The sailing of the ark
First published in 1992 as part of Breaking the Chains, this sequence of 45 free-form sonnets weighs up the meaning of Christian faith in postmodernity.
The sailing of the ark was written between December 1987 and December 1991, in the form of a letter to my friend Andrew Cornes. I have made some minor recent changes to the text to allow individual sonnets to stand more easily on their own.
has four phases. Sonnets 1-13 are somewhat world- and
faith-weary as they
recount the emotional cost of balancing dogma against experience. 14-22
deconstruct some of the main paradoxes of faith and the core problem of
find God in obscurity, tracing the incarnation through
history of Israel and the nativity to the crucifixion and the paradox
dying immortal. The final section (37-45) considers some of the
consequences of this.
The style—a loose form of unrhymed sonnet—is derived from that of the late New Zealand poet, James K Baxter. Each poem has fourteen lines set out visually in unrhymed couplets, using pentameter as a rough framework for metre. Baxter's sonnets are punctuated in such a way that each is a single sentence, although grammatically he cheats a bit. I have not gone to that extreme in each case, but most comprise only one or two sentences.
In the commentary Sailing out of history I have added some further reflections on the story of Noah's Ark as a use case for considering the authority of the bible.
The drawing of a crucifixion which inspired sonnet 37, is based on sketches of a wood and steel sculpture by Scilla Verney, made shortly before her death from cancer, and reproduced with the kind permission of her husband Stephen.