Reading Keith Ward's book (Religion & Revelation) mentioned here recently. A lot of food for thought.

A Christian perspective, but develops a concept of revelation which is inclusive without relativism, acknowledges parallels & affinities with other faiths. Fascinating commentary on Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism.

Faith can't be simply equated with a body of opinions, information or knowledge, which a person can accumulate and then assent to, and assert to others. If God exists, revelation is a divine self-revelation, meant not to convey information but to enter into a relationship, to change your life.

Thinking (in this space) about my "poetry life" through this book's lens. My relations with "poetry community", so ambiguous, ambivalent, sometimes conflicted & frustrating.

A large part of it is simply my ornery personality. Another aspect, though, has to do with the fact that religion has played such a big role in my life. For some, this is less problematic, since they understand how to keep a seemly distance between creative literary efforts on the one hand, and their faith-commitments on the other.

For me it's been more complicated. My "faith life" has been stormy & dramatic (at least for me). Charismatic events when I was in my early 20s had an irreversible effect on my view of things - and those (personal) experiences were tangled up with poetry and writing. A poet is a communicator, a purveyor of speech & verbalized concepts : with me, literary ambitions and religious commitments have been mixed together, mixed-up & confused sometimes (much times!).

Aside from my personal quirks, though, I think that another factor in the aforementioned ambivalence arose from an inherent dialectic - a contrast - between religious vision and poetics or literature per se. This dialectic was brought to the fore, in my case, by the simple effort to balance or combine the two. Magnified also by something in the genres themselves : the prestige or authority of the epic mode, as "poem containing history". Because Christianity, more so than some other faiths, is rooted in particular historical events (though their "historicity" is highly contended). One doesn't need to be obsessed with "the historical Jesus" to grasp that this particular faith - in which the Divine enters directly into history in order to save humankind and creation itself - and which calls believers into a new spiritual Now - might result in epic shapings quite different from those offered by Pound, Crane, Zukofsky, et al.

My own long poems are probably too wayward to be acceptable as "Christian" works. But the background motivation is there : to re-write the American epic on a very different ground. One way to look at Forth of July is as a "transumption" (sort of a surpassing-through-osmosis, or stealing) of Modernist epic. I "underwrote" Crane, Pound & Joyce in Stubborn Grew: I contextualized them in the plot of a Mardi Gras/Lenten shriving/redemption : and then in the sequels I practiced a kind of ghost dance/resurrection spiritual ecstatics, flying off into deep American vision-space.

To take on the epic this way was a fairly radical gesture, I'd say, within the "progressive" poetry community. Radical in a religious sense, also: for the Christian, "the Word" is not a material-in-itself, an aesthetic commodity, but something else entirely.

I realize that to blend discourses this way, to speak so baldly of faith, is a recipe for alienating others through misunderstanding and settled notions (especially in today's divisive, overheated discourse world). But this is my form of "personism", like it or not.

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