Parables and Epiphanies: Modern Poems

Audio loading...

Welcome! You can log in or create an account to save favorites, edit keywords, transcripts, and more.




Part of "The Kingdom in Parables: New Testament, Cosmology and Contemporary Poetry"

4. Parables and Epiphanies: Modern Poems

Archival Photo

AI Summary: 






I wanted to show you some books that I've mentioned, just so you know where the sources are. Stevens, this is the Stevens collection, which is the Library of America, which has just about everything we ever wrote. Mary Oliver, that's the Trusted, New, and Selected Poems, which has been around for quite a while. She's written other books of poems since this came out, too. This goes through her poetry to about 1992. And the book by Charles Taylor that I mentioned, The Sources of the Self, it's quite a tome. It's about 500 and some pages. It's a very deep study of the sources of sort of modern consciousness, modern Western self, as he called it. It's also modern Western culture, including the creative element. That's why the book is so precious. Croson's book on the parables, which has been around since 1973, called In Parables.


I think it's been reprinted. This was a reprint from a little while ago. This is covered in 1992. So in 1992, he did a new preface or something like that. But originally, it was written and published in 1973. Another good book on parables is The Parables by Ria, Dan Otto Ria. It's a less ambitious project than Croson's, but couldn't sell it, and he gives you also an overview of the literary critical approach to the subject. So much for books. No, I'm interested in the potential of upcoming books that will be out late November. I think it would be great to hear the people's names. Well, it has nothing to do with what the question is. Well, I know that. I know what people are asking. Well, that must be second simplicity in the interstate of Christianity.


Good. You're not finished, you think? Late November. You could say a couple more words for us. Just Paul Stratton. That's Paul Stratton. I just happen to have a case of him here. That would be very nice, but... Okay, now we get down to business. Now, this is our wind-up, and our assignment is modern poetry. That's serious. Let me say something about the gospel and poetry first of all, okay? There can be an illusion when we're talking like this that the gospel, or the gospel parable and the modern poem are saying the same thing, and emphatically they're not, are they? Because the gospel parables ultimately are about the Christ mystery, and they're centered in Christ.


There's no getting around it. And the deeper you get into them, the more they lead you back to the Christ event. And they're going towards conversion too. Now, the modern poem is not doing that. And the modern poet is frequently out of touch with that Christ mystery in any conscious way. I would contend that the modern poet is often in touch with that mystery on a deep unconscious level. It's feeding through some kind of hidden conduits within Western history. And even in, you might say, in the spirit, invisibly and unconsciously. But consciously, the poet is often a rebel against Christianity, is often someone who's been immunized against an early Christian faith, like Stephens for instance. And the modern poem grows up, as it were, in a position of resistance and counter-statement to Christianity itself. Okay. But then, having said that, there's a deep relation between the two. And that's sort of the thesis of what I've been presenting to you.


The gospel parable calls you towards conversion, calls the individual towards a change of heart and a turning to God, doesn't it? And we've been talking about the epiphany, that is, the modern poem, which can be described as an epiphany, as a question of transformation. The power of transformation is in the individual. Okay, the power of the individual is to transform the world around one. Now, that language sounds so pretentious. And yet, at its root, it's something very simple. It's the power of newness. The power to be a new person in this world at any moment. And to create a kind of, what do you call it, an aura of newness around one. The fact that we are given an energy of newness, and that we have the power to make that present in the world. Now, at one point, that's what the Church is, is that sort of circle, that sphere of newness in the world. That's what it's supposed to be. And it's tragic when we see Church as institution, and that institution in terms of the old and the fixed, and the purely structural, okay?


That means that the energy field, that means that the soul has vanished behind the particle, behind the mere skeleton, okay? Not that we should damn the institution. It's only that there's not enough of the other. The problem is not that we have too much institution so much, it's that we don't have enough of the other life. And then the institution, of course, tends to consider itself to be the totem of it all, and simply takes the place of the body, takes the place of the reality of the spirit. And then we have too much. So, the Gospel parable calls for conversion, and the modern form is a question, a kind of witness to transformation, to the transforming power of the human person, of the inner self. Now, there's a meeting between those two. When Jesus comes into the world and starts preaching, he says, repent and believe in the good news for the kingdom of God is at hand. There are two faces, two sides to that.


