Tiel Aisha Ansari has some thoughtful comments about my recent AIEE! manifesto-blast, here. I think she & I probably do share a certain recognition of a spiritual dimension, which has its effects on art.

I do however have mixed feelings, or a sense of caution, about the relationship between religion and art. In fact it's been a kind of see-saw or conundrum in my thinking for a very long time. I basically gave up writing for many years due to a sense of incompatible goals in this area, and it took me a long time to re-integrate & feel more at ease with the (non)symbiosis of the two dimensions. I'm sure many more secular-minded fellow poets find me not cautious enough, by far.

One the one hand, I believe there are spiritual things which cannot simply be "said" or formulated in the abstract. They have to be known in an experiential way (I'm not referring to any specific or particular experience or way, here). Secondly - just as I believe in certain universal constants of experience and human nature, regardless of one's conscious beliefs - so I think art - like science - has its own semi-autonomous field of action. The field of beauty, or aesthetics. This semi-autonomy allows for the tremendous variety and distinctness of creative makings of all kinds - and for me this variety is a key part of that "beauty" itself. So basically I am a kind of "humanist", I think, as Nadezhda Mandelstam formulates it - while at the same time I am a "believer".

p.s. I regret that some of the AIEE! manifesto seemed turgid to this reader. The turgidity was (to a degree anyway) tongue-in-cheek. The manifesto was subtitled an "extended goof" (that doesn't mean it's not meant seriously, on a certain level). But, oh well... maybe it's turgid anyway. Not everybody has an appetite for this kind of "windy discoursing".


Tiel Aisha Ansari said...

OK, so it was goofily turgid. Or turgidly goofy?

I appreciate that not everyone experiences the relationship between religion and art the way I do-- to me, poetry is a consequence of my religion, and I firmly believe that, had I not become religious, neither would I have become a poet. Clearly that's not everyone's experience. But as you say, there are spiritual things which have to be known experientially-- I think one of the strengths of poetry is the ability to evoke the flavor of those experiences. Certainly that's one of my goals.

Henry Gould said...


& turgidly goofy sounds about right!