As I sat ‘playing the author’ and signing books at the launch of The Risen Dust last night a very dear friend noted his suspicion of the whole ‘queue up and get your book signed’ thing. I suspect he’s right to be a bit suspicious – there’s a whole lot of ego-gratification that goes on in such situations. It’s probably not what Christian vocation is about. Nonetheless, getting a book out there is a rare enough process that it’s probably worth commenting on. So, in the spirit of self-indulgence and by way of thanks to all those who’ve supported me over the years (including the many who couldn’t get along) I thought I’d blog about last night's launch.
In many ways the launch of The Risen Dust felt very different from the launch of Dazzling Darkness fifteen or so months ago. Yes, both events took place in the magnificent surrounds of Manchester Cathedral and both were brilliantly supported. However, the DD launch felt about as edgy and electric as a book launch can get – maybe publishing a book that might set off a whole lot of controversy always feels like that. I was so thankful for the love of friends and family that night and have remained so ever since.
The Risen Dust, on the other hand, feels – in many ways - a less explosive offering. In offering a book of poems and stories on the themes of passion and resurrection I’m conscious I’m walking a well-trodden path. My anxiety last night was that people would be disappointed. Many of the people at the launch were not – I suspect – massive poetry fans and I was conscious of constantly speaking a language that might feel alien and alienating. Equally, there is always a danger of offering cliché when talking about ‘the Easter Event’. It has been more extensively picked over than a baboon’s hairy shoulders.
Yet, I was moved by the response of the audience. Perhaps the poems were a little difficult for folk to absorb at times, but I was touched by the openness towards the monologues and stories. I’ve long felt and argued that the patriarchal picture of God – the Father whose power and authority has the doubled-edged offering of threat and protection – simply will not do. I was delighted by how strongly folk responded to the more tentative, relational and indwelling theological instincts especially embodied in the stories and monologues. I was blown away by the warm response to the story I shared based on my experience of being bullied for being trans.
I know God is not cool or fashionable and I’m not sure anyone should much worry about that. I sense God doesn’t. But last night it was a delight to share poems, stories and conversation with people from a variety of faiths and none about what on earth we mean when we try and talk about the God in Christ – the one who is Risen Dust. I hope The Risen Dust is a small contribution to the ongoing effort to articulate a god more interesting that that cheesy Aunt Sally (Uncle Sidney?), The Wise Guy in The Sky aka The Beardy Sky-Fairy.