One is repentance, and that's the old preaching of repentance. John the Baptist is already preaching that. And classically in the Old Testament, it means turn back, turn back to God, turn back to the Torah. It means you've been unfaithful, now's the time to go back. So one thing is going back, and that's like Jesus going into the desert, going to John in the desert for baptism. But then he says, believe in the good news. Now, this is where the poetry angle, the creative angle comes in. That good news, I think, and the newness of the good news has to be taken emphatically, in this sense, that the good news is not only something that happens once and for all. The good news is Jesus, first of all. When you recognize him, you recognize the good news. It's all in him. He is, as it were, the package in which the whole thing is present, and that's his uniqueness. But then it's good news because it's your good news, because the good news is yourself. The good news is your rebirth in Christ. But the good news doesn't stop,


because your rebirth in Christ means that you have in yourself, and in some way you are, the same power of newness that was in Jesus, the same power of newness that Christ is. And that's where the other angle comes in. That's where the poetry angle, the transformation angle comes in. Poetry, in one sense, is a very insignificant thing. It's the most trivial of all things, in a sense. It seems like a pastime. From another point of view, it's something indispensable, urgent. But a poetry are the other creative expressions of the human person, because they are pointing to and expressing and awakening the person herself to that interior spark of newness, which is at the heart of the gospel, which is a continuing gospel. So, you could say that the poem is a witness raised up in the world to the fact that the good news is still with us, and that the good news is still appearing, and that the power of the good news is inside us. Now, Christianity has had a hard time


carrying that along, hasn't it? Because it's like carrying a fire. And carrying a fire, you don't just carry it, but you have to be the fire. It's very difficult to transmit that in our tradition, and yet it's always there. It's always there inside. It's always there inside the gospel. In the very mystery of the parables, it's there. In the parable of the seed, in the parable of the mustard seed, in the parable of the talents, and so on. It's there. But it's only the Holy Spirit that awakens us to that. Because the Holy Spirit is that. It's only the Holy Spirit, not the Word, that awakens us to that reality, because the Holy Spirit is that very power of newness. Now, on our mandala figure here, let me make it clear. We talk about science being over here, and say art or poetry being over here. But on the scale of language, prose being over here, and poetry being over here. Now, the thing about science, and the thing about prose is that it tends to generalize. It tends to make general statements.


And science does exactly that, doesn't it? The particular disappears into the general, in fact. The particular feature makes no difference. After the general law in science, the law is no more than, say, a physical reality for all of life. So the particular disappears into the general, indeed. And, of course, we see that happening also in institutions often, and in doctrine, and in a certain kind of church, a certain kind of Christian ideas, where all of the personal bends out into the collective, okay? And that's the thing that turns people up out of the ropes today, particularly young people. The Christian idea which doesn't fit there, the Christian idea which is a common word, which is only common. But what's the poem? What's the work of art? What's the particular, okay? There's no such thing as a poem in general, any more than there's any such thing as a person in general. There's only the particular part, there's only the particular work of art. So the cultural originality of those words is very distinct, very strict, and it's self-destructive. Only that is worthwhile,


it's absolutely unique, and it proves my absolute uniqueness in the work here. That's the kind of creative approach we've looked at in the West. Not in Ireland, people who grew up in the West. Remember that particularity of the poem relates to the particularity of the Holy Spirit in this instance of time, okay? And also to the particularity and concreteness of the feminine. The feminine has a concrete intentionality, a particularity about it. It's the moment of time. It's here. It's the fullness of the moment. It's presence, okay? It's communion. But whatever it is, it's right now. It's right here. That fullness of the particular relates to the Holy Spirit and expresses itself also in the work of art or in the poem, all right? And that's what we're talking about. The power of knownness in the very moment, which at its core, the deepest part of the Spirit itself is divine, and which in the human person is the divine part, the image of God, you can say, which has been very difficult for theology to carry along because the image of God


is really like something that can be flattened out on a flat plane and you can argue about that in a dialectical way. It's not so easy to argue about that. It's an intuitive thing. But that image of God which is the image of God as fire, which is not miserable, because it dissolves everything. The fire dissolves everything, like the fire in the woods. It dissolves everything. There's only that one thing that's tied on to the earth. I'm getting back to that point. So I'm trying to point out the difference between the gospel and the poem, and then the indispensability of the poem or something equivalent to the poem nowadays for us. Taylor expresses that by saying that the general frames of reference don't work any longer. That is, the general frame of reference of religion, let us say. Now, it's not true to say it doesn't work any longer. It works for a lot of people. It works for everybody for a while, at least. But after a certain point, if you don't realize it personally, if there's not a personal experience that corresponds to it, you tend to detach yourself from it.


