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Waiting on the Word

4.61  ·  Rating details ·  330 ratings  ·  76 reviews
Advent is a season of waiting and anticipation in which the waiting itself is strangely rich and fulfilling. Poetry can help us fathom the depths of Advent's many paradoxes: dark and light, emptiness and fulfilment, ancient and ever new.
For every day from Advent Sunday to Christmas Day and beyond, the bestselling poet Malcolm Guite chooses a favourite poem from across the
Paperback, 176 pages
Published August 18th 2015 by Canterbury Press
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Average rating 4.61  · 
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Cindy Rollins
Jan 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reread, 2018, 2019
The subtitle of this book is A Poem a Day for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. What a pleasant surprise. I am not generally a fan of books that 'explain' poems. I am much happier just reading and rereading a poem. I often distrust poetry analysis. Malcolm Guite expertly explains each poem, yes, but his analysis leads to love. Rather than discuss them academically, he makes you feel that you are just sitting around the Christmas tree discussing things you love. It was really that brilliant. His o ...more
(3.5) Guite chooses well-known poems (by Christina Rossetti, John Donne, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Samuel Taylor Coleridge et al.) as well as more obscure contemporary ones as daily devotional reading between the start of Advent and Epiphany; I especially liked his sonnet sequence in response to the seven “O Antiphons.” His commentary is learned and insightful, and even if at times I thought he goes into too much in-depth analysis rather than letting the poems speak for themselves, this remains a ve ...more
Jen H
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Malcolm Guite, in his Waiting on the Word devotional did for my understanding of poetry what rich, creamy butter does to a piece of dry toast. Can't say enough good about this tasty morsel of literary fare. Worth its weight in gold and then some. ...more
Dec 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I have read this book for the last few years during the Advent/Christmas season. And every time I am so inspired. 5 stars once again .


I don't normally read a lot of poetry. I think I'm going to change that habit this year. As long as I can have access to writers like Malcolm Guite. In this wonderful book, Guite includes a wonderful 1-2 page analysis with each daily reading/poem. There are poems from old greats, such as George Herbert,
Meghan Armstrong
Jan 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
All I have to do is see Malcolm Guite talking about poetry on Zoom with his hobbit hair and his musical instruments in the background—I’ll start crying.

From his December 2020 Trinity Forum interview: “The only thing that gives me confidence to write poetry is the conviction that the words I use are older and wiser than I am. They’ve been around and they’ve got things to teach me if I’ll only overhear their conversation.”

This Advent anthology was a dear friend the last month.
Jan 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
By far the best Advent reading I’ve done—good enough that I actually stuck with it!
Carol Bakker
It took me two Advent seasons, plus some, to read Waiting on the Word. It is a contemplative book, the kind where you read a paragraph and then stare out the window and ponder. The kind where hours later while your fingers are punching numbers, your mind is still ruminating about wrapped and rapt. Guite's commentary opened up poems and took me deeper than my own study could.

My favorite poems, by far, were Guite's "O Antiphons", based on the seven Advent prayers of the early church. These prayer
Jeff Sullivan
Dec 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, christianity
A wonderfully diverse anthology of poems, all meaningfully selected and commented on by a great poet himself. The reflections are brief but substantial, balancing the discussion of meaning with poetic form and effect.
Jeremy Johnston
Jan 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Such a beautiful and illuminating collection of poems and commentary! My heart was well prepared for Christmastide! Malcolm has curated a range of short poems/ excerpts that will lead the reader from Advent Sunday to Epiphany. With each poem, Malcolm provides rich exposition, commentary, and application. He has carefully selected classic and contemporary poems from both Christian and non-Christian poets. This is a rich and rewarding collection for novice and well-versed readers of poetry.
Justin Wiggins
Jan 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Yesterday I finished reading this powerful book by Malcolm Guite, which is an amazing devotional for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. Thanks for writing this book Malcom! I do hope to enjoy a pint with you in Oxford or Cambridge someday.
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
My youngest sister and I share a love for books and our tastes are fairly similar, so we love sharing recommendations with each other as we discover new treasures. Charity surprised me with this title in December after having heard an interview with the author.

Guite has assembled a series of daily readings to go from Advent Epiphany on January 6th. Each entry begins with a poem (including some of his own), which is then followed by his exposition on the poem.

I enjoy poetry, and I was intrigued
Nov 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a selection of poems with explanatory essays by Malcolm Guite for the season of Advent and Christmas through to Epiphany.
There are some great poems by Rossetti , Donne, Coleridge and Herbert. But there are also contemporary poems by Guite himself, as well as Grevel Lindop and Luci Shaw.

