A world contaminated by corporate greed, the abject superficiality of social media celebrity, and the commodification of the self has not left art unpoisoned. Indeed, the arts have been co-opted by all of these. Rare is the art collector today who cultivates a collection the way one might a garden—with love and eyes opened to astonishment. Instead, art is seen as an investment. Even poetry, through the proliferation of MFA programs in creative writing, which the late Franz Wright so rightly vilified with prophetic rage, has been poisoned by the marketing of the self and the snobbish camaraderie of the academic egregore. Art is now just another product and the self a brand. Our invisible tragedy.
Yet it is precisely the invisible, though another kind of invisible, that is our concern here.
Sri Aurobino, the Indian philosopher and poet, was adamant about the prophetic role of the arts. Writing in the second decade of the twentieth century, he argued that “all art worth the name must go beyond the visible, must reveal, must show us something that is hidden, and in its total effect not reproduce but create.” William Blake, preceding Aurobindo by more than two-hundred years, articulated a position even more pointed: “Let every Christian as much as in him lies engage himself openly & publicly before all the World in some Mental pursuit for the Building up of Jerusalem.” Is there any other way to be a Christian? I think not.
Illustration by Laura Hennig Cabral
Art has the potential to create a new Gospel every day. Not a different one, but a new one, and this through the incarnational possible. I have always felt extreme irritation at the dismissal of imagination from poetry first proposed by John Ruskin with his notion of “the pathetic fallacy” that was perfected by the New Critics, internalized by Poststructuralism, and then turned into a kind of religion by the proponents of an amateurish Deconstruction that must have annoyed Jacques Derrida, one of the great negative theologians, to no end. The pathetic fallacy is neither. As Kathleen Raine has written, “It is not ‘the words on the page’ which create the god in question, but the reverse.” Most contemporary critics, however, would suggest that anyone proposing such an idea “be used for making atonement by sending him into the wilderness.” Sometimes only blood satisfies.
JESUS THE IMAGINATION was conceived on the Feast of St. Mary Magdalen, 2016, during a conversation at Stella Matutina Farm in Grass Lake, Michigan, with temperatures sweltering to ninety-seven degrees. That evening we chanted Divine Liturgy in the barn, broke bread, and swam beneath the stars in the darkness of the pond. Some of the participants of that conference are represented in these pages, some were present in spirit, and some were somehow awakened to the impulse by methods quite beyond my knowing.
Our intention was then, and is now, not altogether modest: the regeneration of Christian art and culture. But we believe such is possible only by grounding this regeneration in the primordial regeneration of the earth and all it contains that began at Golgotha: for without this there is no regeneration, only repetition and dissipation. This regeneration is always already happening; it calls us into the future and cautions us to resist retreating into the past. For backwards is the way of the fearful: St. Peter almost drowned following that approach. The Lord bids us walk with him on the sea. The call to regeneration, furthermore, is inherently parousaic. As Guillaume Apollinaire so accurately describes it, “que seuls le renouvellent ceux qui sont fondés en poésie”—only those will remake the world who are rooted in poetry.
Dare to see the heavenly country, brothers and sisters.
Blood. Spirit. Flesh.
At Stella Matutina Farm
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For those of you in the New York City area, please join us 25 July 2017 as we gather at a City and Kingdom event for Michael Martin on The Mystic, the Poet, and the Kingdom of God a reading and discussion connected to the journal with our friends from Plough Magazine, The Davenant Trust, Mere Orthodoxy, Solidarity Hall, along with Angelico Press. We’ll see you at 7 pm, Connolly’s, 121 West 45th Street, Manhattan.
VOLUME I: TABLE OF CONTENTS
Front cover image by EMI SHIGENO
The Invisible by MICHAEL MARTIN
Saturn Return by MATTHEW LIVERMORE
Reverberation by RUTH ASCH
Yurodivy by THERESE SCHROEDER-SHEKER
Three Poems by KATIE HARTSOCK
Two Poems by R. BRATTEN WEISS
Little Green Men against Muddy Red Creatures
by SEBASTIÁN MONTIEL and AARON RICHES
He is Real by JONATHAN McCORMACK
Fragments by TYLER DeLONG
Tabor by DEVAN MEADE DeCICCO
Hymns to the Night 5 (Excerpt) by NOVALIS (translated by JAMES RICHARD WETMORE)
Solesmes Bells by PHILIPPA MARTYR
The Benthic and the Celestial by SCOT F. MARTIN
Monks Break the Earth by MATTHEW LIVERMORE
Three Poems by TOM STURCH
Talking With Your Hands / Duende Dance by ISAK BOND
Word Hunger by ELIAS CRIM
Two Poems by FRANCIS VALENTINE
On the Edge of the Unthinkable: An Interview with Owen Barfield by JAMES RICHARD WETMORE
Two Poems by RUTH ASCH
Ash Wednesday Blues by MICHAEL K. KIVINEN
Poet or Priest? by ROMILO KNEŽEVIĆ
Three Poems by JOHN SLATER
Ultimate Reality and the Matter of John Cowper Powys by MICHAEL SAUTER
Three Poems by CHARLES UPTON
Three Poems by EMI SHIGENO
Two Poems by S.L. DAVIDSON
Prologue by SIMONE WEIL
A Spring Ending for the Winter’s Tale by FR. JONATHAN TOBIAS
Regeneration by HENRY VAUGHAN
Michael Martin is a biodynamic farmer, philosopher, theologian, poet, and musician. He is the author of The Incarnation of the Poetic Word: Theological Essays on Poetry and Philosophy/Philosophical Essays on Poetry and Theology and The Submerged Reality: Sophiology and the Turn to a Poetic Metaphysics as well as other works. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © Michael Martin