You tend to look for something else. You tend to move somehow towards a personal immediacy in one form or another. It turns stale on you if it's not realized personally. So he's right about that. So the urgency for Christianity is to move once again into the personal, as a personal realization, which means to bring about the realization of the Holy Spirit within the individual person. And for us, it means something like this, something like this realization of creativity, of my own ability to, what would you call it, my own ability to bring about, to invoke Godness in this particular moment, to invoke it in myself, to invoke it in nature, to invoke it around me. And in a sense, the commandment, the great commandment of love, I think comes to that at a certain point. The assertion of God at this moment, the assertion of the kingdom of God at this moment with whomever I am with, or in whatever situation I am in,


or looking at whatever I am looking at. It's like there are two phases of faith, and one phase of faith, like the first phase is an obedient faith, that's the faith of conversion, the faith which is ready to submit to something outside of myself, and that something outside of myself is realized as divine, is realized as the absolute. First of all as God, secondly as Jesus. When Jesus comes into the world, that's the authority that he has. Sooner or later people recognize that, and they say, Lord, and they use that word Lord, because they recognize that the absolute authority, whatever that may be, they've never experienced it before, but it's in this man, it's in this human being. That's the first phase. You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Lord, depart from me a sinful man. And on and on and on it goes in the Gospel. But the second phase is a faith no longer simply in something that's outside myself, that I submit myself to, because of its supreme authority, which is true of Jesus himself.


The second phase is a faith in a newness, in a power of newness, which is in myself, due to baptism, let us say. The second phase is a faith in the, you could say, the regeneration of creation, the regeneration of the world, from a center which is within myself. Not only within myself, but it is within myself. That's the second phase. You can also speak of two phases of wisdom. Sometimes it's as if our Christian history is in two or three phases. We had a phase of the first wisdom when Christ burst into the world, and this goes through the patristic phase, when there was a deep kind of understanding that resonates with the Asian wisdom traditions, with Hinduism, Buddhism, and so on. The level of experience, the level of understanding was comparable to that, although different, because unique, because true eternal. And then comes the era of disenchantment, the era of criticism, the era of reduction, the era of science,


when you exchange wisdom for science, and you begin to get a precise knowledge of the world that changes things in the world, and yet cuts you off from all the depth dimensions, and from the participation. And we've been through that, we're coming out of it. The third phase, or the second wisdom, is a wisdom not only of contemplation, as I mentioned before, not only of union with God, even though that's at its core, but it's a wisdom which arises particularly in the West, and which involves creation, which involves this power to create newness in the world, to bring about newness in the world, to discover newness in the world, you might say. So it has to do particularly with that dimension of the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit, not just acting in great, dramatic acts, as it were, not just anointing a person in a spectacular way, but the Holy Spirit burning constantly in the individual mind and heart, so that it becomes a constant power of transformation,


a constant power of vision. And the new faith, and the new wisdom, essentially involve this historical movement of new creation. That something is happening in the world, and that that something is rooted in the Christ of man. I talked about two fullnesses. The first fullness in the New Testament, and the second fullness in our own experience, the kind of fullness which is also at the edges of our experience, beyond our experience, where the experience fades into the unconscious or the superconscious, or whatever you want to call it, the whole transcendent kind of margin of our experience. And it's as if the first fullness has trouble reaching us because it always gets reduced. And so we have to bring to it the second fullness which we are and which we know, without being able to express it because it's too big to articulate. The first fullness seems to fall afoul of two kinds of reductions. The first reduction is that of religion itself, of a frozen religion,


a frozen transmission, a tradition which tries to speak and legislate that which can't be spoken or legislated, and which doesn't carry the energy field that it did before, but only, you could say, the particle, only the solid, only the form. The second kind of reduction is the critical reduction, the skeptical reduction of the last couple hundred years. For instance, the biblical criticism, which does a very valid work in giving us the precise literal meaning, but at the same time it murders every other meaning very often, which simply cannot admit any resonances beyond that one level of clear, literal understanding in the Scripture. But that's not the level on which the Scripture is written. The Scripture in the New Testament, for instance, is full of a kind of plenary experience, full of a kind of mystical experience, full of a unitive conviction and experience, which simply doesn't come through with that kind of exegesis. The only way we get to it is by bringing to it the fullness of ourselves. And not only the fullness that we know in our heads,


not only the fullness that we're conscious of that we can express at all the other levels. And then fullness somehow draws our fullness. Fullness interprets fullness. The fullness that we are in our more intuitive moments, our more awake moments, interprets for us the Scripture and draws out dimensions of that that we couldn't draw with our mere minds. And meanwhile, the Scripture itself teases out the fullness that we are in directions that we couldn't have brought out of our own experience or our own resources. There's something that happens in the last hundred years that poetry itself tends to become a kind of religion, or art becomes a kind of religion. Because religion has somehow been killed, I think, by rationalism and also by institutionalism. So people desperately turn, what would you call it, the more interior part of themselves in another direction, looking for something


of correspondence to it. And so what happens in romanticism is they find it in nature and they find it in the feelings of the human person. So open that up. Often in kind of reaction too, often alongside religion. And they make a religion out of poetry itself. The modernist poets tend to do that too. Stevens tends to do that. And then at the end they bring the two together. There's an awful saying from Stevens that I hesitate to quote. After one has abandoned the belief in God, poetry is the essence which takes its place as life's redemption. I'll read that again in all its awfulness. After one has abandoned the belief in God, poetry is the essence which takes its place as life's redemption. That's kind of a historical platform and a viewpoint. It's tragic, isn't it? It's tragic. Because God should be in the poetry. God should be, in a sense, the poetry. The poetry should be the aura around that reality of God.


