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Breaking the Silence

Poetry and the Kenotic Word


Edited By Malgorzata Grzegorzewska, Jean Ward and Mark Burrows

This book of essays on poetic speech, viewed in a literary-critical, theological and philosophical light, explores the connections and disconnections between vulnerable human words, so often burdened with doubt and pain, and the ultimate kenosis of the divine Word on the Cross. An introductory discussion of language and prayer is followed by reflections linking poetry with religious experience and theology, especially apophatic, and questioning the ability of language to reach out beyond itself. The central section foregrounds the motif of the suffering flesh, while the final section, including essays on seventeenth-century English metaphysical poetry and several of the great poets of the twentieth century, is devoted to the sounds and rhythms which give a poem its own kind of «body».
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Word into Flesh/ Flesh into Word: The Making of an Incarnational Textuality


1. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us …”

In his remarkable trilogy on theology, literature, and the arts – The Sacred Desert, The Sacred Body, and The Sacred Community (published 2004–2012) – David Jasper, radical theologian and Anglican priest, often turns to the text of the Prologue to the Gospel of St. John in what could be described as a decade-long meditation on the theme of “dwelling poetically”. In the second volume, he beautifully articulates what it might mean for us to live in such a way, drawing connections between the provisional nature of the meaning of “dwelt” in John 1:14 (“to dwell is drawn from desert wandering, for it is literally, in the Greek, to ‘tabernacle’ or ‘tent’ – an ever-present being that is permanent and yet shifting” [xiii]) and Martin Heidegger’s conception of “poetic dwelling”. To dwell poetically is

to live within the ‘space’ that is at once a desert, an oasis and a space of literature. It is, in fact, nowhere, and yet it becomes the place of real presence beyond which is a mysterious infinity, a blank but lightening sky. … Poetic dwelling is to acknowledge underlying conditionalities that constitute a fundamental condition of indebtedness: to live is to owe one’s life – to be always in a form of giving – an attitude everywhere recognizable in the ancient desert ascetic. (xiii–xiv)

This sense of poetic dwelling originates from a phrase in a late poem of the German Romantic...

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