Grossman, Lerner, Maximus & all

The Poetry Foundation's Yak Disseminator highlights an interesting interview. Ben Lerner emphasizes his debt to the writings of Allen Grossman (my fellow Blake School graduate of previous generation) : a basically tragic perspective, mourning the limits of art, language & poetry, and the gap between Paradise and life as we know it. Lerner apparently finds a way to make this deeply ironic worldview work for him.

I've only read parts of Grossman's book (The Long Schoolroom) - it's on my desk, actually : but the reason I've left it unfinished is I find myself almost immediately resisting and disagreeing with his formulations. (Interesting that Grossman years back wrote a seminal short essay on Hart Crane, a poet whom Grossman clearly cares for as deeply as I do myself.)

I'm fundamentally an optimist - a comedian (in Dante's sense) rather than a tragedian. In my "Acmeist" world, wholeness - intellectual, spiritual, physical, historical, moral, cosmological - trumps division, irony and brokenness. Am reading again in Byzantine theologian Maximus the Confessor (as I try to get ready to work on the 3rd & final book of the poem Lanthanum), and encountering some clear cogitations on the nature of difference (distinction). For Maximus, difference does not automatically entail complete division, separation, or antagonism. Differences can co-exist, be harmonized. His thought in this vein is basically folded into an anthropology rooted in the concepts of divine Creation and Incarnation. The divine and human are dual and distinct, but are united "without confusion, without separation" in the incarnate God-Person. This unity is at the core of all the cosmic arrays of difference, of individual & species, of many & one.

In this perspective, an "Acmeist" poetics might acknowledge sharp distinctions between word & thing, art & life, poetry & truth - while at the same time remaining open (hopeful) to the possibility of their real coherence, their harmony.

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