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Posts from the ‘Steve Turner’ Category


Why getting popcultured is no bad thing: thoughts on Steve Turner’s latest

Regular Q readers will know that matters pop-cultural are regularly considered here. And one of my favourite books of recent years on any subject is the brilliant Popologetics by my friend Ted Turnau. But regulars will also know that I am a fan of Steve Turner’s books, not least because he has a great way with words (I only wish he’d apply that to poetry again!) and has unrivalled experience in writing about the world of popular culture from a deeply theological perspective. So I was very excited by the arrival of his latest: Popcultured. Read more »


Towards an Integrated Christian Imagination

It was a joy to be able to spend a couple of hours with members of the CU at London’s University of the Arts on Thursday evening, giving a talk on this subject. Sarah Dargue has already done a really good job at summarising the key points over at the Interface Arts page (if you’re an arts student, definitely worth keeping an eye on that blog). But here is my talk outline, so that you can get some of the key quotes and references, plus my slides. Read more »


Friday Fun 19: Steve Turner’s MY DAD

All is not what it at first seems. It starts out like the classic boast of the school playground. But the playground is certainly not where it all ends…

Steve Turner is a wonderful poet whose poems always twist and jive with the best of them. I just wish he’d get back on the case and write some more… Get on with it, Steve!!

So here’s  My Dad, taken from his first collection for (not just) children, The Day I Fell Down The Toilet and other poems. Read more »


Remembrance Sunday by Steve Turner

Here’s a topical one from Steve Turner

Remembrance Sunday

At the going
down of the sun
and in the morning
we do our best
to remember them,
from comic books
and photographs
and films with Jack Hawkins.

At the rising
of the moon
and in the evening,
black and white
memories slip away
like soldiers that




Poems, p 60


Avoiding the Keller challenge? Steve Turner’s poetic exposure of our inaction

Having had a bit of a Keller-fest on the last few postings, it struck me as rather fitting to conclude with this piercing and poignant little number from the inimitable Steve Turner. It picks up the themes of Jesus’ parable of the Sheep and the Goats, which is a text Keller picks up on in his book.

It’s a painful provocation…

Lord, Lord
by Steve Turner

You were hungry
and I was sorry.

You were thirsty
and I blamed the world.

You were a stranger
and I pointed you out.

You were naked
and I turned you in.

You were sick
and I said a prayer.

You were in prison
and I wrote a poem.

Poems, p67 (2002)


A chance encounter with a great poet: Irina Ratushinskaya beaten but not lost

I can’t now remember why I was there, but back in early 1989 I had a couple of hours to kill in Oxford (it was probably on a trip to get things sorted before going up to university). And I popped into Blackwells (left) one of the great meccas for all bibliophiles (though it has been knocked off my perch of personal favourites by Daunt Books in Marylebone High St).

I wandered around for a bit, and then noticed that there was quite a throng. I’d no idea what was going on, but in the great tradition of British (and Russian) shoppers, I saw the queue and so joined it. And it so happened that it was leading to a book-signing by the great Russian poet, Irina Ratushinskaya. I knew absolutely nothing about her, nor her circumstances. But nevertheless, I dutifully waited, purchased and had signed – here’s a pic of my copy of her small anthology Pencil Letter.

It’s hard to imagine the dark days of the cold war now. But when I had my book signed, the fall of the Berlin Wall was still months away and unimaginable. She was exiled in the mid 80s and speaking up for those still suffering back home – hence the book tour. I subsequently discovered that before leaving Russia, she was a courageous dissident and Christian believer – despite the fact that she ended up in a notoriously horrific Soviet labour camp, in which she suffered terrible malnutrition, torture, and nearly died.

