Saturday, February 22, 2003

Annie Finch wants to reframe my entire discussion with Rodney Koeneke.

 Dear Ron,

In your response to Rodney Koeneke you accept quickly, though provisionally, the equation of spirituality with the unconscious. But consider that that very equation may be making it more difficult to account for the spirituality evident in much experimental poetry. Goddess spirituality offers one useful alternative model; it is immanent and conscious, not transcendent and unconscious. My own essay "Poetry and the Goddess" explores how the model of immanent spirituality, as opposed to transcendent spirituality, frees language from the need to "say the unsaid" and other models that privilege "transcendent" meanings over actual language. Perhaps the Judeo-Christian spiritual model being assumed in the discussion with Koeneke is causing as many problems as the literary model--or more problems, being even more unquestioned than the literary model.


Finch is certainly right that Koeneke posed the issue in Judeo-Christian terms, but I’m not at all sure that a solution lies in an approach that “frees language from the need to ‘say the unsaid.’” The problem of the apophatic is hardly the exclusive property of just one tradition: if I recall correctly, Alan Davies invoked the idea though not the term within a Zen framework in his piece on “Don’t Know Mind” early in the 1970s. Further, from the perspective of poetry, Viktor Shklovsky’s expansionist model of the artistic process – his concept that art as a collective activity proceeds precisely through incorporating phenomena previously not acknowledged or not thought to be appropriately artistic – privileges the “unsaid” as the source of innovation & vitality. Where would women’s poetics be today had it not emerged out of the terrain of the unsaid?