An excellent resource for advent season.
Kerianne Noel
Jan 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I greatly enjoyed the poetry selections, which were the perfect accompaniment to the natural progression that marks the Advent and Christmas seasons. Guite‘s reflections on the poems were essentially personal narrations that enhanced my own appreciation of not only the individual poems but the way that different poems and poets „speak“ to one another. As someone who loves poetry, but wouldn‘t pick up on those connections on their own this was a delight and left me wanting to include more poetry ...more
Jan 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This was a stunning book. If you are inclined to poetry and Advent/Christmas devotionals, I highly recommend it. I don't think I've ever actually read an entire Christmas devotional day-by-day, but this book had me practicing patience not too read more than one day at a time. This is not your typical Advent devotional, and it continues up to Epiphany, which is wonderful. Guite chooses some unusual poems, but he does a masterful job drawing out the interpretation and bringing the reader back to s ...more
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love this anthology (and the accompanying one for Lent.) What a beautiful way to slow down and reflect in Advent. The author includes his own poems and some by other poets. It's brought to me new ways of reading and appreciating poetry, new ways to think about Advent and the Christmas story; it's stirred my heart and stretched my mind. Bring on Lent. ...more
Sarah Wolfe
Jan 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, wonderful, can't recommend it enough or wait to read it again next year! If I wasn't already a Malcolm Guite fangirl (because, I mean, who isn't?) this would make me one. Great poem choices, wonderful sonnets of his own, and fantastic depth of exploration every day. I'm going to miss this daily treat. ...more
Mary Reilly
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent devotional for Advent through Epiphany. Enjoyed the poetry and was so good for this non poetry girl to have the author walk me through the poems and make connections that while I enjoyed the words I didn’t see.
Feb 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Having never read a great deal of poetry, I loved getting introduced to several poets and poems that caused me to think and ponder. I will definitely want to reread this for next Advent! Review to come
Oct 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Do not take the time I took to finally finish reading this as any indication of how good this books is. Do give it a chance! I think what you find will be worth it, as it is for me.
Shannon Maddox
Please see my review here:

Jan 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spiritual-life
Waiting on the Word was the perfect companion for Advent and Christmas 2020. I needed beautifully composed words more than ever. I can't recommend Malcolm Guite highly enough. ...more
Kelly Barker
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this walk through poetry for the Advent season. Guite did a great job at holding my hand when I wasn’t quite sure what the poet was trying to say. Definitely a book I will use each advent season as a time to be ever watching for the light.
Kelly Sauskojus
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Best advent devotional I've ever encountered. Maybe I just actually like poetry? ...more
Harry Allagree
Jan 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shortly before Christmas recently I'd kept running into the name of Malcolm Guite, never having encountered him or his poetry. This book was an absolute "gift" this Christmas, not only with the wonderful writing, poems and insights of Guite himself, but with those of a number of other poets, classical and contemporary, which he includes. The poem which struck me most forcefully, perhaps, was Scott Cairns's contribution, "Nativity" (p. 109), which by happenstance I was able to share with a gather ...more
Laurel Hicks
An excellent anthology of poetry selected and annotated by Malcolm Guite for the days of Advent. Guite has an outstanding ability to show how the poets of the ages speak to one another, and his own poetry is exquisite. I’ll be reading this again next December.

Thirty-seven poems expertly chosen and brilliantly annotated by Malcolm Guite to span the days from the Annunciation to Christmas to the coming of the Magi. This is a treasure to read many times over. George Herbert, John Donne,
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I picked up Waiting on the Word on a recommendation by Cindy Rollins. I knew nothing of the author, but was all in favor of another book of advent poetry.

But at first, I was turned off by the author's seeming arrogance. Who is he to place his own work among that of Milton and Herbert and Tennyson and Donne? But I grew to appreciate his commentary and his poetic contributions to the season.

This book will definitely be part of my advent traditions in future years.

Update, 1/6/21:
Guite is even mo
Diana Glyer
Nov 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Even though the spell of Christmastime starts earlier and earlier each year, the meaning of Christmas gets swallowed up in sale prices and the noise of Black Friday Specials. This little book has the power to change all that. A poem a day and a bit of commentary: a gentle, grounding experience to start each day of December, a companion that changes the holiday season from one of hurry to one of hope. Simple? yes. Powerful? utterly. Redemptive? absolutely. This book is brilliant.
Jordan Carlson
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I adored this book in so many ways. A poem a day through Advent, Christmas and Epiphany - this book was an essential element of my understanding, observing and celebrating this season. The O Antiphons were particularly moving to me, and Guite’s responsive sonnets were very, very good. I appreciated his short analysis/response that felt so worshipful and devotional in nature and helped me to see many things that I would otherwise have missed in the poetry. The variety of old and new, sacred and s ...more
Elizabeth Forshee
Jan 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
There are so many wonderful things I could say about this book. I love poetry, but don't often spend time reading it because there are several other books I choose first. I found that making space during Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany to lean into poetry and Malcolm Guite's insightful and thought-provoking words was the perfect gift for my soul this season. Not only is Malcolm brilliant, his included poetry on the antiphons has me wanting more, he seems like a person you'd love to sit down with ...more
Joshua D.
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Far and away the best Advent/Christmas/Epiphany devotional I have ever read. Guite himself is a best-selling poet, but his curation of great poems is on display here. And his analysis of each poem is phenomenal. I can't remember a time I have learned so much from a book. Highly recommended.

Advent is a season of waiting and anticipation in which the waiting itself is strangely rich and fulfilling. Poetry can help us fathom the depths of Advent's many paradoxes: dark and light, emptiness and fu
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