[Insert Title Here]

I need you to help me choose a title, friends. This has nothing to do with Charles Williams (as far as I know), but hey: My blog, my rules. Anyway, I’m working on books one through four of my Sixteen Books To Write After the Dissertation, and #4 needs a title.

Here’s the idea. It’s a volume of weekly meditations on poetry as practical ecology. In each entry, I take a poem (not by me: a classic or contemporary work by somebody famous or noteworthy) and write a little meditation on what we can learn about creation care from it. Then I’ll end each entry with a practical tip for nurturing the earth.

I don’t know whether this is really a thing in eco-crit land. Those of you who do real ecological criticism: Is it ever practical in application? Or is it always and only theoretical? Well, I think it could and should be a thing, so I’m trying it out to see what happens.

I’ve been hand-writing these little pieces of creative nonfiction in a lovely cork-covered notebook given me as a graduation gift by a friend. Hand writing anything is such a luscious, precious sensory experience these days. I find it’s easier to listen to the narrator in my head who is good at determining my chosen audience, sensing what level of diction would be good for them, gauging their imagined feedback, and guiding my rhetoric. The slower pace means I can craft better sentences, too, using hand and ear and eye together in the structuring of syntax.

So I don’t have a complete sample entry for you, but here’s a partial one that’s typed up (and isn’t as good as those scratched out in cursive with a Micron .005 pen on rich paper). It’s just to give you an idea of the sort of thing I’m attempting.


God’s Grandeur
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Everything is packed full of the possibility to burst into beauty. Seeds are nearly bursting—and then actually bursting—with their coiled up burden, the tendrils of vine or tree. The word “charged” makes us nowadays think of batteries, charged full of electricity, ready to provide power. This is not a bad analogy: the bud is ready to turn on, to glow, to illuminate its surroundings. But nature is even better than a battery, because it doesn’t wear down. Its power doesn’t leach out when unused. Charge up your Tesla, unplug it, and leave it in the garage—and the battery wears down, even without driving. The energy leaks out. No so with this green and growing earth! The caterpillar in the cocoon, the chick in the egg, the larva in the compost heap, the seedlings in the shell: they will not wear down or wear out while waiting. Their coiled and waiting power grows, “gathers to a greatness,” until the moment when they explode outward with all their joy in flower. Hopkins’ phrase “flame out” makes me picture trumpet-shaped blossoms, like on the Esperanza, Honeysuckle, or Foxglove: flowers whose bright orange or scarlet cornets flash against their drab backgrounds, playing their own visual fanfare to announce their dramatic arrival.

If you want to understand the bit about “shining from shook foil,” take a piece of aluminum foil, crumple it up a little, smooth it out again, then go stand with it in a patch of bright sunlight, and shake it. Watch how the light sparkles, darts, dances, and flames off of the varied surface. Imagine instead of ordinary household aluminum foil, you have a sheet of gold leaf, or the background of one of those Medieval icons, sunbeams glinting off the precious foil. That’s how the glory flashes out of nature: a yellow jessamine blooming unexpectedly in a shady corner; a fountain of native grasses cracking the asphalt in an abandoned parking lot; a goldfinch darting through your field of vision, one bright streak and then gone. 

This glory, says Hopkins, is like something that seems kind of strange at first: “the ooze of oil / Crushed.” Well, we’ve got to get out of suburbia to see what he’s describing here. Have you ever eaten really, really, really good olive oil? I’ve never been able to afford a truly artisan olive oil. The closest I’ve come is watching Samin Nosrat gushing about it in the “Fat” episode of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. *describe the pressing, the ooze…

[*Another paragraph about how things wait, then burst out]

[*but of course, next Hopkins describes how we’ve ruined it.]

[*But it’s not used up! It will still come back. Chernobyl.]

Practical Tip: When you encounter those horrible, depressing places where nature seems thoroughly dead—a mini-Mordor in your own neighborhood—don’t despair! Clear away the debris of trade and toil, then leave it alone. Maybe help it out with some water and compost. It will come to life again, and you’ll be amazed.


Okay, that’s an example. I hope to write 52 of these, one for each week of a year. But what should I call the book?? I’m hoping for a beautiful, memorable, poetic phrase that suggests poetry as practical creation-care. I’m using “Fold, Fallow, & Plough” as a placeholder in my mind (and my filenames). That doesn’t communicate enough, though. Got any good ideas? Thanks!