In other places, Stevens saves it by saying that the supreme poetic idea is the idea of God, as if all poetry is really about God. So it seems like atheism, on one side, at one moment, turns out to be a search for God at another moment, but a search for God through the imagination rather than through the old way, rather than through the modern way of faith and belief. So he'll say that God and the imagination are one. Strange that somebody has to do that, but I think somebody has to do it. Somebody has to tread that path and open up that connection for us, even though they have to be blind in order to do it. They have to be blinded in one eye so that the other one might find something for us that we need. Where do you see Robert Fly? Robert Fly is very much in this movement, I think. He's concerned himself a lot particularly with the reconnecting of the human person with nature. I don't know


if you know that collection of his, News from the Universe? Yes. Okay. So he's preoccupied with a split, not so much between the human person and God, the vertical one, but with a horizontal split between the human person and nature. Now I haven't read everything he's written, obviously, but that's what he seems to be doing. He's attacking the same problem from another angle as it were. So he searches back for the places where the two are one, what he calls twofold consciousness, a consciousness which is of self and nature, self and world together. And implicitly in that, there is spiritual element, because the other place where you find the two together really is rooted ultimately in that divine ground. So I think he's on a spiritual search, which expresses itself in secular terms. Only on the horizontal plane of self, person, and nature. But he's been a great,


what we call, positive contribution also in the study of history, also in trying to understand what's happened in history. You know, he'll go back and throw it out the lines of progression of the split and then how it can be healed. And meanwhile he finds the poets who were able to cross over from the subject to the measure. Let's go back to that idea of epiphany as Taylor talks about it. You had that quote on your program there. I'm going to repeat it and open it up a little bit. He says, I have a view of art as epiphany, which is something that survives from the romantic era. What remains central is the notion of the work of art as issuing from or realizing an epiphany, a term from Joyce that he enlarges. What I want to capture with this term, epiphany, is just this notion of a work of art as the locus of a manifestation which brings us into the presence of something which is otherwise


inaccessible and which is of the highest moral or spiritual significance. But, his language is quite deadening. But what he's talking about is very important, very exciting. He's talking about the creative act as a discovery, an invoking of the spiritual, an invoking, once again, of the divine, of the ultimate mystery. A manifestation, moreover, which also defines and completes something even as it reveals. So, the work of art, as it were, achieves something. The epiphany brings something about, makes something new, carries something forward. The epiphany, which will free us from the debased mechanistic world, the background out of which has come to be enlightened, brings to light the spiritual beauty behind nature and uncorrupted human feeling. It was those two


sources that the Romantic tradition was from. Nature and uncorrupted human feeling. As if the two were the same. As if the two came from the same source. So their inner feeling would commune with nature. And that was the discovery and the, what would you call it, the witness, the proclamation of the Romantic movement against an enlightenment rationalism that split off the person from nature and objectified nature. A sort of Cartesian thing. Then he talks about two different kinds of epiphany. One is characteristic of Romantic movement. The other of the modernist movement, the later, more recent movement. There are two different ways in which a work can bring about what I'm calling an epiphany. And the balance over the last century has shifted from one to the other. In the first, which dominated with the Romantics, the work does portray something, unspoiled nature, human emotion, but in such a way as to show some greater spiritual reality of significance


shining through. The poetry of Wordsworth and the paintings of Constable exemplify this pattern. Well, the poetry of Oliver exemplifies this pattern too, I believe. Because she'll show you something in nature, but it's nature, it's only nature, and yet it's not only nature at the same time. It's something within herself, feeling within herself. But it's also something transcendent. She's stating some kind of absolute presence in that nature, isn't she? And yet she does it by not stating it, because she can't state it. She just says it's there. She says it's there, and then she stirs your own response to it. She stirs your own feeling with some kind of challenge. But she doesn't try to circumscribe it. She doesn't even put words, put names to it. She doesn't call it God, that's the thing. The second kind of epiphany, which is dominant in the 20th century, this is in modernist poetry, and particularly, I think, in Stevens. It may no longer be clear what the work portrays, or whether it portrays anything at all. You can have a poem


