Saturday, February 10, 2007

poet Richard Wilbur on metaphors in a God-made world



"You could say that all poetry, however much it may be irrational, moves towards clarity and order, that it affirms all that is clear and orderly in the world, affirms the roots of clarity in the world. Then, you might say that poetry is given not only to saying that this is like that as in the simile; it's given also to saying that this is that, to affirming rather nervily that prosaically unlike things are to poetry's eye identical, co-natural. I think there is a natural disposition of the poetic mind to assert that all things are one, are part of the same thing, that one thing may be compared to anything else, the ground of that comparison is likely to be divine.

Interviewer: Then poets believe in metaphors?

...I think that in poetry of the highest quality, in poetry of great genuineness and seriousness, the metaphors are believed. I remember that my friend Joseph Beach, ... used to talk a great game of atheism; and in his last book called Involuntary Witness, I was surprised to find a poem of his which ended with a thumping religious affirmation. I took it around to him and I said, " Look, Joseph, I though you were an atheist. What about this?" and he said, "If it says I believe in God, it must be true, because you never tell lies in poetry." I think that's right. It seems to me that poetry is one's way of talking at one's most serious, and that you outdo your prosaic mind. You do better than your prosaic apprehension of things in poetry."

-Conversations with Richard Wilbur (this interview is from 1964)

That first part reminds me a lot of what Doug Wilson says in this credenda agenda:

"All things are therefore cognates. And the wide-eyed Christian should look around at the resemblances. The affinities are necessarily there. If a meadowlark is tied to some aspect of the Creator, and the tidal wave is reflective of another characteristic within Him, and so on, then what follows? All attributes within the Godhead are all internally consistent—He is never at odds with Himself. This means that all things in the universe (the meadowlark, tidal wave, and bamboo grove) are all created cousins at peace. And this is what makes effective "horizontal" metaphor within the created order possible."
The last few sentences remind me of Micheal Polany's concept of tacit knowing, how "We know more then we can tell.", how so much of our knowledge cannot be put into words (knowledge of throwing a baseball, for example)

Edit: there's a nice long (45 min) audio interview with Wilbur here.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Van Fundy said...

The extended Wilbur quotation is great, and I like your connecting it to the Doug Wilson quotation.

2/11/2007 4:05 PM  

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