Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Don't have it in front of me right now, but one thing I'm meditating on today is the interview Eve Grubin conducts with Fanny Howe in that new issue of Lyric I received yesterday: how Howe seems to think of poetry primarily and brodaly as a means of mental organization, a structure similar in kind if not degree to organized religion. Some fascinating comments on being a half-atheist Catholic as well, and how in spite of everything she believes the Catholic Church still offers one of the most workable maps of human reality. As a three-quarters atheist Jew I have a little trouble with Howe's Catholicism except as a kind of organizing fact for her poetry, an interpretation she herself might endorse. She's a convert so her Catholicism is really a peculiar mutant thing and not the catalogue of bizarre imagery and the palpable presence of God that I find usually characterizes Catholic writers. Maybe I just expect a Catholic's actual writing to be lush and tangible yet freighted with a burden of numinousness. Howe's severity and restraint align her more with a mystic like Simone Weil, while her investigative moralism reminds me of Graham Greene. Her book The Wedding Dress is illuminating in these respects and her career as a whole provides I suppose a welcome example of leftist religiosity. Religion in general as a rigid means of organizing mass mentalities continues to give me the jibblies. But when an individual makes use of doctrine to organize her own idiosyncratic experience I get more interested.

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