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In Wonder, Love and Praise

Approaches to Poetry, Theology and Philosophy


Edited By Martin Potter, Malgorzata Grzegorzewska and Jean Ward

This collection of essays explores poetry’s contribution to the expression of theological wonder, which can occur both in ordinary life and in the natural world or can arise in the context of explicitly supernatural mystical experience. Poets have a special role in capturing religious awe in ways beyond the power of discursive language. Some essays in this book approach the subject on a theoretical level, working with theology, philosophy and literary criticism. Others provide close readings of poems in which the engagement with a variously understood idea or experience of wonder is prominent, from the English-language tradition and outside it. Poets from culturally and historically different backgrounds are thus drawn together through the focus on the meaning of wonder.

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Epiphanies in the Ordinary: The Wondering of Poets in a Destitute Age


Abstract: This essay considers how a chorus of contemporary poets, mainly American, have offered their work as if in answer to the question posed by Friedrich Hölderlin: “For what use are poets in a destitute age?” Setting the discussion in the context also of Wordsworth’s sonnet “The world is too much with us” and of Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus, the author shows how poets like W.S. Merwin, Wallace Stevens, Denise Levertov, and Adam Zagajewski understand their work as one of unhurried poetic “wondering”. By “listening into the heart of things”, by attending to the radiance that is to be sensed within the ordinary, they even at times discover in the mundane hints of divine presence.

Keywords: destitute age, epiphany, the ordinary, secular, sacred, wonder

The making of poems in a prosaic age like ours is something of a wonder – a miracle, to remember a distinctively religious word that belongs to an age now seemingly slipping away from us. But perhaps this is what has awakened within poets a sense of their proper vocation, inviting them to live as if in answer to the poignant question posed by the German Romantic, Friedrich Hölderlin: “For what use are poets in a destitute age?” (“Brot und Wein”, Part 7, l. 14). It is this question that is of central importance in our time, one that finds its proper shape within the particular marks of destitution which mark our days: the banality of the media-culture, with...

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