Fortunately, she had learned how to memorise and write in such circumstances from the master Alexander Solzhenitsyn. She would use bars of soap, matchsticks and constant repetition in order to sustain her creative impulses and dutifully record the atrocities while enduring the camp’s so-called ‘small zone’. To give a taste, here’s the title poem from this book, written in the KGB cells in Kiev while waiting for her trial in November 1982. It lasts for several pages, but here is the opening section:

Pencil Letter
by Irina Ratushinskaya

I know it won’t be received
Or sent. The page will be
In shreds as soon as I have scribbled it.
Later. Sometime. You’ve grown used to it,
Reading between the lines that never reached you,
Understanding everything. On the tiny sheet,
Not making haste, I find room for the night.
What’s the hurry, I find room for the night.
What’s the hurry, when the hour that’s passed
Is all part of the same time, the same unknown term.
The word stirs under my hand
Like a starling, a rustle, a movement of eyelashes.
Everything’s fine. But don’t come into my dream yet.
In a little while i will tie my sadness into a knot,
Throw my head back and on my lips there’ll be a seal,
A smile, my prince, although from afar.
Can you feel the warmth of my hand
Passing through your hair, over your hollow cheek.
December winds have blown on your face…
How thin you are.. Stay in my dream.
Open the window. The pillow is hot.
Footsteps at the door, and a bell tolling in the tower:
Two, three… Remember, you and I never said
Goodbye. It doesn’t matter.
Four o’clock… That’s it. How heavily it tolls.

Anyway, I was stimulated to take down her book from the shelf when leafing through Steve Turner’s poetry again the other day and came across this poem about her. Wonderful. A great homage to a great poet.

Beaten But Not Lost
(for Irina Ratushinskaya)
by Steve Turner

We beat her
and she lost weight
She lost blood.
She lost consciousness.

But she never lost hope.
She never lost poetry
And she was never lost.

You must have to beat real hard
to get the God
out of these people;to still the noise of heaven
in their hearts.

(Poems, p147)



Weird. Steve Turner doesn’t believe in air

Having posted on Friday about the importance of the insensible, I came across this great number from Steve Turner. Subverts perfectly the prevailing mood of scepticism…


I don’t believe in air.
No one has ever seen it.
No one has ever felt it
between finger and thumb.
Converts talk about
tasting the air
and smelling the air,
but there’s always another explanation;
the nearby sea, a factory’s pipes,
a pile of fresh manure.
It’s not the so-called air
that smells.

Scientists have complete faith
in this air.
They say it upholds
and sustains our world.
Take away the air, they argue,
and we’d go too.
Meteorologists attribute
signs and wonders to the air;
people thrown to the ground,
trees uprooted, the landscape rearranged.
It sounds like superstition to me.
If there is air,
who made it?
Where does it all go?
Why doesn’t it show itself
just one time for proof?

Friends ask me why windows rattle
and hair goes awry,
but I don’t believe in air.
I don’t believe in air.
Air is just another word
for something that’s not there.

(Poems, p138)

Exchange the word ‘air’ with the word ‘God’, and you’ll get the point. Remember Jesus’ chat with Nicodemus


Steve Turner’s EVERYTHING

While we’re in the mood for poetry, here’s a nice little pithy number.

by Steve Turner

Looks aren’t everything.
Luxury’s not everything.
Money’s not everything.
Health is not everything.
Success is not everything.
Happiness is not everything.
Even everything is not everything.
There’s more to life than everything.

from Up To Date (1993), p137


11th Hour aid for floating voters: Steve Turner’s Left Right

In a crisis, I find that Steve Turner can usually be relied upon to come up with something useful or constructive. And in this week full of talk of the spectres of hung parliaments and tactical voting, this poem seemed just the ticket. Hope it helps if you’re stuck…

LEFT RIGHT by Steve Turner

Left right Left right
Left right Left right

I was getting worried
Couldn’t sleep at night
‘Cos I didn’t quite know
If I was left or right
So feel my leanings
Test my views
Check my reactions
to the Ten o’Clock News

Should I buy the Mirror
Or should I buy the Sun
The Times Literary
Or the Guardian
Will I be a fascist
If I use the police
Or will I be a commie
If I march for peace?
Who is it I follow
If I’m down on pron
Begin a Foetus Lib
For the not yet born?

