Friday, February 6, 2009

Terror vs. Embarrassment

An interesting (and cathartic) review in Poetry which takes Christian poets to task for being too diffident and reader-friendly.
Terror’s potential as a creative source is all but unrecognizable in today’s religious poetry. Many critics would even contend that the genre as such no longer exists (witness Harold Bloom’s fascinating but labored attempt to articulate “the American religion” in his recent anthology). Labels aside, however, it seems clear that past pursuits of “a Discontent / Too exquisite—to tell” (Dickinson) have been replaced by slacker, more self-deprecating pieties. Instead of confronting you with a soul drowning in God, the contemporary religious poem is much more likely to invite you in for a dip.


some guy on the street said...

Consider our(1) long tendency towards apologetics over the past century, our(2) later Calvinists' question "have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal saviour", our(3) Kinseyesque inability to refuse to act on all temptations (a.k.a. "living out all your fantasies"), our(4) actually having lived through the horror of industrialized warfare countless times: perhaps, because of all these, terror before the Awesome Unmoved Mover, the Beginning And End of all that is, indeed the God Who Is, this terror and its goodness have become a tough sell.

Or perhaps that is what we fear.

(1) in Catholic writing
(2) in North America, at least
(3) in Secularized Europe and colonies
(4) the world as a whole

Meredith said...

Could be.

Terror vs. embarrassment is an awfully tough choice. I'm not much given to either one. But embarrassment makes more boring poetry. The nervous, jokey style drives me up the wall:

"A poem titled “The Holy Ghost” begins, “Don’t worry about it.” A poem about heresy includes the lines, “when we’re talking / heresy, I’d like to think I’m siding with the angels.”

That sort of thing. Life is just too short.

some guy on the street said...

Yes, those are both bland at best.

And I think, when I do think of Holy Terror, that the best image I can pull out of my memory is when The Lion reveals himself to Bree and Whin.

If it were mere despair then it were indeed wrong, and if it utterly repelled one from God then he would know his own condemnation; but if it's the sort of terror that blends of itself with thrill and joy---! And I think I have sometimes come near to such a terror, though I can't be sure.

Santiago said...

This guy is good. Had you heard of him before?

Meredith said...

No, I hadn't! Have you?

Santiago said...

No... He doesn't seem very old on his little picture there.