In the 20th century, many modern and contemporary Christian poets emerged to reiterate their adoration and passion for God from various denominations; for instance, Catholic poets, Annie Dillard and David Craig; Orthodox poets, Scott Cairns and Anna Akmatova; and Protestant poets, Lionel Basney (Calvinist) and Calvin Miller (Evangelical) are some of the widely popular Christian poets of their day.
Profoundly, in the 21th century, Christopher Villiers with his well-spoken and raw enduring talent of writing poetry, he may mature into a notable Christian poet. By his humbleness and from his devout faith, Christopher’s beautiful sonnets speak of love for God, and redemption.
Christopher is not afraid to explore the weakness and temptations of humanity and discovering God’s love and mercy that are wonderfully depicted in his new book of 52 icons of poetry, Sonnets from the Spirit.
Christopher Villiers is an award-winning theologian and British poet from North-Devon, England. He holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Theology from Durham University, United Kingdom. His specialty is in the history of Christian doctrine and writes for ecumenical theological journal, Sobornost as well as a freelance writer for academic and popular publications.
Christopher has been writing poetry since his teens and from the encouragement by his colleagues and friends, he continued to write poetry deep from his heart.
Christopher’s idealistic presence of God magnifies and uplifts his readers to move closer to the Father of Heaven. He reawakens the eagerness to prayer, forgiveness, and to love as God loves the world.
Christopher’s sonnets are ecclesiastical lines that keep his readers enthralled by each rhythmical sentence until the end. His clever word choices and expressions along with descriptive relations to scripture stories from the New or Old Testament, allow his readers to literally gasp and palpitate as they absorb each backdrop like the torture and crucifixion of Christ. On top of, accompanied with the sonnets are stunning illustrations of major works of sacred art.
I wholeheartedly would like to introduce Christopher Villiers to my Arts and Entertainment Features and to thank him for his gracious time.
Tell us about yourself?
Hmmm, what’s there to tell?
I am an Englishman living in North Devon, a coastal south-western region of my country which is very nice when it’s not raining. I am a Catholic who studied Theology at Durham University on the other side of England in the North-East, specializing somewhat in Patristics (my M.A. thesis was on St. Cyril of Alexandria).
After graduation I ended up, in lieu of anything more lucrative, doing little book reviews and suchlike for religious publications whilst fantasizing about becoming an accountant (sadly I can’t count so that dream will never come true).
I started writing poetry again for fun at the start of last year for the first time since my teens, so I suppose that I can be called a poet (I’ve been called a lot worse).
You are an author of a book of 52 icons in poetry, Sonnets from the Spirit; tell us about your book?
Sonnets from the Spirit began in Lent last year as I tried to write religious poetry as a spiritual exercise. It is a series of Biblical meditations beginning with Adam first beholding Eve in the Garden of Eden and ending with the coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the woman clothed with the sun in the Book of Revelation.
The concentrated and formal structure of sonnets gave my work much needed discipline and intensity. They are mostly imagined reflections by Biblical characters spanning both Testaments like Noah, Pilate and even Judas. I try to show them as human, often all too-human figures through whom and/or in spite of whom God’s will are done. I tried to avoid plaster saint piety and I hope that I have succeeded.
When you write your poems, are you inspired by your faith and beliefs?
Of course, Sonnets from the Spirit would not exist without them!
These poems emerged from my attempts at a prayer life, and in so far as there is anything good in them that is the work of the Holy Spirit. My faith in God gives me the strength to keep writing and gives me ideas for my writing.
I wrote these sonnets to God in response to his loving kindness to me, a sinner. Many of the narrators in my sonnets involve “sinners” and outcasts, they meet God’s mercy when it is least expected and I hope this will speak to my readers. I am seeking to write more poetry in that vein, though perhaps less explicitly and more implicitly religious in style.
How did publishing your first book change or amend your process of writing poems?
For a start, it made me want to write anything except another sonnet!
I was so sick of the form by the end. I am experimenting with other forms, such as the five line Japanese Tanka poem and I am thinking about writing a longer poem.
I also felt challenged to find new subject matter. Many of my newer poems are about nature, seeing God’s presence in his creation without lapsing into sentimentality. I am also writing love poems, where I explore the analogy between human and divine love (and also when the analogy breaks down and our efforts at love are rather different from God’s love).
As a poet, how do you stay original?
I agree with T.S. Eliot’s saying,
“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.”
You have to be open to inspiration everywhere, from a crowded bus-stop to an old hymn you start remembering for no apparent reason. You have to take it, build on it and make it your own (which is VERY different from mere plagiarism).
William Blake made a living engraving other artists’ work, but he drew on this experience to create some of the most original art the world has ever seen. The most important thing is to pay attention, there are fresh ideas all around you so long as you keep your eyes and ears open.
Who influences you the most as far as poets or poems?
I have had many influences, at the moment I am really into poetry by William Blake and W. B. Yeats, they are really helping me to develop as a poet with a lyrical edge.
The poems by the seventeenth century Anglican clergyman, George Herbert, have a great religious beauty that makes me love poetry more and more; though I still adore John Donne as well (the seventeenth century was a great time for English poetry).
I also can’t get enough of Gerard Manley Hopkins, I wish that I could write with his lovely “sprung rhythm” and sense that there lives the dearest freshness deep down things (God’s Grandeur) and in that freshness we meet our God.
You are currently working on a new poetry book, what can you tell us about it?
My new book, Petals of Vision, is a wide-ranging collection of poems that should be published in January, 2017. The poems vary from hymns to God, to reflections on unrequited romantic love, and owls campaigning for political office.
There’s something in it for everyone!
Please, can you share an excerpt from your book, Sonnets from the Spirit?
Cheap perfume masking scent of cheaper men,
Towards my redemption, I approach,
Braving hypocrisy’s white-washed den,
Its scorn and lust curdle as reproach,
I enter, eyes of flint cut judgement’s mark,
But I kneel down and set upon my task,
Of adoration, though Pharisees bark,
And snicker, at the blessings from my flask.
He defends me, the first to take that strain
In my whole life, gives love’s redeeming gaze,
Over lifelong landscape of shame and pain,
Wiping out tears of despairing days.
I go away, accepted by my Lord,
While others stay, and reap their own reward.
Read more about Sonnets from the Spirit
Sonnets from the Spirit Trailer Video
Sonnets from the Spirit on Amazon
Written (intro) and editing by Hadel S. Ma’ayeh ©Copyright 2016, All rights reserved.
Illustrations by Hope and Life Press ©Copyright 2016, All rights reserved.