that isn't about anything. It's not about anything but itself. And you can also have a poetry about poetry, so that the subject of poetry becomes poetry itself. That seems like an awful narcissistic thing, until you catch on to the fact that it's like some kind of discovery, that something is emerging. And what's emerging, as it were, is this whole, this assertion and spirit, just as, say, in the Enlightenment, in the 18th century, the old scientific movement, this whole emerges as a kind of absolutism, a kind of autonomy. It starts happening with a kind of autonomy, when reason declares itself as a kind of absolutist autonomy. Not absolutism in the sense that it rules everything out. Sometimes it starts to do that, sometimes it gets tyrannical and starts to rule everything out. But absolutism in the sense of being independent, in the sense of sort of being sufficient to itself and having its own laws, having its own rules. Now that's a kind of dichotomy, in a sense, that reason has its own law, which makes


itself cannibalistic. Now, what's happening over here is the same thing on the other side, OK, where there's a poetry about poetry, but a pure poetry in itself. This whole of poetic intuition, or a pure creative energy of the human spirit, is claiming its own autonomy, is claiming its own voice. And the thing that's important at that point is not what it's talking about for itself, OK, so it reflects back on itself. That's what you'll have in this kind of self-sufficient poem, a poem which is only about itself, a poem which is self-contained, and which is like music, isn't it? Music is the only non-referential part of this, isn't it? Music is only about itself, isn't it? But in being about itself, it's not self-conscious necessarily. Music is purely transparent in a sense, in some ways, in being about nothing but itself, isn't it? It's the non-referential reality of itself, isn't it? And that's what this poetry


departs from its deal with this question. And in doing that, in being just itself, it's more than just. In being just itself, it's also, you might say, the perfect representation of the spirit, in some way. On one level, it's the perfect representation of the human psyche, but the totality of the human person on this level of psyche, okay, just as the dream, in some way, is the perfect representation of that. So is music, music is, and so the poem is. On a deeper level, it's the perfect representation of the divine spirit, for instance, the divine feminine perhaps, okay, of the perfect all-comprehending energy of this particular moment, of the instant. Okay. Where would you say the personal endowment that people give yesterday is coming from? Well, I think you have both kinds, all right? Some would be representational. In other words, some people will


put figures, will put recognizable images in their mind on the all right? So the circle will be a frame for objects which they represent. And that's a completely valid way of doing it, I think, okay? Some on the list, however, will be non-representational, won't they, where somehow out of the interior things are coming with an autonomy which doesn't represent, doesn't reflect anything else directly, but only as an expression of the interior, okay? Now that's the second kind. That corresponds to the modernist form, like to the Stephen form, okay? It's coming out from inside. It's finding its own form. It doesn't represent anything. It's about itself. But in being about itself, it's about more than itself, isn't it? It's only about itself. But in that purity of being only about itself, it's about something very deep. Now, a psychologist might look at it


and say, okay, it's about your unconscious. Now let's get into that a little bit, okay? It's expressing something within you that wants to be expressed. But it doesn't stop there. It's also expressing something deeper, which is transpersonal, you might say, okay? Coming from very deep levels, and ultimately, I think, representing this energy, which is the divine energy, okay? But there are many layers in between there, obviously. But I think that those two kinds of monoliths, the personal monoliths, creative monoliths, correspond to those two kinds of epiphany, okay? The representational one and the non-representational one, both of which are perfectly valid. And, for instance, each personal tends to do both kinds at different times. Just like a poet, just like Stephen, will sometimes give you something like a purely romantic poem, and sometimes a very obscure modernist poem, which only makes sense sort of within itself, you know, as music. So a monolith can also be like your dream monolith, which helps move.


It can be the full monolith, can move from one pole to another. It can be an end pole at any time, depending on how it's perceived, or depending on the individual, so it has its own life. And I think that the medium and the method are very similar, you know, modern themes and aesthetics that have started off in philosophy today, you can't take anything from a piece of art, except what you are perceiving. It's a philosophical thing. Even though you don't feel that, when you feel something like a piece of music, or a monolith, or whatever it acts, or a theme, there's a philosophical language part of it, that sort of bishop's fashion. But I think that anything is moving, an idea, a person, you know, they capture all those things at different points in time,


at different points in the pole. Yep, that's right. You could say that the monolith itself moves between things. From one point of view, this monolith wasn't particularly born out of boredom, it was way over here. Why? Because it came down, these four poles have been somewhat rationalized with these given names, okay? Now those names are very fluid and they move from layer to layer, as we interpret them in different ways, but it's kind of a crucified monolith in the sense that it's fixed, the poles are connected, whereas the monolith is able to continue to move over in this direction and to represent, as it were, an unspecified, unrationalized, unfixed, and unnamed kind of monolith. So just like your monolith here, all of it speaks to a different perspective. So in being able to trace a monolith, we don't quite have


