Refiguring Nature: Tropes of Estrangement in Contemporary American Poetry
At a recent poetry reading held at Southern Illinois University, Czleslaw Milosz suggested that all true poetry is essentially daemonic and confessed that he was “forced into a corner” to respond poetically as a witness to the brutal social realities depicted in his well-known poems on the Nazi period. For Milosz true poetry is an inspiriting of the soul rather than a committed response to a historical occasion. In primitive and archaic cultures the daemonic and the historical converged in myth and ritual. The thrust of the Romantic Period was to reorient man to that convergence by taking classical Greek culture as its model. The word “daemonic” is derived from the Greek and may be defined as a god, the spirit of a place, or a man’s attendant deity. The Greek lyric poet was thus inspired by the Muse Erato, goddess of lyric poetry. He also responded to the spirits inhabiting nature as does Sappho in her poem on daybreak, which she perceives as the sandalled Eos, goddess of dawn. William Blake tried to create his own mythopoeic world by inventing gods that presided over individuals, cities, social revolutions, and nature with an overlay of Christian humanism. But the Industrial Revolution, which inaugurates the modern period of dislocated sensibility,undermines the poetic attempts begun during the Renaissance to reclaim the classical daemonic world.
KeywordsExternal Reality Deep Image Lyric Poetry Extended Metaphor Nazi Period
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- 2.Quoted in Karl Malakoff, Crowell’s Handbook of Contemporary American Poetry (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1973), p. 145.Google Scholar