7.25.2010

Jason Quackenbush published an essay re: Adam Fielded's at Wet Asphalt:

Reading it has led me to attempt to clarify what I think about Fielded's essay re: materialism and spirituality in poetry.

I think Fielded is rather disingenously ignoring over-the-top spirituality in much mainstream poetry including what I will call the "experimental mainstream," or transcendentalism, new age, gnosticism, or buddhism of a great deal of american poetry. Judaism.

Especially poetry written by women. So, one question is, how can one write essays about lack of spirituality in poetry? By considering a select group of men who wrote from 1900-1970. By not considering:

Leslie Scalapino
Judy Roitman
Maryrose Larkin
Anne Waldman

Ann Lauterbach
Lee Ann Brown

Elizabeth Willis
Martha Ronk

Anne Carson

Brenda Hillman

Jorie Graham
Lisa Lubasch

Fanny Howe
Annie Finch

Adeena Karasick

and then, there are the alcoholics, who if 12 stepping, return to active religious faith, such as Mary Karr

Another peculiar thing about both essays is that there's a loosey-goosey definition of spirituality. Spirituality vs. religion. Spirituality vs. metaphysics. Spirituality vs. mysticism.

It is really even appropriate to call for a characteristic in poetry that is associated with acceptance of a belief structure or practice? At its loosest definition -- because not all of the poets above are believers -- in spirituality, we (and I think Quackenbush implies this) a conflation of philosophy, in particular phenomenology; and in materialism, we have philosophy and politics (which are ever entangled with religion), and thus we have duelling philosophical schools. What is this loose definition? Perhaps this from wikipedia:

Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or immaterial reality; an inner path. Spiritual practices, including meditation, prayer and contemplation, are intended to develop an individual's inner life; such practices often lead to an experience of connectedness with a larger reality; with other individuals or the human community; with nature. Spirituality is often experienced as a source of inspiration or orientation in life. It can encompass belief in immaterial realities or experiences of the immanent or transcendent nature of the world.

Something that -- at its most simple, removed from religion or belief -- is important to note is the similarity of contemplation to thinking, of prayer to poetry, and of an "inner path" to any ongoing journey of learning and artistic practice which involves intangibles, such as ideas (wikipedia mentions Plato). One of the magic things about Buddhism is it nicely negates the idea of the self.

Mysticism has also been conjured here, as the sort of speculative experience of what is ineffable, difficult to put into language without changing, utterly, the nature of the thing. Perloff talks about this when she talks about indeterminacy, although differently than I would, and I think one can also see that Yeats, Lowell, Eliot, etc. were certainly spiritually motivated poets, and it is in fact spirituality that connects there work strongly with the French Symbolists, Pre-Raphaelites, mumble mumble.

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