Maximus the Confessor (through the helpful lens of Hans Urs von Balthasar) - Maximus, as thinker & theologian, was continually articulating points of balance or synthesis between covalent aspects of things - soul & body, intellect & sense, individual & class or species, God & creation... without imposing hierarchies of value (higher & lower, in a Platonic or Gnostic sense). Prefiguring the worldview of Nicolas Cusanus almost 1000 yrs later, with his concept of the "conjunction of opposites". A kind of festal-conjugal sense of nature & reality - how things are bound into unities while yet retaining their individual integrity; how the vital process of mediation - almost in a geometrical sense - simultaneously joins two contraries, and emphasizes their mutual distinction. In this his writing seems to show a powerful singleness of vision : his philosophical cosmos is truly centered on the Incarnation (the God/Man - a union of two natures, divine & human, "without confusion") as the ultimate point of reference for all these syntheses.

Maximus this morning got me thinking about how we conceptualize contemporary poetry (at least in the windy polemical blogosphere I inhabit)...

What if we thought about it as always a conjunction of opposites - in the sense that a poem simultaneously personalizes and generalizes the common experience of life & events?

The "necessary" poem always filters experience through a particular, unique intelligence & sensibility - & yet, at the same time, it articulates something shared in common. Reality, by way of poetry, is mediated by the person - it is always the world transposed into the poet's world. Yet it's a world we ultimately recognize, value - for our own use & delight.

& maybe the necessary reader & critic (& poet) of our time will be a master of scrupulous and discerning judgement. The one who, in his or her mind, also maintains a kind of balance or synthesis between poetry, on the one hand, and general history & culture, on the other - so that this critic, through discernment & taste, will help us find the really necessary poetry. Seems like a tall order. One would need a large threshing floor and a very fine broom.

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