Quora answer: How to become a philosophical poet?

Feb 18 2014

First we should identify the philosophical poets.

Here are some that I have found:

  • T.S. Eliot
  • Wallace Stevens
  • William Bronk

Of these Bronk is the deepest.

There are of course others like Rilke and most poets that are part of the Canon may be interpreted philosophically.

Elliot took the problem of modern nihilism seriously and tried to express that problem for instance in the Wasteland, but also tried to solve that problem as in Four Quartets. Four Quartets is one of my favorite poems. Early Elliot really just sets the context for this solution to nihilism that he proposes by going back to the Mahabharata and within it the Bhagavad-Gita.

Wallace Stevens was an experimentalist and wrote modernist poems but was eclipsed by Eliot whose Wasteland came out about the same time as Harmonium. Wallace Stevens took the subject of Poetry itself as his problem and tried to express the essence of poetry itself philosophically, and thus was extremely interesting. This is what Heidegger said that Holderlin did. But Stevens did that much more purely and directly. Heidegger’s interpretation of Holderlin assumes that is what he is doing, but Wallace Stevens does it in a direct way and his aphorisms on the nature of poetry are extremely interesting.

So if we take these two examples seriously we can see that we can either take the fundamental problem of the western worldview, i.e. the production of nihilism as our issue or we can take poetry itself as the issue. Since the western worldview has as its fundamental duality the distinction between physus and logos, then taking poetry as an issue basically also attacks the heart of the worldview, just by a different route, because we wonder what is the nature of language, and what makes poetry the highest art, and what is the relation of language to everything else in our worldview. Both the subject of poetry treated in poetry, and the subject of the relation of nihilism to the nondual kernel of the Western worldview are core issues with infinite horizons to be explored. The thinking poet, Elliot treats the core issue of modernism which is the nihilism within the worldview, and the meaninglessness of life, while the modernist poetic thinker, Stevens, does linguistic experiments to stretch the poetic form, prefiguring much of contemporary poetry, for instance the L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E poets who were inspired by Heidegger’s treatment of language as something obscure in itself.

Kant discusses beauty in terms of the beauty of nature and purposeless purposefulness, or disinterested pleasure, drawing attention to the preconceptual nature of aesthetic experience. Hegel of course thinks the paradigm of Art is the artistic expressions of humans and not nature. Heidegger talks about the structure of the worldview being Heaven, Earth, Mortals and Immortals following Socrates, but focuses on the unveiling of the obscurities of Earth which is brought forth by Legein, but the laying out which is part of the Logos. Heidegger discusses, as Deryfus and Kelly in All Things Shining point out that, how Earth comes to be made visible in the work of Art, and how the work of art gives shape to our worldview, bestowing meaning, and organizing the background practices which are what underlie everything we do within the foreground of our lives. Dreyfus and Kelly stop in their development of the story of the shifts in the nature of Being throughout the drift of our worldview through the centuries. Sharp transitions were made in the nature of Being in the various ages as seen in the central works of each age. They stop with Melville who was first to hear the bell toll for Monotheism and the OntoTheological Metaphysics it inspired. Bu we could continue the analysis down to the time of Elliot and Stevens and see how they each attempted to delve deeply into the nature of the worldview via poetry, either by expressing the fundamental angst of modernism, lack of meaning of the world, or lack of meaning in poetry. Elliot eventually goes back to the Mahabharata for inspiration to solve the malaise of nihilism, while Stevens appeals to the goddess of Necessity. Commentators read individual poets deeply, but very few recognize the conversation that they are having through the medium of the worldview, especially in the reaction of Stevens against the neoclassicism of Elliot. Stevens has the most modern voice, but it is eclipsed by poems with footnotes that start with quotes from Dante. So if we wish to read deeply we will read between them, and listen to the silent conversation they are having concerning the nature of poetry and its relation to the inner core of the worldview.

Now we come to Bronk [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Bronk], who comes out of the middle of this conversation, and goes even deeper into the past, while referencing a different tradition as his escape from nihilism. What is amazing about Bronk is that he manages to take a position outside of life itself in what the Egyptians in ancient times called the Duat [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duat] and from that vantage point looks back on life and poetry. His point of reference outside the tradition was Zen Buddhism it seems, but he goes deeper than that, perhaps accidentally, and he seems to take this deeper viewpoint from the Mayans instead of the Egyptians. But by reversing our view on life and looking at it from the outside, from beyond life he gets to a place that is so much deeper than either Eliot or Stevens. For instance, Dylan Thomas achieves his effects by mixing paradoxically life and death and sex. Dylan Thomas goes into the words themselves and treats the building material the earth of language as the means of expressing the crux of life. But Bronk reverses this and looks at life, death, sex from beyond life, from the Duat, a timeless time outside of life, but yet life is shot through with it. And of course since the Western worldview is made up of the Sumerian, Indo-European, Semitic, and Egyptian worlds, that possibility of accessing the Duat is always already there to be actualized. How it comes out when Bronk experiences the Mayan pyramids is a mystery. But Bronk makes it palpable. Plato expresses it as the fact that what we take to be the world is really a small pond around which we are like the small animals, but the actual world is something much larger than we expect. This larger world is what the ancient Egyptians called the Duat, and it was their entry into the Duat that they prepared for their whole lives and it is what drove their funerary culture.

Getting a glimpse of our lives from the inverse perspective of the Duat that Bronk affords us is something amazing that really should not be possible but somehow he accessed it consistently in his works. And so his work completely turns out worldview upside down and inside out if taken seriously. So in his case depth comes from inverting the entire worldview based on a hidden possibility within it. In a sense this is what makes Bronk the most essential poet of our time. He is speaking to us from what I call the Heterochronic era and is the surest sign of our transition out of the Metaphysical era which has lasted so long sing the break with the Mythopoietic at the time of Thales.

So taking these examples how do you become a philosophical poet? Know your worldview and write your poetry on the scale of the worldview itself and its large scale effects. It is the poets that reach most deeply into the worldview and give us a work of art which brings the worldview out into the open so that we can be aware of it and it of us. As Bloom said Shakespeare made us human by teaching us what human interiority might be, so the poets express that interiority now that it has arisen and its accommodation and dwelling within a worldview such as ours, i.e. one that amounts as Dante said to hell on earth, the city in strife tearing us apart from each other, and within ourselves. As these individuals Eliot and Stevens teach us how to live, as suffering from the hell of nihilism and perhaps overcoming it, or as modern artists who see the words like the material of abstract art which eventually devolves into just the display of the obscurities of language itself. Only Bronk shows us the way out, by inverting the worldview and giving us access to one of its ancient possibilities which is access to the Duat. He takes us out into the Heterochronic and shows us the worldview from the outside, as an existant, and thus gives us access to Ultra Being as a viewpoint on the worldview itself from within itself.

Become a philosophical poet by becoming profound yourself, first. Then say what is profound without becoming hollow men, without turning your words into art for art’s sake, as abstract art tends to become. Say the ordered word, the right word, the good word, the fated word, the source word, the root word. Say the words that well up from the primal word, which is always the name of a God.


For more information about the Duat  see the distinction between djet and neheh in The Mind of Egypt by Jan Assmann.

No responses yet

Comments are closed at this time.

Shelfari: Book reviews on your book blog