the perspective that sometimes we're in it. So by coming here, for example, we have a transverse and cubit template, the font template, so that we can see things in three dimensions. So that's that. There's one thing about every monolith that it tends like a gyroscope to write you. The monolith as you do it, or as you study it, as you contemplate it, tends to bring you somehow in conformance with the cosmos, with the totality of reality. I don't know exactly how to express that, but I think that's what humans have been saying all the time. That the monolith as an image of itself, a symbol of itself, or the artifact of itself, reproduces in some way your self in such a way as to align with itself, in such a way as to put you in touch with all of your dimensions. So the monolith, as you bring it out, is something


about it that offers you a space in which to express once again the fullness of your dimensions, and thereby bring yourself into a kind of integration, I suppose, even in the monolith, you know. And then in the monolith comes that further line. So this deformity tends to do that, especially if we have that kind of questionary figure in the background about getting down to the square of the cross. It tends to do that. Let's look at some poems. I'd like to look at a few poems which illustrate each of these kinds of epiphany. And for the first kind of epiphany, I've got more of Mary Oliver's poems, but also the one by Richard Wilbur at the beginning. Anybody


want to read that? I have an actual epiphany but I have to turn it down. You're really going to fly with it. It's really going to fly with it. It's to fly with it. I'm that wrote ago. It's Little Child That Has today. little child that has they promised in response to Pentecost, gold-wrapped the temple from the God of truth. There's a life of the faithful, and they'll go it, but not before it launches by and then, with such a shift, such a sapling grows, and cannot fail to leave a lasting stain.


So Mary's long-lived miracle can entail that, like all fruit there, may still be true, spread on the rosemary wood, so dense, so pale, light, green, and as the radiance of the trees, that cannot keep but to extend and grow. I just love the first part of this poem. I love it. It's perfectly plain, simple, clear, transparent, just marvelous. And it's the consistency, see, with which he can keep that epiphany, maintain that epiphany as he writes it up. The light of the sun. And the iambic pentameter, I suppose, the conventional form goes along with the straightforwardness


of the epiphany in this case. Okay. I'm getting late. Okay. Can you tell us about Mary's long-lived miracle? Well, that's a story which I haven't researched, okay, but there must be a legend to that, to that effect, that the rosemary wood got its color from Mary's miracle. Never heard of it. But you can kind of deduce it from what he says about it. Certainly, a Catholic doesn't know that. That's a lot of excuse. How about Mary Oliver, number one, in the Golden Rhyme? We haven't done that one. Volunteer? Okay.


Golden Rhyme. I don't suppose much more to this country than to sit behind an entire apartment with a blank slate. I don't suppose anything less than to sit, perhaps, a walkie-talkie, feeling as if you've done nothing. For myself, I was just passing by when the wind flared and the blossoms dropped down and the dewdrops had a moment in me. I was just minding my own business when I found myself in a straw-filled place, sitting in watercolors and recanting, and why not? Are not the difficult winters of our lives full of dark shadows? And where does consciousness come to? Or has it come to anywhere so far that it's better than these light-filled bodies? All day on their airy backbones they toss in the wind. They bend as though it were natural and godly to them.


They rise and escape to them in the fierceness of giving and throwing away. Is he always so optimistic or does he seem such a funny fellow? I miss a darker strain. Yeah, that's a problem, really. The darker strain, I think, in some ways is denied or repressed. It comes out once in a while. And notice another thing in her poem. You rarely find a human being, a person. So she thrusts herself into nature, and there's some kind of avoidance there, something that's being pushed away. It has to do with dark, trouble, people, relationship, conflict, and all of that. Yeah, yeah. But she's not always quite so bright and bold.


Actually, in looking for Epiphany poems, I picked out some of the lighter ones, some of the light-filled poems, which don't have a lot of the dark dimension in them. But she is predominantly, I think, a bright poet in that sense. And in nature, she finds, what would you call it, she's refinding paradise all the time in nature. And that's her kind of proposal, that's her thesis. Even if she avoids humanity in her poems, she comes back with a really strong message. For instance, I compared it with this one. The true peace of giving one's gold away. That's a very human message. You can't really give gold away, but you can pick up gold and give it away. That's right. And when she says give your gold away, that gold is yourself in some way, isn't it? It's really quite profound. She's suggesting that you and the golden rod, not only that you and the golden rod are one, but there's a solar image behind it in some way. That gold somehow belongs to the sun. Remember the Buddha poem where the Buddha's about to die, and he somehow gets


confused with the sunrise? And she gets confused with the Buddha as the rising sun. Now make yourself a light, she said just before he dies. And she's suddenly discovered what she is in some unspeakable way. As this kind of Buddha sun for the arising. The alligator poem is another epiphany, and it's an epiphany that comes out of being scared. This kind of behemoth lurching through the jungle. I've got nine of ten. Oh, nine humpbacks. A little bit longer, but it's a prime epiphany of somebody who'd like to tackle many whale fans here. Sure, if people pick it up.


