On Poetic Faith

The word “genius” comes, etymologically, from the Latin for “to beget,” and was originally a word that meant “tutelary spirit attendant on a person.”

In Poetic Faith, David Mutschlecner becomes our genius, a tutelary spirit that guides us into the plenitude of poetry.

David Mutschlecner’s meditations demonstrate the mutual suffusion of metaphysics and poetics. His terse essays fearlessly take on the most daunting subjects: beauty, signification, revelation, presence, relationship. He asks the questions that perplex all of us, all the time, like, “How does anything exist?”

Mutschlecner’s responses to these questions take shape with disarming humility. His inquiries transpire inside the clearest language and progress with a guileless, un-ironic depth of care and commitment.

Suddenly, the reader finds herself in the midst of a universe that peels back its skin to reveal its living core.

No, that’s not quite right, for nothing in the universe that Mutschlecner studies so sensitively could ever be that atomized or that stable. He finds grace in the tug and contingency of life, for Mutschlecner sees such contingency as a site of transformation: “Poetic faith says that nothing of true value is ever lost, it is rather given new life.” The self-emptying of kenosis ceases to be sacrifice in any traditional, self-denying sense and instead becomes liberating surrender. Where an old concept threatens to stagnate, Mutschlecner’s gift is to release it into new identity and function.

Such release also brings what had formerly been isolated and dogmatized into profound relationality. Mutschlecner’s original insight into metaphor, for example, is to jump over the is/is not of conventional metaphoric construction and understand that metaphor comprises the “power of relationship through which things reveal themselves.” Poetry, like theology, comes into being through reciprocity. Revelation, then, is not a transcendence that ruptures the intimacy of thought and feeling, but an opening into what Mutschlecner calls sublime community. There, the transcendent doesn’t lift us above, but intensifies relationship, intensifies the everything of a richly interconnected meaning where meaning “is being” and thus the “mystery of vitality is the mystery of community is the mystery of commonality is the mystery of poetry.”

Here, we join together as a community of readers and makers of poetry who understand, like David Mutschlecner, that our “interconnectedness is logos itself.”

To read is to write is to discover over and over the occasion of poetic faith. These terse essays embrace that wonder; they bequeath us not merely with Mutschlecner’s acute intelligence, but also with his tenderness for made thing and maker as they interact and reciprocally shape each other.

Here is a new grammar, the syntax whose copula finally, fully conjoins as the “simple is of any of us, when it is cupped and loved, becomes the inclusive Is of all of us.” 

This text originally appeared as the introduction to Mutschlecner's Poetic Faith (2016)

Elizabeth Robinson's Counterpart (Ahsahta Press, 2012)

Elizabeth Robinson's Counterpart (Ahsahta Press, 2012)

Elizabeth Robinson is the author of over a dozen books of poetry, including Three Novels (Omnidawn, 2011), Counterpart (Ahsahta Press, 2012) and On Ghosts (Solid Objects, 2013). She attended Bard College, Brown University, and the Pacific School of Religion. A previous winner of the National Poetry Series and a three-time winner of the Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative Poetry, she is also the recipient of grants from the Fund for Poetry and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts.

Robinson co-edits Instance Press and the Etherdome Chapbook series. She has taught at Naropa University; the University of Colorado, Boulder; the University of San Francisco; and the Iowa Writers' Workshop.