'Only by imagination can the world be known,' writes Owen Barfield. 'And what is needed is.that the human mind should become increasingly aware of its own creative activity.' With the intent to consider the point where life and imagination meet (Barfield calls this intersection 'perception'), Barfield focuses the crux of Poetic Diction
on the study 'of poetry and the poetic element in all meaningful language.' Borrowing terminology from Coleridge, he divides the imagination into 'primary' and 'secondary' categories. The secondary imagination is at work on the making of meaning, the primary on the making of things. Poetic Diction
attempts to show how these two different kinds of making lead to an understanding of human consciousness and its evolution. Poetry hovers over this ongoing evolution, unable to alight until we are lifted above even the perpetual transformation of language itself. 'It is only when we have risen from beholding the creature into beholding creation that our mortality catches for a moment the music of the turning spheres,' he writes. Drawing from a letter Barfield wrote on the symbolism of the cross, this 'progressive incarnation of life in consciousness' is not only the essence of great poetry but also the intersection of true human being and divine love. 230 pp.
An Eighth Day View:
Poetic Diction, first published in 1928, begins by asking why we call a given grouping of words "poetry" and why these arouse "aesthetic imagination" and produce pleasure in a receptive reader. Returning always to this personal experience of poetry, Owen Barfield at the same time seeks objective standards of criticism and a theory of poetic diction in broader philosophical considerations on the relation of world and thought. His profound musings explore concerns fundamental to the understanding and appreciation of poetry, including the nature of metaphor, poetic effect, the difference between verse and prose, and the essence of meaning.
CONTRIBUTOR: Howard Nemerov.