And so pray tell, what can you possibly mean, Billiam? Billabong? You prevaricator. You poetaster. You dissembler. You overly nuanced lover of ambiguity, ambivalence, paradox, and fence-sitting. You over-educated dabbler in pastoral pontification, pulpit puling, and pretentious poesy. You kindergarten theologian. You pre-verbal philosopher. You linguistic cad!
You might say. And you might say this with some justification. In fact, I might say this with some justification.
But take Wallace Stevens. Oh. One of the finest American poets of the 20th century. Take him, for example. Atheist. Literary philosopher. Fictive theologian. A man who comes to poetry. Who takes poetry to be the supreme or original path to meaning. Who says to us, “Look here. Listen here. Meaning is in story. Meaning is in poetry. It’s in the making of fiction. It’s in the making of a beautiful linguistic object.
“At the end of reason. Beyond all reason, there is imagination. And the linguistic imagination is where we live. Where we come alive. How we come alive. And the. Oh. The end of the linguistic imagination. The purpose of the thing. Is the beautiful itself. Is the figuring—the bringing—forth of linguistic objects that are themselves beautiful. That give us glimpses of the Beautiful, which is the source of all linguistic beauty.”
Or he says something like that.
And so, what is this guy after, you might ask. What makes this guy go?
The Beautiful. The Imaginative. The Fictive. The Made. The Other. Poetry. BIFMOP.
And what is BIFMOP? Where does it come from? How does it have such power, to make an insurance vice president and one of the finest American poets of the 20th century scurry after it like a March hare after its love-interest?
Well, haven’t we been over this ground? I mean, haven’t we already spoken at length about this? No matter how much he might protest, isn’t old Wally after God? God as we can find him in language? In linguistic objects? God as he manifests himself in Poetry? In the Beautiful. In story. As he manifests himself to our senses? To our sensibility? To our Imagination?
Isn’t God always the Other whom we seek? Always? In everything? In everyone? In all objects? In all discourse? Everywhere?
Whether we like it or not? Whether we admit to it or not? Whether we are aware of it or not?
Oh, Wally! Keep it up, I want to say to him. Never mind about God. Let’s not talk about God so much, if this is. If you have experienced something that has made you irrational on the subject. If something has happened to you as it has to me.
Just keep that poetry going! Keep that up, please. Keep up that making that is the rhyming we all do in the mind of God. The rhyming we all are after with the Word. With God’s Word. Through which he speaks all things.