6.05.2009

Local Things - In Loco Kenosis

Speaking of long poems... thinking about Chicagoan Robert Archambeau's recent digest on manifestos, and how, for Robert, style, and the politics of style, seems to be the prime function of poetry, & the pivot of its analysis...

& thinking about Stephen Burt's recent "New Thing" quasi-manifesto, detailing the swing back to restraint, impersonality, objectivism, the thingness of (poem) things... & yet the framework seems to be, again, a focus on the pendulum of style...

which got me thinking of another Chicagoan, Peter O'Leary, who manages to inject a Catholic-spiritual dimension into the consideration of "objectivity" (see his articles etc. on poet Frank Samperi)...

But couldn't it be said that the style of objectivity in American poetry has a lineage in Puritan poetics (Edw. Taylor) & Transcendentalism (Emerson, Thoreau)... & that Emerson, Whitman et al. carried this into a kind of (Romantic) quasi-divinization of the human mind & imagination... setting it free from the Bonds of antiquity & Europe, into the primal wilderness of new "local" discovery (Wallace Stevens, WCW, Olson, Dorn, so many others)...

The thing I keep coming back to is the historical aspect of Christianity... the absolute local "thingness" of the Incarnation... & how the Eastern Orthodox concept of "divinization" somehow echoes, yet corrects & resolves the Faustian egoism of Western Renaissance-Romantic consciousness (precisely because that divinization is dependent on the unique history - the abject-glorious historical actuality - of Incarnation)... as one scholar recently paraphrased the famous formula of Irenaeus - Cur Deus homo? (why did God become man?) "God became man so that man might become God" : "A human being becomes god only insofar as God becomes this particular human being [ie., Jesus. & my italics]." (Arkadi Choufrine, Gnosis, Theophany, Theosis)...

This comes up in my brief essay on the long poem... & reminds me of the tremendous historical-Roman thinginess of long-poem poet David Jones... a local kenosis...

& these theological things might provide a conceptual frame for aesthetics... which transcends the boxed-in artiness of American style-for-its-own sake...

& my own endless unfinished Opusses, lost in Rhode Island... the infinite quatrainian guitar-solos - tending toward the vanishing point of Apocalypse, Eschaton... Golden Age... this is my framework... (& I guess you might even say that this ecstatic see-saw logic of Incarnation - "God became man so that man might become God" - this historical/pivotal, scriptural/anti-scriptural, word/flesh balancing act - is at the root of a style of the "plumbline"...)

(Perhaps the best summa of all the issues raised in this post can be found in Joseph Brodsky's great poem of thingness & crucifixion - "Nature Morte".)

7 comments:

Meg said...

Henry Gould,

Religion isn't a play thing nor is it clay. Are you really interested in the answer here or are you just trying to come up with a dramatic exercise in the absurdism of such an idea as "God became man"?

There is a good discussion in this but I'm afraid that more absurdism is just more absurdism. Trying to explain it as if there is a legitimate premise (that this idea is somehow not rooted in what it is rooted in and what I know is that non muslims generally aren't interested in logic that doesn't fit their mistaken notions) is just more bad poetry and limp rhetoric.

No offense intended.

Henry Gould said...

You're entitled to your opinion, Meg, of course. I don't happen to find the concept of the Incarnation absurd. Although one prominent early theologian wrote : "I believe it because it is absurd." & I understand that, too : human language is a blunt instrument : we can only approximate the truth in language.

When I look at the universe, and see our planet, & look at the place of human beings on that planet, I find some substance in the concept that "Mankind was made in the image of God". Man - with all his/her grievous faults - to some extent "rules" or manages the earth, the way a gardener rules the garden (through mind, intelligence).

& I find an analogy between Man's position on earth, as guide or measurer, and God's position, as Creator-from-nothing.

& I find that the Incarnation & Redemption follow from this, as a kind of completion or fulfillment of the original analogy.

I think we're all entitled to our beliefs, absurd or not - there's no other path to intellectual freedom. I'd rather not get into an argument in which I have to defend the aesthetic value of my poetry, & the legitimacy of my religious beliefs, at the same time. At least I don't want to have that argument in this venue, in the comment stream. But thank you for your interesting comment.

Arkadi said...

"A human being becomes god only insofar as God becomes this particular human being [ie., Jesus. & my italics]."--
Not ony Jesus but any human being divinized. Or, at least, this is what I meant.
Arkadi Choufrine
p.s.
I share, among other things, your appreciation of Brodsky's "Nature Morte", and Russian poetry in general.
Do you read in original.
Perhaps you know that Elena Shvarts has passed away just recently.
Memory eternal.

Henry Gould said...

Thank you for visiting here, Arkadi! Now I want to go back to your book again!

Unfortunately my Russian is very limited... have been a beginner for 30 years. Though I have tried to translate a few poems by Elena Shvarts & Mandelshtam.

Yes, I heard the sad news about Elena Shvarts. I wrote something about her in a more recent posting to this blog, which you might find interesting.

Warmly,
Henry

Henry Gould said...

Arkadi, here is the link to that post :

http://hgpoetics.blogspot.com/2010/03/im-elena-shvarts.html

and a video taken at her funeral :

http://hgpoetics.blogspot.com/2010/03/elena-shvarts.html

Arkadi said...

Henry, you crushed my heart.
I have not been to that cathedral since Easter, 1992.
And on one of the photos I saw my best friend who has just recently wrote me about all this.
Do you know, perchance, Jim Kates?
I am in Princeton, Nj--would like to meet you.
Arkadi
p.s.
A beautiful poem.... (my judgement should not be trusted, though :>)

Henry Gould said...

Ochin interesnyi ! - don't think I know Jim Kates...

My mother-in-law lives near Princeton - sometimes my wife & I drive down from Providence. Maybe we could meet there one of these days.
- Henry