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Monday, January 26, 2015

The Edge of Abstraction and the Voice of the Muse

In an Ancient Dialogue between Drama and Psyche, or a more modern equivalent, between the Artist and his Muse one wonders if it is dialogue, whose dialogue? Who speaks the poem? What is the source of the poetic voice?

Do not these questions about the essence of poetry, what metaphor is, and who it serves?

If I listen for metaphor behind a narrative or expository composition, will it explain the ancient Greek use of theatrical techniques to ritualize confrontations between the conscious mind, and unconscious psyche?

I hope in this essay to parse dialogues of some modern and Romantic poems into dramatic characters.

Reading re-enacts. Poetry is a voice performance. The voice moves in and out of a dramatic space the ancients correctly attributed to Dionysus. In this manner metaphor inhabits a numinous space - the poets make an approach to what is numinous.

Why the overlap in subject with the nine Muses? Here I'll posit a quick notion, and then get on to the substance of my primary argument.

The numinous implies a divinely infused quantity and needn't arise from an accepted canon. For instance, Modern Hindu mythology amalgamates a historically complex pantheon into a simple trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. This implies that the many other named 'gods' in India are now either phases, or aspects or incarnations of one of the three primary Gods. The divine experience that an approach to one of these 'Gods' can bring about, eventually tires, as it becomes reduced by history, when all the tributaries of all the rivers coalesce into one gigantic stream which spills it's essence into the sea.

So the numinous in poetry may arise without a trace and without explanation. Calling the source of Western poetry the Muse is enough. Study of her brings one no closer to her phenomena. The numinous is indeed found upriver, by a rustling brook, or a vital youthful river plunging down out of the mountains.

In poetry we make an approach to something we have lost touch of. A poem is an appeal for direct contact. The mythos of most divine experience degrades into a tired tract which holds little mystery.

The classic Greek pantheon, being more complex than the one practiced through worship in present day India, leaves the amalgamation of simpler roles less complete. The ritual of this worship is preserved, or rather was preserved, through drama, without explanation. As the universe constantly generates stars, so Gods are born. They rise, as characters in a mythos, and are merged into greater bodies, larger longer stories. Every so often the entire mythos explodes, or there is death, and recycling into the Underworld.

In the modern day, this process continues unabated, due to the shadow effect of science, which purports to have put  stake through the heart of any God-like vestige.

For the Egyptian, whether a pharaoh seeking Osiris, or laborer awaiting judgement in the passage of the soul via the Egyptian Theatre of the Dead the Journey into the Heavens, may be seen as an flow opposite to the return of Demeter as experienced at Eleusis experienced through the ingestion of ergot tainted wine.

The practice, the theatre at Eleusis, was in essence group poetry,  a collective approach to the numinous.


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