You want to start, and then somebody pick it up after you. The humpback. There it is, all around her. It's tempted by the regional fire. You know what I mean. The fire for all sorts of nothing. It doesn't have to be holding alligators in a prediction. It has to stay there for the rest of its life. Off Stelvagen, off the cape, the humpbacks rise, carrying their tonnage of barnacles and joy. They leap through the water, they nuzzle back under it like children at play. Three of them rise to the surface near the bottom of the boat. Ten dive deeply. Their huge scarlet flukes took to the air. We wait, not knowing just where it will happen. Suddenly it's smashed to the surface. Someone begins shouting for Jordan, would you like to use yourself?


You see for the first time how huge they are, as they reach and dive and reach again, and you see them for some unbelievable part of a moment against the sky. Like nothing you've ever imagined. Like the mist of a fifth morning galloping out of the darkness, pouring head first. Danny, Danny. There's a flashback on this one, and we all saw that. Together in that lifetime, you know what I mean. I know Captain was in that final sea, swimming through the new islands, tossing the slippery branches into the air. I know a whale will come to boat whenever she can. I'm not just messing around with the lives of her loved ones. I know several lives worth living. Listen, whatever it is you've tried


to do with your life, nothing will ever be able to do much between you and your child. The spirit longs to fly before it goes to the sun. Touch her gently and hold her gently to feel her still inside. With everything, even the great whale comes with time. The line that sticks for me there is, whatever it is you try to do with your life, nothing will ever dazzle you like the dreams of your body. What on earth does that mean? From a Christian point of view, it's like the resurrection she's talking about. It's like a joy, or an enlightenment, or a release, or a fulfillment which is inseparable from the body, and insistently inseparable from the body. It doesn't have value until it's somehow been assimilated by personal experience,


and by a personal emergence. Until it comes out of you. As if until it comes out of you, the truth isn't valid in some way. When it comes out of you, it comes out of you as a kind of embodiment. And there we get to the second point, which is this movement towards incarnation. The modern poet tends to reject pure transcendence. Tends to reject kind of a god who is believed in as disincarnate, and not manifest in an incarnate way. Once again, from a Christian point of view, you can root both of these things in the Christ mystery rather simply. One is the fact that the divinity has come in incarnate form, but our Western religion has never really been able to accept that, or express it, so the poets have to do it. And the other is that this very incarnation, the other side of it, is the emergence of divine creativity within the individual. So it's as if the two things are the same. Two faces are the same thing. One of which relates more to the word, which can no longer be believed in


unless it's personalized, and the word becomes incarnate. And the other relates to the spirit, in the sense of this creativity, this emergent creativity, which demands that whatever truth you have, whatever truth you value, be burning in the spirit in some way, which means also to be burning in your human psyche, burning in your human experience, burning in your personal center, as it were. And your personal creativity in some way, your personal response, so that it's one with you in that energy. That sort of reminds me of the Paul, excuse me, the 15 cards in that reading. Yeah, want to do that one? There were those who had returned to earth to hear his praises. As he sat there reading aloud the great blue-patterned eyes, there were those from the wilderness who had starved and expected more.


There were those who had returned to hear him read from the palms of his eyes. As his hands above his shoulders, the pots on the table, the stools among them. There were those who had wept and sat there for a while. They would have wept and been happy, but shuddered and frothed and cried out to hear his anger. As one's fingers over leaves and hands in the most cold storm, as seeds among the pebbles came back. As he sat there reading from those purple-patterned eyes, he outlined the theme and expression, the symbols of his life. Postage posters, political posters, the radical scientists. Which in those ears and in those thin wrists, his steady hearts took on color, took on shape, and the size of things that they are.


And spoke to him which was what they had found. Stephen's poetry is a funny thing because he's a philosophical poet in a way, who has a Buddhist pole to him too, a kind of contemplative interiority at one pole where things tend to vanish and it goes into pure spirit. But then from there he launches back into body and matter with a vengeance and that's what you hear here. So he's got this movement to the interior, a kind of abstracting movement towards pure unitive reality. And then there's the movement back into incarnation, and more frequently you feel that second movement I think in his poetry. There's a great deal of joy and exuberance in that, as if coming from that unitive contemplative interiority, everything is impressioned for him, everything is created anew.


