ERIC Number: ED329993
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1991-Jun
Reference Count: 0
The Mythological Substrata of Some Post-Midcentury Poems.
In 1958 in their journal, "The Fifties," Robert Bly and William Duffy introduced North American readers and students to a number of European and South American poets who had developed an imagination variously described as "ecstatic,""surreal,""fantastic,""mythic," etc. That same year the American poet Donald Hall began to write poetry in a new way, with both eyes closed, guided by hunch and impulse. The first result was his poem "The Long River." The poem's compelling, almost dreamlike quality seems to be rooted in the prehistoric past, the unconscious underworld thought of today as dead and gone. May Swenson's "God" is also about the search for something big. The two poems, laid side by side, reveal the two great mythological substrata, identified by Joseph Campbell, upon which all religions are erected, the Bronze-Age mythology and the Syro-Arabian mythology. John Hollander's "The Great Bear" and Galway Kinnell's "The Bear" also illustrate these substrata. The first seems to articulate the failure of Syro-Arabian mythology to seize and transform the imagination, while the second poem discovers the old Bronze-Age mythology rising up out of the psyche in what is called a terrible waking dream. All four poems are about the quest for something usually signified by the word "God." The cultural surround out of which these four poems come is that of modern consciousness. The new imagination, variously demonstrated in all four of these poems is, then, the oldest imagination known. (TD)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the International Conference on Myth and Fantasy (Atlanta, GA, October 25-27, 1991).