Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Thank God for Poetry

I'm working my way through a scholarly treatise called "God and the Creative Imagination", and recently finished a chapter titled "Liturgy as Literature". The chapter was really all about poetry, and captured and summarized all that I feel about what this blog does for me.

Here are some snippets, many of which quote a variety of other writers' thoughts.

"The language of Christian devotion (that is, of private prayer, meditation and hymnody) springs from the Christian imagination that is aflame with the love of God and is therefore incorrigibly figurative--sometimes boldly and radically so."

"The language of liturgy is poetry rather than prose: it is the product of Christian imagination that has been chastened and shaped by the liturgical and doctrinal tradition."

Coleridge "...suggested that in prose the words are subordinate to the meaning and ought to express it as efficiently as possible without attracting too much attention to themselves, while the words of poetry must be beautiful in themselves, though without detracting from the unity of effect of the whole"

Coleridge describes the birthing of poetry as "that pleasurable emotion, that peculiar state and degree of excitement, which arises in the poet himself in the act of composition".

and says that poetry is "the lava of the imagination whose eruption prevents an earthquake"

He continues to say that it is "the balance in the mind effected by that spontaneous effort which strives to hold in check the workings of passion" and what is required is "an interpenetration of passion and of will, of spontaneous impulse and of voluntary purpose".

"For Keble, poetry acts as a safety-valve for overflowing emotion: the writing and reading of poetry is cathartic and soothes--that is to say steadies or tempers--the spirit suffering the turbulence of passion."

Keble also describes poetry as "a kind of medicine, divinely bestowed on man, which gives healing relief to secret mental emotion or overpowering sorrow, yet without detriment to modest reserve, and while giving scope to enthusiasm yet rules it with order and due control"

and "the indirect expression in words, most appropriately in metrical words, of some overpowering emotion, or ruling taste, or feeling, the direct indulgence whereof is somehow repressed."

Avis himself says "The pleasurable excitement of poetry is due in part to the role of meter in harnessing powerful emotions."

and "Thoughts that defy expression, emotions that are too strong for human nature to bear, are constrained, contained and made manageable"

All I can say is: Yep.