And he can rejoice in it, just like these ghosts that rejoice even to stick themselves on a thorn and they laugh at the pure joy of being in a bodily world, a bodily reality, once again, among things that can be seen and felt, touched. The one on the road home gets at that from another point of view. Let me see, it's number eight, volunteer on the road home. But you find the same thing happening in a bunch of these poems, like the end of seven where he says, note that the imperfect is our paradise, note that in this bitterness delight, since the imperfect is so heartless, lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds, and the very irregularity of human existence in the body and in this world. Coming back to that,


he finds a great joy in it, he finds a great freedom in it. It's like the movement of incarnation, arriving and dancing as it arrives. On the road home. Volunteer. Chris. On the road home. The one I said there was no such thing as the truth, but it raced and fell, the fox went out of the hole. You, you said, there are many truths, but they are not parts of any truth. Then the tree, that night, began to change, smoking the green and smoking the red. We were two figures in a wood. You said we stood alone. It was when I said, words are not forms of a single word, we are some of the parts, there are many of the parts. The world must


be measured by five. It was when you said, the idol is not the property, snake and gold and light, but not the truth. It was at that time that the silence was largest and longest, the night was roundest, the fragrance of the olive warmest, closest and strongest. Yeah, that's pure Stevens. He goes, like his Platonist pole, okay, his Platonist pole would say that all truths are one truth, all words are part of a single word, would declare the, what do you call it, the primacy of the spirit of a pure being and all of that, but where he really has gone is coming back, coming back into the, what was it called, the unthinkability and the pure density of matter and of world and of body. Marvelously, I think. There are many


truths, but they're not parts of a truth. It's nominalism, it's a kind of reduction of the world in modern consciousness to empirical fact, let us say, okay, and to a multiplicity of things. The rejection of the unit of truth, the rejection, let's say, of the contemplative core, which he does believe in, okay, but he really enjoys coming back from it, too. He goes both ways, and frequently in an ironic way is here. It's very ironic, it's full of synopses, primitives by Abraham Lincoln, kind of a period of his life around this. Okay, maybe we should have just one more poem and adjourn. Anybody? In number 11,


you feel him at the other end. You feel him in his contemplative space, I think, where everything tends to fuse into pure life or pure presence or pure interiority. Anybody want to read that? When the fellow man is like the conscience of being the book, the heart of Christ in the world of time. The word of the person that is the word of the heart in the book except that the reader believes that the person wants to read, wants to know, wants to be the scholar, the being that is true. When the fellow man is like the perfection of Christ,


the heart of Christ before the heavenly the Christ in the heart of the meeting has to know the access of perfection to the page. The world of time the truth in the time of the world in which there is no other meaning except the self of time the self of time and mind. The self is the reader meaning place and being there. That's the hesychast poet where everything is fused with this quiet which is also oneness, isn't it? Which is also a spiritual oneness which has no name and he makes a kind of music out of it. It becomes a kind of song of quiet, a song of silence which necessarily


touches the sacred at a certain point. It's a kind of a song of Lectio Divina without even using a single religious word. I was wondering about the change in feelings over time. What's the range of these poems you chose? Are there some early ones? None of them are very early. These are roughly, they are in the order in which they occur, chronologically speaking. So the first one would be that Guggenheim which is in his middle period. I can't give you a date for it right here although I could find it. So often the students apologize. That's right. Harmonium, yeah. It seems so different. Now this is from middle period to late period. So Guggenheim is somewhere in the middle of his life, his writing career and then these last ones


are quite late. They're around 1950, early 50s. He died in 55. Like the House is Quiet and the World is Calm is early, late. Near 1950, I think. Oh, a long time. I fell in love with Stevens sometime back in the 50s, I guess. Not so much the earlier ones. The middle ones and the later ones. The earlier ones are flamboyant poetry. The first book was Harmonium which I think came out in 1922, 23. The one image of that is the gaudy bird as it were, you know. And he's kind of dancing with color and with sound and so on. But in it also there's a good deal of thought. Underneath, inside it, it's as if there's always a thought before there's a poem, which is surprising.


There's thinking, there's theory. It doesn't mean it's allegory. But I tend to like the middle poems a lot. Around the time of On the Road Home or the latest Freedman and so on. Those are marvelous. I didn't pick a couple of those because most of you have already done it. Yeah, largely. ... [...] That the monks were drawn to? ... I think there's quite a variety. I think T.S. Eliot would probably be his star. Probably be the favorite. Because there's so much direct religious reference in him because he seems to create a Christian myth there. Let's see.


I can't think of any others that would be extremely popular among the monks. That's the one. Also because we've had like a couple of little workshops or seminars on that. And Father Robert's very pointed on it. Okay. Thank you. ... [...] Well, they should be available in a little while. Gabriel processes the material. I suppose it might take a few weeks. ... Yeah, if you I'm sure you can. Father Daniel would be ... Just pass something to me, okay? Just give me a reminder, okay? Just your address.


I can take care of it. ... [...] and hurt from the relationship. I think sometimes we live in a... I think we have a kind of message and the red darkness in nature can be absorbed in a poem and reconciled in a poem. You can feel the resolve in a poem.


You could. ... [...]