KCYoder's Religious Diversity Journal

Thursday, January 26, 2006

American Poetry Review Response

As a Religious Studies (nay Phil+Rel) major here at Ursinus College, I found the Letters section of The American Poetry Review (vol. 34, number 6) at the back of the journal to be of significant importance in considering the relationship between contemporary ideas about religion and art. It is validating to my academic discipline that religious issues are cropping up in the poet-community-consciousness. One letter-writer, Jody Gladding, remarks that the turn to focus on religious and spiritual issues in contemporary American poetry is a sign of the Conservative Christian Right gaining the upper hand in some artistic battlefield. The writer holds this assumption that the artistic endeavor of poetry is something of an internal endeavor—evidence of what she calls “free thinking,” opposed to operating in some public discourse about the presence of religion in the artistic consciousness. This signifies to me a general assumption held by many poets and readers alike, that poetry is essentially personally significant; the reader gets to go along for the ride if the poem is lucid or generally applicable. Religion is viewed as some monolithic ideological structure that saps this process of its legitimacy. Hasn’t this author ever read Gerard Manley Hopkins? The writer of this letter quotes Gustaf Sobin as an example of how poetry and art tap into something that is more meaningful and less definable as spiritual or religious. I did not find this letter’s point to be satisfying because it merely suggests that the artistic experience has some internal personal significance that cannot be definable without explaining why this is necessarily separable from religious expressions.


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