Poetry, Province, and World
Presented at the CiRCE National Conference 2022.
This session will observe the relationship between province and world from the perspective of what poetry knows. Poet Czeslaw Milosz refers to the relationship this way: “We apprehend the human condition (the world) with pity and terror not in the abstract but always in relation to a given place and time, in one particular province, one particular country” (The Witness of Poetry).
William Blake saw and expressed the same idea this way:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
Finally, James Taylor enlarges the widening concentric circles of knowing ever further: “To learn to read by first learning to listen to the voice in the book of nature, which includes our own human nature, was the first task of the monk, as a prerequisite for taking up later the book of Scripture…one cannot really read and know the words—the signs of things—without first a knowledge of the things themselves, which we must come to love. The pre-Christian audience of the Homeric and Virgilian epics and the unlettered peasants of the Christian, premodern world could never have grasped, as they did, the spiritual dimensions of the poets in the first case and the supernatural teaching of the apostles and disciples in the second, had they not already read deeply first in the book of nature” (Poetic Knowledge).