To Be a Pilgrim Paperback – 27 Jan 2011
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To be a Pilgrim is a short book, but full of long journeys - from childhood to adulthood, from darkness to understanding, from life to death. The point of a pilgrimage is less the destination, more about the journey, and the transforming effect that long hard journeys can have on us. Pilgrimages should be hard, and that's difficult to replicate these days, when Easyjet can whisk you to Rome in under three hours. Spiritual or emotional journeys are harder still - there's no Easyjet to God.
The first poem, Verbum Dei, is one of the finest, and in some ways I could have wished it was placed at the end as the climax to the collection - but then again, it is about the start of a journey, in which boarding the very prosaic Isle of Wight ferry is transformed into a launch pad to the stars.
The theme of working towards a religious faith may not be meaningful to every reader, but there is material here for all of us. James Sale knows a thing or two about the cadences of English, and how to choose the right poetic form for the job. There is more than a hint of Milton and Shakespeare - though every poem feels entirely of the present day. Having said that, some of these poems do not give up their content easily. They need to be worked at, and carefully read and re-read. A sort of journey, if you like.