The poems “Easter Wings” and “The Alter” by George Herbert are excellent examples of a particular interest of mine; words as art. For some time now I have noticed an attraction to artists that use language for more than their conventional method of communication. I’ll try not to spend my whole post talking about how beautiful I think words are, but I will attach a few links to show you what I mean.
What I think Herbert is discovering is another dimension of meaning. From what I understand of the rise of print culture people didn’t really have access to texts, then they did. Poetry was an auditory experience becoming a visual experience. These two poems are proof of this transition. I feel a sense of playfulness and experimentation when I read these poems. The subjects are sacred and the visual depictions are sacred, but the experience of reading it is sort of odd. I imagine these old scholarly renaissance men turning their books sideways and going “oh!” I wonder what the public reception of this innovation was like. From a little research it seems like this new perspective on poetry was well received and even popularized by Herbert.
“Herbert viewed the poem as both page and sound. This is particularly surprising as the idea of poem as a page was relatively modern for his time. Herbert's awareness of the poem's physicality was revolutionary. This resulted in his creation of iconic poems with physically emblematic structures”(Chan).
The structure created a new tool for emphasis and meaning. In “Easter Wings” for example the structure offers new possibility to the lines “most poor,” “most thin” and “with thee.” They are the shortest lines in the middle of each stanza and the end of a physical and representational end of a decline and beginning of an elevation (Siemens). Today this technique is called concrete poetry and was used by well-known poets like E.E. Cummings and Ezra Pound. I find this style exciting and indicative of the potential poetry has and the innovation of the renaissance. I simply find it beautiful.
Chan, Duana. "Cambridge Authors." Cambridge Authors RSS. University of Cambridge, n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2015. <http://www.english.cam.ac.uk/cambridgeauthors/herbert-influence/>.
Siemens, Ray. "IMAGINING THE MANUSCRIPT AND PRINTED BOOK IN A DIGITAL AGE." (2010): Xii-iii. University of Victoria, 2010. Web. 20 Sept. 2015. <http://web.uvic.ca/~siemens/pub/2010-Imagining.pdf>.