About Sørina Higgins

Sørina Higgins is a PhD student in English and Presidential Scholar at Baylor University. She also serves as Chair of the Language and Literature Department at Signum University, online. Her latest publication is an academic essay collection on "The Inklings and King Arthur" (Apocryphile Press, December 2017). Her interests include British Modernism, the Inklings, Arthuriana, theatre, and magic. She holds an M.A. from Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English. Sørina blogs about British poet Charles Williams at The Oddest Inkling, wrote the introduction to a new edition of Williams’s "Taliessin through Logres" (Apocryphile, 2016), and edited Williams’s "The Chapel of the Thorn" (Apocryphile, 2014). As a creative writer, Sørina has published two books of poetry, "The Significance of Swans" (2007) and "Caduceus" (2012).
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25 Responses to [Insert Title Here]

  1. Sixteen? Ambitious!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. TC says:

    Sørina, this sounds like it’s going to be simply a lovely book.

    For title ideas, my first leaning is toward Hopkins—something like “Nature Is Never Spent.” The note of hope might also ring nicely in such a challenging time for creation stewardship, where hope, though so necessary, can be often hard to come by.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Eric Rauscher says:

    “Up from the mold”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sharon says:

    Just an idea for a blog title: images of the earth
    Or images of the ideal

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I would definitely buy this book. The practice you’re describing here sounds a bit like Lectio Divina but with an ecological twist, so I am thinking something like Lectio Viridi (Green Reading) but possibly Latin won’t fly since it is sadly unavailable to most people. So how about Viridescent, which brings out the meaning of green and “shining from shook foil” (a phrase I have always loved)?

    On another note, your reflection on the idea of life always returning reminds that although physical systems tend towards entropy, life triumphs over entropy and reverses it. (Even deeper magic from befor ethe dawn of time…)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Just thought of another title: Heaven in a wild flower, from “Auguries of Innocence”
    by William Blake:

    To see a World in a Grain of Sand
    And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
    Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
    And Eternity in an hour

    Liked by 2 people

  7. quanglican says:

    Something with Seasons in it. I can’t think of any obvious poetry references to the seasons, but there are probably some out there that are very obvious to you.

    Something William Blake related? I’m thinking of Songs of Innocence and Experience for some reason.

    Just throwing some ideas out there. Good luck with the book!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Barry Curtis says:

    Ms. Higgins,      I’m sorry I’m writing to you without any suggestions for a name for your journal.  I’m certain you’ll have no trouble finding it.  I’m writing mainly to applaud your incredible energy in all the undertakings that you seem to be involved in.  Where does it come from?Upward and upward!     I’m also writing because I’m fascinated by the idea of Charles Williams as co-editor of a book of Mystical Verse which is news to me, although I’m not totally surprised.  For forty years now I have read and re-read the novels and few of the critical and theological essays.  I guess that almost makes me a devoted follower to someone who was Poet first and foremost with a capital P.  But believe me, the mystical side also caught my attentions especially since we live in a world with not a lot of belief in supernatural possibilities.     Tell you where I’d really like to research, to acquire and enjoy and that’s the early poetry of Charles Williams.  Not easy to come be for a layman, I assure you.  As fine but difficult as TALIESSIN THROUGH LOGRES and THE REGION OF THE SUMMER STARS is, I still have a hankering to read some of the work like the one that was quoted in Humphrey Carpenter’s book THE INKLINGS.  I used to have a copy of that and I treasured it.  Not easy holding onto things sometimes…      However, I do have the last novel ALL HALLOWS EVE that a good friend sent to me and which I re-read for the 2nd or third time, not exactly sure.  His prose is difficult for many of us, but something strike through by the time one finishes the pages.  I felt the same way with THE GREATER TRUMPS and the others.  My absolute favorite, though, is DESCENT INTO HELL which I know I have read 3 times.  That’s my book of his that sank most deeply through my body.      Well, I’ve taken up enough of your time.  Keep the good work.

                                                                                 Yours sincerely,                                                    Barry Curtis              

    Liked by 1 person

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      In The Inklings, Humphrey Carpenter quote a lively poem by Charles Williams about seeing Shakespeare waiting for an Underground Railway train in London – it’s from Windows of Night, and I am suprised that there does not seem to be a scan or transcription of that collection of poems anywhere online (that I can find) – but, happily it has been republished in recent years, so it may be something to be found in a library or borrowed by inter-library loan, for anyone who wants to read it before deciding to buy it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Barry! Keep it up. We need more people working on the early poetry.


  9. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    I suppose A Green Thought in a Green Shade has be done to death – and it’s pretty wacky, sassy poem if one reads the line in context…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. tom says:

    Et in Arcadia Eco.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Did you come up with a title?

    Also, Happy Easter!


  12. Steph P says:

    I discovered Williams a couple of years ago and in that time, I’ve learned so very much from your blog. I’m an intermittent visitor here so this is quite belated, but thanks so much for providing this terrific content and congratulations on the enormous milestone of completing your PhD!

    I’m uncertain what title to suggest, if you still are searching for one, but maybe one that puns on the dual meaning of leaves as also pages–alas, “Leaves of Grass” is already taken. Very best of luck with the book!


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