Life Riffs: Improvisation in Poetry, Theology, and Flourishing / Micheal O'Siadhail & David Ford


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"Be with me, Madam Jazz, I urge you now, / Riff in me so I can conjure how / You breathe in us more than we dare allow." (Micheal O'Siadhail, The Five Quintets)

Irish poet Micheal O'Siadhail and theologian David Ford discuss the improvisational jazz that emerges in the interplay of poetry and theology, riffing on life and love, the meaning of covenant, retrieving wisdom from history, and imagining a future by letting go in communion with Madam Jazz. Interview by Drew Collins.

About Micheal O'Siadhail

Micheal O'Siadhail is a poet. His Collected Poems was published in 2013, One Crimson Thread in 2015 and The Five Quintets in 2018, which received Conference on Christianity and Literature Book of the Year 2018 and an Eric Hoffer Award in 2020. He holds honorary doctorates from the universities of Manitoba and Aberdeen. He lives in New York.

About David Ford

David F. Ford OBE is Regius Professor of Divinity Emeritus in the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Selwyn College. He is a renowned theologian and leader in inter-faith relations and is author of Christian Wisdom: Desiring God and Learning in Love and the forthcomingThe Gospel of John: A Theological Commentary.

Show Notes

  • Book: The Five Quintets, Micheal O'Siadhail
  • Jazz, poetry, improvisation
  • Reading: Epigraph to The Five Quintets
  • Madam Jazz, Improvisation, syncopated peace, "Let there be"
  • Modernity, science, and history
  • Secular supersessionism
  • Deep conversation from your own tradition, with others
  • The formation of historical figures
  • Second sight and recovering history and wisdom from the past
  • "Some of things we thought we have surpassed, we need to retrieve."
  • History in service of the present and the future
  • Paul Ricoeur
  • 50 years of friendship
  • Reading: "Covenant"
  • One of the most important words of life: covenant
  • Unity across generations: family, friend, and institutional covenants
  • "Loving God for nothing"
  • Unity, trust, and interdependence, even across difference and pluralism
  • Culture of suspicion
  • Without trust you have nothing
  • Enora O'Neil on trust in the public sphere
  • Susan Highland: belief and trust in John's Gospel
  • O'Siadhail on "a life worth living"—decency and "bringing talents back"
  • Ford on "a life worth living"—delighting in God and each other
  • Taking roads not normally taken

Production Notes

  • This podcast featured poet Micheal O'Siadhail, theologian David Ford, and theologian Drew Collins
  • Edited and Produced by Evan Rosa
  • Hosted by Evan Rosa
  • Production Assistance by Martin Chan & Nathan Jowers
  • A Production of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture at Yale Divinity School
  • Support For the Life of the World podcast by giving to the Yale Center for Faith & Culture:

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