Poetry and the Kenotic Word
Edited By Malgorzata Grzegorzewska, Jean Ward and Mark Burrows
Feet in Eden?: Some Aspects of Technique in Religious Verse – Edwin Muir, Jon Silkin, and Anne Stevenson
A great deal of discussion of religious poetry – despite the evident merits of that discussion – is fundamentally thematic.1 For example, Romana Huk’s illuminating essay on “Poetry and Religion” (2009) focuses quite justifiably on religious poetry’s thematic concerns and does not approach the technical means employed by her chosen poets, except in a rather light-handed and unsystematic way. Many other examples of such an approach (which yields, it must be insisted, very substantial insights) might be generated. And yet, surely a poem is not an essay. A poem is a very specifically configured utterance, employing a wide range of devices that appear much less prominently, and are often taboo, in most discursive prose (Duffell 7). Surely those devices, that technique, are not without importance. Poets as poets choose to write poems, not theological tracts. Fifty years ago, Harvey Gross and Robert McDowell put the matter succinctly as regards rhythm and metre. “Our view”, they write, “is that meter, and prosody in general, is itself meaning. Rhythm is neither outside a poem’s meaning nor an ornament to it. Rhythmic structures are expressive forms, cognitive elements communicating those experiences that rhythmic consciousness can alone communicate. … meter unquestionably brings into special prominence words and ideas. … it is through rhythmic structure that the infinite subtleties of human feeling can be most successfully expressed” (10). More than thirty years later, Timothy Steele in his All the Fun’s in How You Say the Thing (1999) also insists on the importance of attention to technique (which,...
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