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Chesterton (and the rest)
The Poetic Core of Eric Voegelin
Part 1– The Core of Poetry
by Max Arnott
It is a good thing, when launching a war, to be clear as to what you are fighting for. Don’t gamble unless you know how much is piled on the table.
Men go to war over material issues, of course, when what is at stake is water rights or a fertile field or the privilege of selling bootleg beer in south Chicago, but the most intense conflicts are occasioned by spiritual issues.
Wars over trade may be negotiated, but issues of political justice are hard to solve without an overwhelming victory of one of the sides, and wars of religion do not stop short of exhaustion and sometimes not even then, because men want more than anything else to know that they have done right.
In the field of literature, riven by quarrels and animosity, the most bitter debates occur regarding poetry.
Merely to affirm a definition of poetry is to start a quarrel.
If John says poetry should be thus, George, who follows a different school, draws the (perfectly valid) inference that John is disqualifiying George (and those poets George loves) from a valid claim to the title of poet. Much is at stake, we are not playing for match sticks.
It is with great trepidation, therefore, that we ask:
What use might Eric Voegelin be to poets, and vice versa?
There are two questions here, pounded together like the ingredients of a pesto.
Is there any defining quality of poetry at all?
Is there what we might call a poetic core?
Second, if there is a poetic core (and of course we are going to argue that there is, you knew that) is that core a characteristic in the works of EV?
And if it is, what follows?
In this essay, we will take the first question. Next time around, we apply the case to our favourite political scientist.