The underlying give-&-take in American poetry : Memory and Invention.

Since Emerson, Invention has taken 1st place. The New American is a New Adam in a New World. Imagination creates its own History.

& there is some philosophical or theological validity to this perspective. For example, it is possible to interpret the sacred books of Christianity to support such a view, with one caveat : the "newness" of the New Adam was only made possible by one ineradicable historical event : the Redemption.

Obviously this particular caveat imposes a crux of dissonance or disagreement. But see Mandelstam's essay "Pushkin and Scriabin", which - at least in its own terms - resolves this problem (the problem or crux which divided Eliot from Pound, WC Williams and Stevens, in variant ways).

The mother of the Muses is Memory, according to the ancient Greeks. In the old days, poets were the professional rememberers, the technicians of mnemonics. But what is the American poet called upon to remember? I believe this is a philosophical & theological question. (Eliot raised it, in a deliberately provocative way - as a traditionalist... But I don't think traditionalism for its own sake is the answer. One has to rethink the issues in every era.)

What we are called upon to remember is our relationship to God : ie., the nature of the Trinity. A reality which involves Incarnation : the Word made Flesh. This is a hard thing to understand, put baldly like this (believe me, I know).

The poet remembers reality - as a familial relationship of spiritual and physical Persons. And such a memory has logical consequences for every aspect of life : historical, social, political, philosophical, scientific...

A familial relationship... I am thinking of the unique capacity of poetry, along with the other arts, to imagine and conceptualize and evoke the special vitality and emotional resonance of existence - to clothe it in human meaning. No other form of expression seems capable of even approaching the unspoken familial-theological sense of Reality and Universe that we are addressing (with our blunt instruments of religious vocabulary...)

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