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Thursday, 8 May 2008

Proper Talk About God?

"Proper talk about God is always difficult, always tentative...." wise words, and an unexpected, and welcome, reaching out to atheists and agnostics, from the Church. I have been reading Donald Davie today - often maligned as a mere conservative and Christian - and his complex understanding of thought, faith, and poetry (and concern to query insular poetic values) is a tonic for these times, too. Christian poetry, in Britain, has become nearly as invisible as God - partially due, no doubt, to the fear on the part of would-be practitioners of such verse, that such discourse would lead away from the irony, or ambiguity, expected (or required) of poetry now, towards something too dogmatic, earnest, or even, "too emotional". I could "out" a few Christian poets, but I won't. Let them appear, at their own pace, and time.

However, as Davie observes, in his "The Rhetoric of Emotion", which has its many problems, there is a difference between feeling, and emotion, in poetry. Christian poetry, now, needs to engage with the difficult, the tentative aspects of its style, its subject area, as suggested above - appropriate, since language, too, is invested with the same problematic, indeterminate elements as faith. It is only the (empirically or theologically) strident that needs to be resisted, not writing which seeks, inquires, and, importantly, ethically engages, with the mystery - and yes, often the beauty - of existence. Hardy, of course, thought poetry could be a place to bring religious feeling, and reason, together.
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