Chesterton (and the rest)
The Poetic Core of Eric Voegelin
Part 2– The Core of Poetry
part 1 may be read here.
by Max Arnott
Let us posit as an assumption that the effective core of poetry might be defined as an expression of the transcendent nature of the poem’s subject.
What use might Voegelin be to poets, and vice versa?
It is a difficult question.
The simplest tack, of course, might be to write poetry on Voegelinian themes, rather as Lucretius did for Epicurus. One might compose an ode on the Metaxy or a sonnet sequence on the failings of Martin Luther.
We can’t help feeling that this would not likely be a good idea.
Sermons in verse are deadly to write, and worse to read. Also, by the consensus of our society (note this is not something to be ignored lightly), we communicate information in prose and mathematics, not poetic numbers. And finally, and most importantly, such an approach would only bear on the subject of this or that poem, not on poetry as a whole. It would be about something Voegelinian, but it wouldn’t be poetic.
May we suggest another road?
Among the many topics in Voegelin’s work, five stand out: transcendence, response, tension, symbolism, and luminosity.
These terms are not items of information but indices to experience. Further, none of them may be correctly understood without the others. There is no response without transcendence, no tension without response, no symbolism without the recognition of tension.
The experience to which this nest of terms points is familiar. John, Mary, Socrates, confront a universe and recognize themselves as individuals and the universe as a mystery. They articulate the experience with language symbols, such as “mystery,” “zetesis,” “tension,” and “myth.” The language symbols thus created are liable to various deformations.
A similar pattern occurs, I believe, when we compose and read poetic imagery.
A very simple example:
O, my Luve is like a red, red rose
Consider this line from a Voegelinian point of view.