You might appreciate Anatomy if… 3

Apologies for the gap between posts in this series.

I wrote a book last year and called it ‘Anatomy’. It’s a collection of poems and essays that ask about what the Song of Solomon has to say to the 21st century.

In this collection of posts, I want to highlight 5 sets of people who might appreciate my book.

You might appreciate Anatomy if you are

3. Someone who wants to imagine being a Christian.

I am a Christian and a reader of theology. I have read many books that explain what Christians are supposed to think and believe. However, I am also aware that many people have a sense that they would be interested in exploring faith, except that they could never imagine being a Christian. They look not to see beliefs, but lives, and find it hard to believe that faith could fit them.

One of the metaphors that the Bible repeatedly uses for a relationship with Jesus is that of marriage. At the end of the Bible, when heaven comes, the church is pictured like a bride walking to be married to her groom, Jesus. This is not the only metaphor which the Bible uses to describe a relationship with Jesus, but it is a powerful one.

By taking the Bible’s poem about marriage, Song of Solomon, and reflecting its themes and imagery into 21st century, I want to explore marriage as a metaphor for faith. When I started writing the poems, I found myself emotionally where faith was more about being kissed than kissing, more about finding a shared mutating identity that goes beyond myself. It’s exciting and beautiful, but it comes with risk and cost.

In the conversations I have had with Christians since publishing the book, not all have seen the Christian life as they understand it represented. I wanted to get beneath a veneer of social respectability, which is why the poems are just the husband speaking to the wife and vice versa. My personal opinion is that faith is not there to make us respectable, it is there to unite us with Christ in initimate, vulnerable, radical ways. I hope my faith and my poetry find an intimate, vulnerable, radical language.

If you want to find out more about Anatomy, read the introduction here.

If you have a question or comment about Anatomy, you can send feedback using the contact form or contact me by Facebook or Twitter.


Feature in HOUSEBOAT

Published today on the HOUSEBOAT blog, there is a feature about me and some of the poems I have written for Anatomy. The feature also has the wonderful photographs of Rose Mary Boehm.

You can read for yourself by following the link below.

The Story Behind ‘Summer Saturdays’

This poem references Song of Solomon in a more indirect way. The theme of a walled garden recurs through the text. Here is one example.

A walled garden is a really interesting metaphor for a marriage. In some ways, it’s a  really comparison. A walled garden has protection from the wind and generally is warmer by a few centigrade than the average garden. This means that you are able to grow a wider variety of more exotic plants than you can anywhere else.

However, because of the cost involved, walled gardens are also a mark of privilege. In our time and place, the best opportunity to go and see a really good example of a walled garden is to get down to a National Trust house. Which is where the link comes in between the poem and theme. (The picture in the video is taken from Godolphin House, a National Trust property in Cornwall with a lovely walled garden)

Of all the audio versions which I made with Anatomy, this is the one I am most pleased with. Most of the sound effects are taken from sound effect collections, but the birds singing in the middle are genuine National Trust.

The story behind ‘No Battery’

This poem was one of the later poems to be added. It replaced a poem that more explicitly dealt with the wife’s relationship to her friends. I’d wanted to try and capture something of a contrast between the wife’s exterior personality and interior life between her husband. But it wasn’t working, so it got replaced with this. The friends cannot be involved because there’s no battery on the phone to take the photo to post on the social media.

‘No battery’ is about the most domestic of domestic rhythms. In my marriage, the one thing that happens every day is that we meet up at the end of the day to share news and feelings about what has happened. Even if we have spent the day together, we still usually take time to reflect on what has taken place. It’s the way we maintain effective communication.

In this poem, this domestic routine is linked to an actual experience that I had walking on the Tamar Bridge, thinking about the book. As the poem describes, there was a full moon and a gap in the clouds which the moon seemed to be rolling across the top of. There was a moment where an inter-city train passed over the railway bridge and it was beautiful in the moonlight, before the clouds covered the light and the moment was gone.

The aim of the poem was to try and connect the domestic rhythms of life to something larger. A moment can be created by the convergance of celestial movement, weather systems, railway timetables, and family routine which invite us to enter into a deeper love for the reality surrounding us.

The Story Behind ‘Kiss Me Husband’

Kiss Me Husband was the first poem to have been deliberately written for ‘Anatomy’.

If I’m honest, before I wrote ‘Anatomy’, I wasn’t expecting to write a collection of poems based around a theme or characters. My expectation was that the writing I would do would be based in personal reflection and social comment.

Things changed when I started having a period of a few weeks when, without any prompting, I often woke up uncannily at 5am. Quickly, it became obvious to me that this was an opportunity for constructive times of thought, reading and prayer. I started to read a commentary on the bible book Song of Solomon by Bernard of Clairvaux and re-read the Song of Solomon in the light of the commentary. And then I started writing.

The poem is responding specifically to two verses of the first chapter of Song of Solomon. Verse 2: ‘Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!’ and Verse 13: ‘My beloved is to me a bag of myrrh that lies between my breasts.’

I wanted this poem to be a bit like fire. If you get close, you get warm, but if you get too close, you get burned. If you want, it’s a simple love and desire poem. If you want to come closer though, its a poem about the vulnerability of being kissed rather than kissing, it’s a thought about how marriage can be a place where knowing someone and being inside someone and empathising deeply with someone can change everything about you. It’s another way of affirming what one of the best writers of the way of marriage in the 20th Century, Johnny Cash, sang, ‘I fell into a burning ring of fire / I went down, down, down, and the flames went higher.’

Anatomy Playlist

Here’s a spotify play list that I made. The songs listed relate to Anatomy, either by their lyrics, by their themes, or just by the fact that they were the soundtrack to the writing of the book. Hope you like it.

Anatomy Price cut for Kindle

Anatomy is now retailing at a new price for Kindle. 

In the UK, it is now at the bargain price of £2.06 and is available from

In the USA and beyond, the price is $3.30 and is available from

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