Monday, April 26, 2021

The Two Herberts

cover Spanish Edition of Pan Cogito

Just because two poets share the same last name doesn’t mean there’s much to compare. Brunette Coleman was by the way a pseudonym used by the poet Philip Larkin. Rosamond Smith and Lauren Kelly were aliases employed by sometime poet Joyce Carol Oates. Oates is asking for it with the title of her most recent offering in The New Yorker, “This is Not a Poem,” despite the work's obvious craft. "Nor is it a poem where a cracked mirror yields a startled face" exemplify the poem's strident beauty. But let’s take the two Herberts, George and Zbigniew. One was a 17thmetaphysical poet and contemporary of Marvell and Donne, the other a minimalist who’d fought in the Polish resistance during World War II. Comparing the two initially appears to be a throw of the dice. It’s also a akin to comparing the German idealists philosophers Kant and Hegel with logical positivists like Bertrand Russell or A.J. Ayer who discountenanced the notion of unverifiable truth. Actually, it turns out that Zbigniew considered himself a distant relative of George which is tantamount to saying Fichte was related to Frege or Carnap. It’s actually fascinating that the Polish poet may have had some of his English ancestor's DNA. Zbigniew is famous for Mr. Cogito, the book that emanated from the poem, “The Envoy of Mr. Cogito” (1973) that in turn owes its provenance to Descartes “cogito ergo sum.” "The Envoy of Mr. Cogito" famously begins, "Go where those others went to the dark boundary/for the golden fleece of nothingness your last prize." One of George Herbert’s most famous books is The Temple: Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations (1633). “Cogito ergo sum” first appeared in Descartes Discourse on Method (1637). Can it be said that George and Zbigniew were at least drinking from the same well?

Read "Limbo" by Francis Levy, Evergreen Review

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