Thursday, 1 March 2012

The Poet is...

 “The poet is, must be, for the moment at least, a man so intensely aware of some Thing in his universe- Frost’s tuft of flowers deliberately spared by the mower- that he is driven to inventing an arrangement of words that makes others aware this Thing may exist in their universe too.” [Earle Birney] 

Readers, what is your favourite poem? What does it make you aware of?


  1. I never saw a moor,
    I never saw the sea;
    Yet know I how the heather looks,
    And what a wave must be.
    I never spoke with God,
    Nor visited in heaven;
    Yet certain am I of the spot
    As if the chart were given.

    -- Emily Dickinson, "I never saw a moor"

    (Dickinson, Emily. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. Boston: Little, Brown, 1924;, 2000. 2 March 2012.)

    In his De trinitate St. Augustine baptizes neo-Platonism. His Platonic One is the holy Trinity, with souls at various distances from the realization of the hypostatic perfection. Memory, filtered through the cognition of the mind and placed into action by a will which desires to know of God, is the basis for the realization of divine love as present in the three persons.

    Augustine noted that certitude in the unseen Trinity is little different from certitude that Constantinople exists, even if the Carthaginian never visited Nova Roma in his life. Similarly, Emily Dickinson never saw Boston, the Cape, or the Sound (which she could have, were she not a recluse.) She could never have seen the moors of Britain or Ireland, even should she desire to see them. Yet, Dickinson's mind could glimpse what could not be understood through mere physical vision.

    Dickinson's certitude of "Heaven" falls short of Augustine's labored description of hypostasis. Still, one wonders if her poem is a prelude to divine understanding through an unintentional neo-Platonism.

    Jordan (other)

  2. Thanks Jordan,

    It appears you're my only reader, lol. All the same, you always give me a great deal to chew on.

    I've only ever perused Dickinson, the book is sitting on a shelf back on my parents' farm. Maybe I'll pick it up again. Likewise, I've only read few a source few texts from Plato in addition to some summaries or supplementary texts. Nonetheless, I've always had a strong sympathy with neo-plantonic thinking. At least, intuitively. As especially regards beauty- in nature, or the musical or visual arts- or in feelings of pleasure, happiness and ecstasy, I've always intuited a hierarchy so that these things rarely if ever feel satisfactory in themselves, but only in a complementary perception that their "incompleteness" is indicative of a fuller state that can be had now-partially- in anticipation. Where this sense that experience is no longer flowing downwards from a pinnacle reigns, everything feels depressingly flat.

    "Faith is the substance of things hoped for" seems to be a rule extending beyond specific creedal assent. There is a kind of natural faith infused in most of us, I think, especially if we manage to cling to the spirit of our childhood. It is what permits the small and ordinary joys, like a walk in the woods, to appear as seeds that will, and already are, disclosing their inward possibilities.

    I found I poem that made me think of what you'd said. I'll post an excerpt from it.

  3. I wouldn't call it my "favourite" but they had us read this in school and I always thought it was a nice counterpoint to certain other sentiments:

    A Dream Deferred
    Langston Hughes

    What happens to a dream deferred?

    Does it dry up
    like a raisin in the sun?
    Or fester like a sore--
    And then run?
    Does it stink like rotten meat?
    Or crust and sugar over--
    like a syrupy sweet?

    Maybe it just sags
    like a heavy load.

    Or does it explode?

  4. The Song of Wandering Angus by Yeats. Which embodies for me the different levels and aspects of the quest for the Other.

    Or Keat's Welcome Joy and welcome Sorrow.

  5. Thanks, I think I'll look up those tonight.

  6. There are many poems that I love but one that I return to again and again (and the only one I have up on my wall) is by Wendell Berry's "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front." Each word, each phrase, reminds me again what discipleship might look like, kindles the imagination for faithful witness to Jesus. Especially the very last.

    PS: I just discovered your blog (via AUFS) and have added you to my blogroll. What you're doing here looks interesting. Nice to see a (relatively) new voice on the theo-blog sphere.


    1. Thanks Kampen, I'll check those out.