Modernist Alchemy

Modernist Alchemy

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The occult has been a source of both ideas and images for modern poets from W. B. Yeats to James Merrill. Poets as diverse as Ezra Pound, H.D., Sylvia Plath, Robert Duncan, and Ted Hughes were both fascinated by, and skeptical of, such phenomena as alchemy and astrology, Ouija boards and Tarot cards, Indian mysticism, the kabbalah, and gnosticism. All of these poets, Timothy Materer says, approached the occult with a modernist sophistication and a self-consciousness that are not entirely credulous nor entirely skeptical. Modernist Alchemy takes a close look at the work of twentieth-century poets whose use of the occult constitutes a recovery of discarded beliefs and modes of thought: Yeats and Plath try to dismiss conventional religion, Hughes captures a sense of adventure, H.D. seeks to liberate repressed concepts, while Duncan and Merrill hunt for a lost understanding of sexual identity which will allow for androgyny and homosexuality. Materer ends with Merrill, whose attempt to suspend both doubt and belief marks the culmination of the poetic style initiated by Yeats.(517) As the god of alchemy and linguistic play, Hermes is again an inspiration for H.D.a#39;s poetry. Writing of the Egyptian God ... (I have used my initials H.D. consistently as my writing signet or sign-manualaquot; (Tribute 66). Dwelling on the variousanbsp;...

Title:Modernist Alchemy
Author:Timothy Materer
Publisher:Cornell University Press - 1995


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