Eric Santner, in the book I mentioned in previous post (On the Psychotheology of Everyday Life), quotes Walter Benjamin at one point : "This little man is at home in distorted life; he will disappear with the coming of the Messiah, of whom a great rabbi once said that he did not wish to change the world by force, but would only make a slight adjustment in it" (p.124).
As I try to make progress with ongoing poem work-in-supposed-progress (Ravenna Diagram), am reading an odd mix of things. Santner's book. A book by Mary Alexandra Watt about Dante. Watt's book explores the "cruciform" meta-design of the Divine Comedy, how it literally maps out a medieval topography : the world's 4 directions as a cross (trace by pilgrimage & crusade), the architecture of medieval churches as microcosmic replicas of same. She concludes by focusing on the design & iconography of the Byzantine churches of Ravenna, & their analogies in the poem.
I started working on Ravenna Diagram about 2 years ago, imagining it (in part) as a sort of "walk" or tracing of a labyrinth, a progressive series. Now looking back I feel sort of an affinity for the Dantesque pattern outlined by Watt. From the beginning I felt "drawn" in an obscure way toward Ravenna, and those incredible mosaics from the era of Justinian. (Dante himself is buried there.)
How to frame a new topography in poetry? How to design a poetic shape for something akin to Dante's vision, yet at the same time so very different? Joyce was trying to do something like this, in Ulysses and FW. Pound too, of course. One feels (excruciatingly) the poverty of one's own talent & resources, the uncertainties.
A while back I wrote a short note about long poems in relation to the theological concept of kenosis : the idea of God's "emptying himself" - taking on "the form of a servant" - in order to redeem the world. The idea was that maybe the long poems of our era - ungainly critters, unfinished, imperfect - bear some lineaments of this thing. The poet dives into the parochial minutiae - the low, the base, the forgotten, the damaged, the unknown - in order to lift it all into some other, harmonic dimension... the wholeness, the newness, the innocence, the dignity of a chaste creation (in Nikolai Gumilev's Acmeist term)...
& maybe this sort of thinking provides me with a partial sense of direction, a locus for what I'm trying to do. I don't know.
Kenosis... resurrection... Messiah... I feel all these things, I "know" all these things, in my own partial & probably mistaken way.
Only a "slight adjustment" in the universe... St. Paul's "renewal of your mind". What seems to be condemned to mortality, heavy with time & death, may actually be something else entirely. The worm in the dead cocoon may in fact be a Monarch (a good thing to recall on Nabokov's birthday). Our little life may be rounded with a sleep... & a wakening, too (good thing to remember on Shakespeare's birthday).