Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Poetics of Easter

George Herbert, "Easter Wings." Some might say that Herbert's words create the shape of the butterfly; Bachelard would say that those words fill it.

Image found here.

As I noted in yesterday's post, the well of inspiration has been a bit dry of late, but something about seeing the almost-full moon this morning reminded me of an April 2004 post I wrote to commemorate Easter. What follows is an excerpt from it:

I am slowly working my way through Gaston Bachelard's 1958 book, The Poetics of Space.  The slowness is due in part to my workload and in part to the fact that, though Bachelard is by no means the most difficult reading there is, his ideas are of the sort that require a slow mental digestion.  Consider the task he has set for himself: how we experience space--specifically, the spaces in houses and other structures, such as birds' nests and animals' shells.  Note: NOT the objects themselves, but the spaces formed by them.  This is often the subject of poetry and narrative, he argues; thus "Poetics" as opposed to, say, "Phenomenology," which he says his work is.  So, then, a fusion of phenomenology and poetics, as we see in these passages from the Introduction:

Only phenomenology--that is to say, consideration of the onset of the image in an individual consciousness--can help us to restore the subjectivity of images and to measure their fullness, their strength and their transsubjectivity. [Yet t]hese subjectivities and transsubjectivities cannot be determined once and for all, for the poetic image is essentially variational, and not, as in the case of the concept, constitutive. . . . For a reader of poems, therefore, an appeal to a doctrine that bears the frequently misunderstood name of phenomenology risks falling on deaf ears.  And yet . . . the reader of poems is asked to consider an image not as an object and even less as the substitute for an object, but to sieze its specific reality. . . . In this domain of the creation of the poetic image by the poet, phenomenology, if one dare to say so, is a microscopic phenomenology.  As a result, this phenomenology will probably be strictly elementary. . . . To specify exactly what a phenomenology of the image can be, to specify that the image comes before thought, we should have to say that poetry, rather than being a phenomenology of the mind, is a phenomenology of the soul.  We should then have to collect documentation on the subject of the dreaming consciousness.  (xix-xx)

And off we follow Bachelard as he takes us into cellars, attics, corners, trunks, making us SEE these very familiar spaces as though we'd never really seen them before--and, of course, we haven't: they are spaces, after all.  They can only be experienced.

Which brings me to the Tomb, whose void we celebrate at Easter.  A former pastor of mine, in one of his Easter sermons, said that Easter is God's "Boo!", His big surprise.  But what shocks us is not Jesus' body, but its absence.  It is the space of the empty tomb that shocks, what is NOT there, that sets the mind to contemplating, Bachelard-like, this image that transcends language.  Jesus was delivered from death into life--and at no time other than Easter do we see and hear more clearly (and ironically) the pun in the phrase "from womb to tomb."  Jesus' tomb becomes the womb out of which not only He but all who believe in Him are born without a fear of death's power.

Full post here.


R. Sherman said...

Thanks for this.

While driving home yesterday, I heard on the radio (somewhere in Texas), that in the Orthodox tradition, jokes are told on Easter Monday. The reason being that God was laughing at Satan because of the Resurrection the day before.

Happy Easter, my friend.


Doc said...

Thanks - I have not read it ut just oredered on-line. I look forward to reading it...

John B. said...

Thanks to the both of you for dropping by.

Randall, yes. If one subscribes to the theory that a source of humor is critique and judgment--and, for that matter, that traditional comedy is at its heart a celebration and affirmation of the life force--then Easter is a pretty good joke all the way around.

Doc, I assume you're referring to the Bachelard. If so, you're in for a treat. It's less like he's arguing than he is meditating and letting us in on what he's thinking.