Sacred poetry & music at Bradford Cathedral

As part of the first Bradford Literature Festival, Bishop Nick hosted an evening of sacred poetry and music from across several religious traditions on Sunday.

He said, "The poet can show you new ways to see. Poetry opens the imagination and can scratch away at the mind - getting in where proposition often doesn't.

"This isn't worship (and we might not necessarily agree or understand), but we are given the opportunity to encounter the unfamiliar, an expression of the other through cultures and languages that aren't ours. To hear their view of God, the world and us."

The large audience heard from renowned artists performing a variety of styles of devotional music, including  naats, bhajans and kirtans and choirs, as well as sacred poetry recitations.

The artists expressed their sense of honour at performing in the cathedral, and much of their material expressed their own tradition's emphasis on prayer, love and understanding of the other, forgiveness and the pursuit of peace.

The evening ended with a recitation by award winning poet Michael Symmons Roberts, Professor of Poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University.

The other contributors were Yasmin Babiker, Inder Goldfinger, Shabnam Khan, Supriya Nagarajan and Rudi Leavor (Chairman of Bradford Synagogue).

With hesitation, Bishop Nick also shared one of his own poems. He said, "I am not a poet, but many years ago, while visiting a war cemetery in Normandy I wrote the following:

A field of white stones

and simple crosses

with wishful words

and solemn epitaphs.

Known unto God means

we hadn’t a clue who he was.

Just another mangled inconnu

in a field of bloody might-have-beens.

Rest in peace sounds like an apology

for the hostility and brutality

of his untimely death.

I did not know him,

nor do I know those who miss him,

who still, half a world away,

miss the sound of his voice

and hear the agony of his eternal silence.

But I, also an inconnu, a nobody,

whisper an apology at his space,

and pray silently

for never again

and not for mine.

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