Poet, priest, and academic Malcolm Guite has had an indelible influence on my life. For some 5 years, I've followed his work – reading his poems, listening to his lectures and readings, and chasing his recommendations (he's introduced me to the work of many, including Bob Dylan and Seamus Heaney). His books on poetry have been some of the best that I've read on the subject, and have inspired multiple photo series over the years (in Christmas 2015, in early 2016, and again that Christmas, In fact, his life almost interchanges with my family history. For years, he served as a priest of the Church of St. Edward King and Martyr in Cambridge, the very church where my grandparents were married in.
Although I'll regularly interact with Malcolm online, I've always wanted to meet him. When I learned that he was coming to Vancouver, BC to teach a course on poetry at Regent College, followed by a stay at A Rocha Canada, the organization dear friends of mine work for, I knew it was time for a trip to the West Coast. It was an extraordinary week. I plan to eventually write more about it, as my time with Malcolm included an extensive, almost 3 hour interview (that will eventually, I promise, see the light of day).
I will say this for now: being amongst Malcolm for over a week, in a variety of different contexts, showed me two things: first, it is okay to be happily eccentric (a vocation I've always held to, although at times cautiously). Second, a love of beauty and words can exist in parallel with an all-encompassing Gospel vision. Often, we are taught that the two can only exist carefully and cautiously together. But for Malcolm, they are one and the same.
Over the week, I took a number of candid portraits of Malcolm, the best of which I'm sharing here. Keep reading, as there are some stories that join these photos.
Malcolm’s taste in beers echoes my own, so I had the great pleasure of bussing all over Vancouver to find a selection of my favourites, which refreshed Malcolm prior to his performance that evening. We both took great joy in these gifts!
And so, my long stated goal of smoking a pipe with Malcolm Guite was fulfilled.
This tree reminded Malcolm of the famous photo of Tolkien next to one of his favorite trees. This photo, in fact, inspired one of Malcolm’s poems. So of course, using a borrowed phone, he had to share it with us.
Malcolm had mentioned that he would be coming to my home city of Calgary later that December as part of a poetry and music tour with Steve Bell. The day he was in town he sent me a message. Two hours later I was walking along the river with Malcolm, where we enjoyed some of our favourite things: smoking pipes, admiring the sharp beauty of the winter light on water, and talking about books, poetry, and serving Christ in our era. It was a delight!
I wish we had paused to ask a bystander to take a photo of the two of us, as we were both dressed in knee-length tweed coats, bright scarfs, and sweater vests. Admittedly, Malcolm's hat was much more impressive than mine.
Faye Hall again reached out to me, asking for permission to turn this photo into one of her paintings (attached below).