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date: 28 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The role of poet had shifted, in the late twentieth century, from ‘poet as truth-seeker’ (ò la Marianne Moore) to ‘poet as truth-maker’. But this relativism and denial of truth beyond the poem (the collapse of so-called ‘meta-narratives’) is in reverse now. Why? Because, according to post-secular philosophers like Blond, the project of relativism has failed. But, given the damage to religious symbolism and currency, that David Jones warned of fifty years ago, this is both crisis and an opportunity for poets. There is a need to find new forms and images to express ‘religious’ ideas and experiences. Bonhoeffer looked for the emergence of a new kind of language for this. But ‘religious’ poetry has always been innovative—e.g. modernists like Eliot, Jones, Moore, Bunting. Science offers new metaphors too, new approaches. And science has led the way out of the ‘hall of mirrors’ because climate change is nothing if not a meta-narrative. The ways forward for poetry include ascension, through difficulty and abstraction, and this essay shows three ways of exploring it—Auden, Lewis, Levertov—along with three theoretical approaches, those of Williams, Milbank, Pickstock, ‘praise poetry’ being the ultimate challenge. It also looks at a way forward through Welsh-language poetry, exemplified by Bobi Jones and others.

Keywords: incarnational, religious, science, praise, genetics, post-secular

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