So feel my leanings
Test my views
Check my reactions
to the Ten o’Clock News
Am I middle class
Or am I alright
Get me tested
Am I left or right?
Get me tested
Am I left or right?

Send me all the questions
Mail me all the forms
Fix me up a blood test
Tell me all the rules
I’ve got to know now
Put my mind at rest
Am I of the right
Or am I communist?
Please make me something
I’ve been nothing too long
I need to find out
If I’m left or wrong.

Watch my language
Hear my views
Check my reactions
To the Six o’Clock News
Am I working class
And am I alright
Get me tested
Am I left or right?
Get me tested
Am I left or right?


Compassion fatigue alert: Steve Turner’s TELEVISION NEWS

He’s a great poet – but hasn’t produced much recently. (Hint hint, Steve) This is a gem – nestled in one of his great children’s collections.

by Steve Turner

While we take burgers, cokes and fries
The TV tells of hate and lies
Shows death beneath bright foreign skies
Can someone pass the salt?

The ground is parched, the river dies
The Red Cross camp has no supplies
The cold night air is cut with cries
Which ice-cream have you bought?

With bones stuck out like blunted knives
And bellies swollen twice the size
The people cling to fading lives
Who’s washing up tonight?

We see their pain in bulging eyes
And faces gaunt and thick with flies
The camera zooms as someone dies
What’s on the other side?

From The Day I Fell Down The Toilet (Lion, 1996) p67


U2’s NLOTH spiritual resonances (pt 1)

Am prepping for an updated talk on U2 at the ELF in Hungary this year – so obviously paying close attention to the new album, No Line on the Horizon. Here are a few biblical & spiritual resonances that I’ve picked up. There are probably gazillion others. Various bods out there are saying that it is one of their most Christian albums to date – and various obsessives are doing this sort of thing. So for what it’s worth, here’s my stab at a contribution. If I’m onto something with even half of these references, it is pretty exciting. And I have a bit a of a theory to do with the hymn Amazing GraceRead more »


The solitary passing of a p*rn baron

Many English phrases carry a world on their shoulders.

  • There is perhaps nothing more annoying than the words “PLEASE HOLD – YOUR CALL IS IMPORTANT TO US AND WILL BE ATTENDED TO SOON.”
  • There is perhaps nothing more smug or priggish than the response “I TOLD YOU SO.”
  • There is perhaps nothing more tragic than the words “TOO LATE.”

Now I certainly don’t want to come across all superior or smug. In fact, reading the obit of p*rn baron, Paul Raymond (sometimes described as the British Hugh Hefner), on BBC online, just made me incredibly sad: if only he’d listened to Ecclesiastes. For I feel that the Teacher would no doubt have said the last 2 of these phrases (but probably not the first). This is what the obit said:

Raymond, 82, the son of a Liverpool lorry driver, founded a huge pornographic empire which included magazines such as Mayfair and Men Only. He was once dubbed the King of Soho and in 1958 opened the only premises in the UK to stage live striptease shows. Raymond acquired property in London’s West End in the 1970s and was thought to be worth £650m when he died. Born Geoffrey Anthony Quinn in November 1925, Raymond left school at 15 to pursue a career in showbusiness and started with a mind-reading act on Clacton Pier. He soon discovered his real talent lay as a producer and went on to exploit not only the public’s fascination with sex and nudity, but also the gradual liberalisation of the 1950s, 60s and 70s…

But this is how it ended

…in later years competition to his porn empire from so-called “lads mags” stifled his fortunes. Raymond called himself a spiv and behaved like one, sporting fur coats, a Rolls Royce, a tiny moustache and a fake tan. But money did not buy him happiness. His marriage broke up acrimoniously after an affair with the model, Fiona Richmond. He was estranged from his son, and his daughter Debbie, who ran his empire for a time, died aged 36 from a drugs overdose in 1992. He ended his life a virtual recluse in a penthouse flat behind the Ritz Hotel.

