Precipitations: Contemporary American Poetry as Occult Practice

Overview

Precipitations traces the influence of the occult on contemporary American poetry and positions it within the larger tradition of Romanticism. Devin Johnston focuses on the works of H.D., Robert Duncan and James Merrill, as well as Susan Howe and Nathaniel Mackey, to show how the occult, in its resistance to dialectical thinking, proved attractive to these poets and offered a means by which traditional notions of authorship could be challenged. Johnston argues that for these writers, "the poem is not produced by ...
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Overview

Precipitations traces the influence of the occult on contemporary American poetry and positions it within the larger tradition of Romanticism. Devin Johnston focuses on the works of H.D., Robert Duncan and James Merrill, as well as Susan Howe and Nathaniel Mackey, to show how the occult, in its resistance to dialectical thinking, proved attractive to these poets and offered a means by which traditional notions of authorship could be challenged. Johnston argues that for these writers, "the poem is not produced by the individual mind, but precipitates out of a complex network of shared circumstances."

Yeats and Blake have central roles in this study, but whereas Yeats has long been associated with occultism as a literary phenomenon, Johnston argues that Blake’s Romantic organicism has offered a more compelling model for American poets in the latter half of the twentieth century. With close attention to the ways in which recent American poetry has been written and read, Precipitations examines the composition of particular poems within the context of broad debates concerning form, indeterminacy and authorship.

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What People Are Saying

Karen Ford
"Engaging and persuasive, this thoughtful study of occult poetics will be of interest to many of us who read and study contemporary American poetry."
Karen Ford, Associate Professor of English, University of Oregon
Karen Ford
"Engaging and persuasive, this thoughtful study of occult poetics will be of interest to many of us who read and study contemporary American poetry."
Lisa Jarnot
“In Precipitations, Devin Johnston carefully charts the intersections of Western occult traditions and the poetical practices of several contemporary masters. Such a vital and clarifying study is long overdue. This is an essential text for any reader seeking a deeper understanding of the role of the Creative Imagination in 20th century poetry.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819565617
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 6/24/2002
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 6.58 (w) x 8.66 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
1 Introduction: The Sleep of Reason 1
2 H. D.'s War Trilogy: Poetry Becomes Telepathy 22
3 "Sublime Undoing": Robert Duncan and Dictation 49
4 Resistance to the Message: James Merrill's Occult Epic 99
5 Risk: Recent Approaches to Sublimity 128
Afterword 157
Notes 163
Bibliography 185
Index 195
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