Dear Richard and all,
Interestingly, Denise Levertov, like Eliot, became increasingly
religious and even orthodox in later life. She joined the Catholic
Church largely because of the liberation theology that challenged
our political policies in Central America and because of people like
Archbishop Romero and Dorothy Day, but she seemed to have
increasingly found in Christianity a form of what I think Richard
means by "mythic" that allowed for a better way of living in the
world. Her religious poems of the 80s, especially, increasingly
define a way to see body and spirit as fused in Jesus, Mary, and--
interestingly--Julian of Norwich.
Date sent: Mon, 8 Dec 2003 07:53:46 -0700
Send reply to: "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
From: Richard Seddon <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: Poets on poetry
To: [log in to unmask]
Now wait just a minute.
Where in the preceding discussions, until you raised your head and
thought it getting curiouser and curiouser, did any one make any
value judgments about any other's understanding of the human
condition? Perhaps you are referring to my comment about not
riding in a flying machine derived from unverified science. Flying
carpets, which I would ride on, are part of a mythic world view and
not a pseudo-scientific one.
Your basket of grade four thinkers would have to include Freud,
Jung, Kerenyi, Kroeber, Malinowski, Robert Duncan, T. S. Eliot,
Robinson Jeffers, Charles Olson, Claude Levi-Strauss, Karl Popper,
Bradley, Nietzsche, Plato and the list goes on. Many have tried to
understand the difference between mythic societies and their own
version of "modern" society.
I am specifically trying to understand it in terms of the 40's and 50's
California poets and the poets of the Black Mountain school:
Duncan, Jeffers, Creeley, Spicer, Olson, Levertov, Ginsberg, Snyder
and others. These poets were serious critics of their modern
western society. They were all heavily influenced by TSE, Pound,
Joyce and Yeats. In at least one case, Duncan, they suffered
severe discrimination at the hands of modern western culture.
Jeffers became so disgusted with western society that he
completely rejected a man centered world view and came up with
his "Inhumanism". All of these poets reacted strongly to what they
conceived of as faults inherent in western society's rejection of
myth. Understanding myth as opposed to western societies is
crucial to understanding them.
Somehow you have turned the discussion from how people
immersed in a mythic world view their world into a value filled
discussion and then used the turn to hurl semi-hidden knives.
If a person's serious thinking is always going to raise disdain and
approbation from the list how can serious learning take place. If you
have serious problems with what I was writing please tell me. If you
are going to change what I am saying into something you can
attack please don't. If you don't understand, ask questions until you
do. If you know nothing about the subject then perhaps you can
join me in learning about it. If you find it completely lacking in
intellectual merit then I would appreciate being informed, privately if
possible, of your professional opinion.
BTW: I would recommend that you read "Ulysses, Order, and
Myth". I think you will find little about Myth and much about a new
way to structure a literary work using myth. Your quote from Eliot
does not support your preceding argument as your use would
The tendency to think we can learn anything
about the validity of someone's understanding
of the human condition, by reducing that someone's
working system to its bare knuckle implications,
and then say it is wrong, inadequate, misguided
or whatever, is worthy of about Grade Four thinking
and little more.
What is important for our discussion is the role
of the mythic method as Eliot identified it, in helping
us to come to terms with the chaos of the modern vortex,
which, because our technology is driven into a frenzy
of change by its core dynamic of electricity moving at
the speed of light, is causing our ordinary perceptual
modes to become completely disoriented.
from Eliot, T.S. "Ulysses, Order, and Myth" Dial 75.5 (November
Myth is simply a way of controlling, of ordering, of giving a shape
and a significance to the immence panorama of futility and anarchy
which is contemporary history.