I went to an excellent talk by Rowan Williams -- in the dialogue format with another poet -- where he talked about language, poetry and translation. Because I went to his difficult Clark lectures on aesthetics some years back in Cambridge, which were published as Grace and Necessity, I was able to follow more than otherwise. I do like the archbishop. He's good at gentle self-deprecating humour, and he is so startlingly but unostentatiously bright. His adoption of Simone Weil's idea that one should always approach other humans with hesitation, e.g. a sort of expectant humility, is something you can actually see him doing as well talking about. It means not putting a name or label on a person but instead being open to them as a human. The Franciscans who used to live in Cambridge were like that. I suppose it's part of the reason why he seems undefinite to the world in general, his refusal to condemn. And certainly many Anglicans (and journalists) would like him to do a bit more condemning -- my evangelical relatives on my father's side don't really approve of him. I think he's just what we need. The Church of England is sometimes called the only organisation that exists for the benefit of its non-members, and I think he provides a good sign for both the church and the non-church. The church needs to be just a bit skew-whiff from the world. It needs not to copy the name-calling style of modern politics. It needs to measure its success by things that are neither worldly nor unworldly but aworldly, or refuse to measure its success at all.
Also it was cool to hear him talk about the poetry culture of his native Wales. I hadn't realised that he was brought up bilingual in Welsh and English. And I enjoyed that he talked intelligently about Geoffrey Hill. An elderly bishop used to bring Hill into lunch sometimes when I was a research fellow. I liked that bishop, since deceased, and a few times actually sat next to Geoffrey Hill. Whereupon I found myself completely unable to say anything at all intelligent to him about his work, much as I like it. It was one of those moments that seems frustratingly bigger than itself, and actually emblematic of a whole part of life. Maybe I should write a poem about it.