What a tragic way to go. Not least because of the wisdom of what the Teacher said 3000 years ago (in Ecclesiastes 2). More even than Raymond could the Teacher say he’d been there, done that.

4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired men and women singers, and a harem as well—the delights of the heart of man. 9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.

My heart took delight in all my work,
and this was the reward for all my labor.

And his conclusion:

11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.

The Teacher did it all & he DID tell us so. But still people don’t believe him – they think it is still worth it, despite the wind-chasing misery of it all. (Check out Hugh Palmer’s great sermon on this passage from a recent Ecclesiastes series.)

However, as well as the venerable Teacher of old, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a more contemporary prophet, Steve Turner and his brilliant poem.

by Steve Turner

Tonight, we will
fake love together.
You my love possess
all the essential qualities
as listed by Playboy.
You will last me for
as long as two weeks
or until such a time
as your face & figure
go out of fashion.
I will hold you close
to my Hollywood-standard body,
the smell of which
has been approved
by my ten best friends
and a representative
of Lifebuoy.
I will prop my paperback
Kama Sutra
on the dressing table
& like programmed seals
we will perform
& like human beings
we will grow tired
of our artificially sweetened
diluted & ready to drink
love affairs.
Tonight, we will fake love.
Tonight we will be both
quick & silent, our time limited,
measured out in distances
between fingers
& pushbuttons

(from Up To Date, 1993 edition, p20)

And for good measure, it is worth throwing in a U2 song as well. For in this song, Bono & Edge brilliantly point us beyond Hefner’s Playboy mansion (where a welcome is available only to the ‘right’, ‘attractive’, ‘lucky’ kind of people) and offer hints of the hope of the great mansion, (in which there are many rooms prepared in advance for those who are not the beautiful or ‘perfect’ people). No – this is a mansion of grace – open to all who are not worthy but who recognise their unworthiness. And to seek after that is in no sense a seeking after the wind. Now I’ve no idea about Paul Raymond’s last few years – but the wonder of this mansion of grace is that ‘even’ he would be welcome there…

lyrics by Bono & The Edge; music by U2

If coke is a mystery / Michael Jackson…history
If beauty is truth / And surgery the fountain of youth
What am I to do / Have I got the gift to get me through
The gates of that mansion

If oj is more than a drink / And a big mac bigger than you think
If perfume is an obsession / And talk shows, confession
What have we got to lose / Another push and we’ll be through
The gates of that mansion

I never bought a lotto ticket / I never parked in anyones space
The banks feel like cathedrals / I guess casinos took their place
Love, come on down / Don’t wake her, she’ll come around

Chance is a kind of religion / Where you’re damned for plain hard luck
I never did see that movie / I never did read that book
Love, come on down / Let my numbers come around

Don’t know if I can hold on / Don’t know if I’m that strong
Don’t know if I can wait that long / ’til the colours come flashing
And the lights go on

Then will there be no time for sorrow / Then will there be no time for shame
And though I can’t say why / I know I’ve got to believe

We’ll go driving in that pool / It’s who you know that gets you through
The gates of the playboy mansion / But they don’t mention…the pain

Then will there be no time for sorrow
Then will there be no time for shame
Then will there be no time for sorrow
Then will there be no time for shame

(from the too often overlooked 1993 album Pop)


Living in our own little world

A wonderful poem – by the irrepressible Steve Turner. To read some other ones go HERE!

Marshall McLuhan says
that a house
is an extension
of the skin
and that a car
is an extension
of the feet.

In that case,
I suppose
garaging your car

is a bit like
swallowing your shoes.

(Up To Date, 1993, Hodder, p57)