Alternative Advent

Today at the Cathedral View More
7:30am Morning Prayer
8:00am Eucharist
11:00am Family Carols
1:00pm Doors open for sightseeing
4:00pm Last entry for sightseeing
5:00pm Choral Evensong

Alternative Advent

New poetry for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany

For each Sunday from Advent to Epiphany, six exciting young poetic voices and one emerging digital artist reimagine the story of Christmas.

Taking the Biblical text as a starting point, they each retell a story that is both personal and universal, layering it with meaning and peppering it with insight. They bring to life the humans behind a familiar narrative, and enable us to see them, and hopefully ourselves, in a new way.

The First Sunday in Advent - 3 December

by Antosh Wojcik
featuring the drawings of Stephanie K Kane

Antosh Wojcik is an artist from Reading, currently based in Henley-On-Thames. He is one half of Post Everything, with Will Tyas. Both are poets and musicians who specialise in creative documentation of our their own work and the work of others. 
It is the sixth month of Gabriel’s anxiety dream.
He wakes seconds before & years later,
at Mary’s door. He had known this day
since he began and never known it.
He wakes at the beginning of every mouth in the story.
He wakes in text,
an event of knocking.

Reaching into his future depictions,
he chooses androgyny,
a face recognisable as all faces yet none.
Appear as human.
He crafts muscles.
Burls a heart into a chamber of feathers.

Revising what it means to be messenger,
Gabriel practices knocking in the mirror.

He remembers God appearing to Moses
as fire in the thistle bush.  
For this woman who holds the birth of light
at her centre,
he must be as plain as a sentence. 

At the door, he knocks with a wing.
How does an angel enter, he thinks.
She opens. In that moment, he sees her timeline pass
and in that, her un-born’s blood on the thistles and in that,
the resurrection and in that, the return.

Do not be afraid Mary, you will give birth to a son.

Even though he has foreseen
& lived this moment through all time,
he finally experiences Mary’s smile.
Let it be with me, just as you say.
How does an angel exit, he thinks.
The Second Sunday in Advent - 10 December

The Visitation
by Ankita Saxena

Ankita is a poet and aspiring playwright based in London. She studied English Literature at Oxford, where she specialised in post-colonial studies. She is a Barbican Young Writer alumnus and currently part of Octavia, a collective of women of colour poets resident in the Southbank Centre. Born in the Middle East, brought up in the UK and at home in India, she is a traveller by destiny. She is drawn to the experiences of minorities and hopes to use language to interrogate the ways stories, beliefs and artistic movements from different cultures collide. Religion is important because it is the oldest source of culture and yet, with the current political climate, also the newest in many ways. 

Mary carries God and God carries Mary –
cups her gently, hollows out her hungry stomach
and makes it whole; fills her heart the way
no man ever will.

Rumours spread. Unmarried and pregnant?
Who are her parents? How did they raise her?

So Mary grows more skin, wraps
it around her womb the way a freedom fighter
wraps his turban, so no-one can see
what’s hidden in there: how much power
each plot of fabric holds.

She hoards her treasure close to her chest.
There is no-one left to be loyal to.

Jack and Jill went up a hill to fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown –

Mary aches in places she has never ached in before,
muscles buckling like the landscape
around her, twisting from road to river to mountain
as if learning to walk for the first time.

In times of pain she imagines how she will scrub
God clean, let God wriggle in the hinges
between her elbows and collar bones; hear God cry.

She, his mother, will shield his entire existence
like every mother before her.

Mary, Mary quite contrary
How does your garden grow?

She leaps from one date palm to the next,
blistering her hands on their trunks for strength

praying, hoping she has enough breath left
to give him, to sing him nursery rhymes, to tell him
Child you are wanted and needed
I will protect you.

On Elizabeth’s doorstep Mary crumbles,
feels her soul burst like a land mine choked on diamonds.

Aunty, she says, I have not sinned.
Please let me in.

The two women hoist each other up
the way lone soldiers do when the battlefield empties,
each carrying more than they came with.

Aunty, let me listen to your stomach.
Your baby kicks. I can hear his feet
jangle against the curved bars.
It’s the way our children greet each other
without words. They do not need to see the light
to reach for it.

Aunty, leave the candle on. Let’s talk tonight.
Let us dance with the flame’s swaying nib.
One day we will dance freely.

Have faith. We are God’s bearers,
his first in command, already stronger than all the men
who think they rule us.

My boy will do great things. He will stop
this chaos. He will topple corrupt kings, braid
each slum’s tinned roof with gold.

Unmarried and pregnant. They’ll say.
What a miracle!

They will clap their hands together like beggars
and sing this anthem every evening till eternity.

They will say Mary carried God and God carried Mary.

The Third Sunday in Advent - 17 December
to Bethlehem the town of David
by Jeremiah Brown

The Fourth Sunday in Advent - 24 December
Unmuted Word
by Sarah Lasoye
featuring the drawings of Stephanie K Kane

The First Sunday of Christmas - 31 December
Wings and Tings
by Kareem Parkins Brown

The First Sunday after the Epiphany - 7 January
The Places Mothers call Home
by Hatice Cin
featuring the drawings of Stephanie K Kane