Poems from the porch

Poems from the porch: the radio poems of John Betjeman

Kevin Gardner, ed.
Continuum, 2008, £14.99, 148p., Hardback,
ISBN 9781847063281

Poems in the Porch is a collection of poems written by John Betjeman and read by him between 1953 and 1957 on the BBC West of England Home Service’s The Faith in the West programme. They reflect the poet’s Christian faith and occasional doubts, ranging from the serious to the satirical. An example of the serious is The Conversion of St. Paul, broadcast on 25 January (the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul), 1955. An example of the satirical is Blame the Vicar, from which the following is an extract:

One parson came and people said,
‘Alas! Our former vicar’s dead!
And this new man is far more “Low”
Than dear old Reverend So-and-so,
And far too earnest in his preaching,
We do not really like his teaching.
He seems to think we’re simply fools
Who’ve never been to Sunday Schools.’
Then vicar left and by-and-by
A new one came; He’s much too “High”,
The people said, ‘too like a saint,
His incense makes our Mavis faint’
So now he’s left and they’re alone
Without a vicar of their own,
The living’s been amalgamated
With one next door they’ve always hated.

Although written fifty-five years ago, the last two lines reflect the situation in many churches today. If you like poetry with proper rhymes and a Christian message, I can recommend this book.

Contributed by: Kenneth G.B. Bakewell, MA, MIMgt, FCLIP, who is the Emeritus Professor of Information and Library Management at the Liverpool John Moores University and a CLIS Life Vice-President.