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This review is taken from PN Review 156, Volume 30 Number 4, March - April 2004.

`THE WORLD'S RELEASE INTO FREEDOM' The Poems of Rowan Williams (The Perpetua Press) £10
ROWAN WILLIAMS, Resurrection: Interpreting the Easter Gospel (Darton, Longman & Todd) £8.95
ROWAN WILLIAMS, Writing in the Dust: Reflections on 11th September and its Aftermath (Hodder & Stoughton) £3.99

It is not often that a man in high public office like Rowan Williams is also at the same time and in his own right a substantial artist. One has a feeling that the `busyness' of the job (the realm of `the compromising word' as he terms it) precludes any other serious intellectual activity. Nothing could be further from the truth in the case of the incumbent Archbishop of Canterbury who is a fine and important writer in the line of Christian contemplatives. In his poetry (and, to a lesser extent, in his prose) he brings a fierce intellect to bear on the complexities and glories of the Christian passion. The necessity of his calling does not compromise `the bright, inner freedom' of his poetic craft, of writing on the other side of Christ's redemption and sacrifice, of celebrating a `joyous communion with God' whilst simultaneously considering the tragic gravity of the world. As Osip Mandelstam wrote in his essay `Pushkin and Scriabin':

Christian artists are like men free of the idea of redemption, neither its slaves nor preachers. Our entire two-thousand-year-old culture, thanks to the marvellous charity of Christianity, is the world's release into freedom for the sake of play, for spiritual joy, for the free `imitation of Christ'.

It is this notion of `created freedom' (to be one's full aesthetic self within the body of the Church's teaching) which is instantiated in the `irregular dogmatics' (the phrase is Karl Barth's) of ...


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