Apostate, sing this world forth: Avant-mythopoetic encounters with doubt, chaos, and community
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Apostate, Sing This World Forth: Avant-Mythopoetic Encounters with Doubt, Chaos, and Community uses concepts from chaos theory to articulate connections between innovative poetics and the ancient activity of mythmaking. In a secular age, I argue, poetry takes on functions myth once performed, namely, to articulate disruptive, irrational experiences into language. I adopt chaos math's concept of attractors, sites that mark patterns that develop in systems, to treat "myths" as locations around which texts cluster, with the texts themselves being iterations of the core myths they indicate. We can then treat modern and contemporary work as genuinely mythopoetic, creating a world through interpretation, with living poets participating in predecessors' projects rather than merely inheriting them. Apostate 's project, to recover modern and contemporary poetry's mystical, oracular, demiurgic, and divine aspects for intellectual inquiry, presents poetry as a kind of discursive laboratory where we can observe how the alogical and visionary behaves, and develop more useful ways of speaking to it and about it. Beginning from work on queer materiality and class in Hart Crane's The Bridge , I show how it privileges mobility, marginality and casual contact, imagining an America that acts like a queer counterpublic. Crane takes on the transcendent but persistently turns away from it toward banal realities of urban American life, a pattern usefully limned by Kierkegaard's notion of faith as movement into the world rather than away from it. Tracing images of skeletons, corpses, and bones through T. S. Eliot's writing, I argue that the Eliotic poet's access to history comes from his being curiously dead. The conversion staged in Ash-Wednesday appears here as a move into transhistorical community, which, in line with Jean-Luc Nancy's thought, demands internal difference and exists to preserve it; moving forward from recent scholarship on Eliot and popular culture, I show Eliot as socially-committed throughout his career. I next explore how mythopoesis operates in wartime via H.D.'s Trilogy , drawing together three lines of inquiry in H.D. scholarship – feminist/gender studies, spirituality, and the question of political engagement – to show how the poem implicates masculinity and femininity in one another. The poem takes issue with divisive, purificatory trends in modern lifestyles and modernist poetics – including the imagist aesthetic H.D. helped to develop – and offers a mythic model for incorporating radical differences in political and corporeal bodies without resorting to war. Jack Spicer crosses Orpheus and Eurydice, figures for the poet and muse, together in the single trope of headlessness, positing a queer poetics in which one does not confront the muse face-to-face but experiences her bodily, animating but intractable to ordinary knowledge. My analysis complicates existing critical interpretations - and Spicer's own insistence – that poesis is apersonal. The ease of queering Orpheus and Eurydice's story, as Homage to Creeley does, suggests a latent queerness in any model of inspiration where the Outside speaks from deep within the poet, encouraging greater dialogue between poetics and queer theory.