Friday, November 30, 2007

Poetry in fetters?

If we postulate POETRY as being a shared core, certain characteristics and above all a potential, of a rather heterogenous class of phenomena, then this immediately leads to the view that among other things many elements in the religious sphere (magic, mysticism, demonology, pantheism, alchemy, synchronicity, dream interpretation, escatology, telepathy, and in general generation of meaning, mythology and reenchantment) must be regarded as an real or potential forms of unconscious poetry, rationalised into a sphere of systematic power exertion and stupidification. It has actually been one of the major pastimes of surrealism to pick up such scattered elements of poetry (from different contexts including religion not the least) and place them in a new connection, which often has been artistic and sometimes political (both designations in a wide and formal sense, referring to language/ means/ forum rather than aims/ spirit) but ultimately primarily surrealist: for the moment we may characterise that as pertaining to profane reenchantment of the world by means of cultivating the specific dynamics of the poetic phenomenon.

In that sense then, it is a surrealist thing to highlight and utilise such elements from the religious sphere as poetic materials, with dedicated respectlessness towards the servile hodgepodge usually surrounding them. It is not a surrealist thing to believe they carry scandalous truths revealing deep secrets of higher powers; anything of the kind is just naïve mystification and as overenthusiastic as sloppy metaphysical fantasy.

Nevertheless, we should also be cautious about regarding our own conceptualisation of poetry as poetry as necessarily more true and less self-deception than all other rationalisations. Paradigmatic for the concept of poetry are single aesthetic products by individual non-anonymous creators for an aesthetic sphere in the widest sense (not just the clique or guild of professional artists or the cultural market, but the whole world of aesthetic objects within a culture which regards them as a particular sphere, proofs of the cultural level of the society in question). We work hard to emphasize that the only thing interesting about these aesthetic objects are whatever part they take in poetry as a universal category, which is to be found just as much (or actually far more) outside that cultural sphere. But we should be aware that for many phenomena from other cultural contexts, acknowledging them as poetry may in a sense actually just seem like imposing on them certain cultural standards alien to them, even though what we intend is of course the revelatory condensation of their whole point.

Well, practically speaking there is a width among surrealists regarding to what extant they feel comfortable in this type of sacral atmosphere, enjoy reading such texts, and keep track of the theoretical connections. To find the poetical elements in there does require exposure to start with. But as it concerns voluminous systems, entire subcultures, and particular mechanisms for generating meaning, it is also obvious that the harvest may be somehow proportional to the effort. Superficial juggling with such mere semiotic signs for secrets and wholeness is of course very often unbearably banal. And in this field just like others, there are hordes of stupid followers, hordes of dull academics, smaller amounts of intelligent scholars, and large chunks of mythology and philosophy which may be poor or rich but regardless of which demand some provisional acceptance without faith in order to reveal its perspectives. Of course there is the risk of “going native”, of becoming carried away by ones acquired overview and special reading skills, fascinated by stuff which lack any sense outside the system, and happy about futile subtleties, the well-known process of turning knowledge into ideology. On the other hand, those who feel discomfort in the same sphere may systematically and morally refuse to see any nuances, denouncing any such study as “cuddling with religion”. Such pie thowing duels are probably not the interesting part of surrealism’s perspectives on religion.

My suggestions as to the paragraphs of major issues in such a discussion, listed in an order which is my own, just one temporarily preferred of the several possible orders of importance (which I’m not sure I’m willing to defend myself):

Religion as a theme for surrealists:
1. to identify and snatch loose poetical elements from the religious sphere (see above)
2. to understand how religion remains paradigmatic for many concepts, and even more many forms of systematisation and manipulation, of ideology, doctrine, faith, community, engagement, solidarity, profoundness, inspiration, intuition, possession etc, also for the occurences of these themes within other widely different spheres (some of these may have a fully operational and fully acceptable profane application available by simply removing the religious context, while in some the religious implications will not be that easily shook off; what is the difference?)
3. to understand how religion is a complex and dual-edged weapon among others in everyday life politics and geopolitics
4. not to back the least from a total refusal of god and church
5. not to choose to get satisfied by any humanistic-rationalistic platitudes in this sphere, and instead keep insisting on freer thought, playing on the loose, unrestrained quest for knowledge, richer mythologies, surrationalism and reenchantment.


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