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In Wonder, Love and Praise

Approaches to Poetry, Theology and Philosophy

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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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The Poetic Magnificat of Elizabeth Jennings and Jan Twardowski, a Polish Priest-Poet

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Abstract: The essay presents the work of two twentieth-century poets, Elizabeth Jennings and Jan Twardowski, both inspired by a sense of wonder and gratitude. Profoundly meditative in character, this poetry acknowledges God’s presence in the world and expresses metaphysical amazement and delight, thus bearing an analogy to the biblical Magnificat.

Keywords: Elizabeth Jennings, Jan Twardowski, meditative poetry, amazement, delight, magnificat

In Theaetetus, one of Plato’s dialogues concerning the nature of knowledge, the speaker points to wonder as the beginning of philosophy (155c-d). Plato’s often quoted dictum has been evoked to link philosophy as a path for seeking knowledge and understanding with the notion of wonder. Although Plato opposes philosophers to poets, the words he puts in that dialogue into the mouth of Socrates, to the effect that philosophy begins in wonder, could equally be extended to embrace poetry, for undoubtedly poetry, too, has its origin in wonder, which lies at the bottom of any creative process and empowers a poetic vision. It is not surprising, then, that many poems which cross the threshold of wonder become compressed philosophical proposals and theses, aesthetically pleasing and intellectually inspiring. A sense of wonder is a property of every sensitive mind, and it usually implies a deep-seated, even if only subconsciously felt, awareness of the presence of a source or originator of wonder. If, for example, the natural beauty of a landscape arouses a sense of wonder in the viewer, this experience is often underpinned by an inkling...

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