From Geoffrey Hartman’s “‘Was it for this...?’ Wordsworth and the Birth of the Gods”:
“It was fear,” Vico remarks, “which created gods in the world, not fear awakened in men by other men, but fear awakened in men by themselves.” That fear, interpreted as self-astonishment, is then connected with figurative language, or with the idiom of our ancestors the giants. Blake also linked fear to figuration, though of a distorted kind. His visionary poems show a continual theogony whose ‘big bang’ is the self-astonishment of an imagination that shrinks from its own power and then abdicates it to the priests. By this recession it also produces the void described in the first lines of Genesis, and a God who has to create something from that nothing. Our present religiously reduced imagination continues to exnihilate creation, that is, to understand created nature as the product of a creator who has raised it from nothing (ex nihilo). The result is a flawed image of power that has inscribed itself in domestic, political, and religious institutions--it has become a second nature, and frozen the hierarchy of human and divine. (15-6)
It has everything to do with poetry. And with a Mexican ancestry that was always in crisis, fading, as it was in my household, into the dreams and visions of those descendants who would rather not be quite so visible in terms of where the family came from. When Helena Maria Viramontes said to me, "you got out of the mining camps and you got to Cornell of all places and you went in this very strange direction, remember? those British poets, the Victorians, the Romantics, I didn't get it" --it looked to her like more whitewashing, I know. It wasn't, but it looked like it. More Kraft macaroni & cheese over cheese enchiladas at dinner, more name changing. More hair-dying. More better English. More nondenominational church over First Holy Communion. More of the kind of freedom you get when you're invisible. But you don't just step into those spaces as though you are transformed by consuming them, wearing them, speaking and writing them. There is worship involved. There is worship.
And with it, sacrifice. Which makes worship loathsome to its roots--weorthscipe, Anglo Saxon for worthiness--for there is always something unconvincing about about worth as it hangs in the balance and awaits the tipping of its scales. And when isn't it suspended this way, in commerce, in merit, in the stranglehold of the stratosphered working classes where the cost of granting worth might really be tantamount to an enthusiasm for your own slavery? You can't afford not to be skeptical of every dream that comes your way. Or rather, you can't afford to believe that your reality isn't just someone else's more powerful dream. (Which is poetry.) You deserve as much as the next person: you're worth at least that. But even as a kid you accept that it doesn't much work out that way, so you don't worship easily and when you do you expect you'll pay for it in disillusionment. And these were not all home lessons: my father still pays rent on a company-owned house with his company paycheck and is resigned to calling it a better deal than most. The question of legitimate authority, the question of what to buy, of what to believe, of worthiness: these were church lessons.
from The Annunciation Notebook, "Letters to JM":
"I’m trying to address something else here. A question I have about friendship and love between people, about what St. Ignatius calls a 'perfect indifference towards creatures,' and about what friendship, love, and disinterestedness towards creatures actually look like. 'Love for God leads to a greater love for others,' you said. But I had no love for God. When I arrived, it was me, my anger, and you. That was all.
There's still an Everlast evangelist spewing Jesus from his mouth all over my head, so I'm still ducking and cringing. When you asked me at the end of our first meeting, 'you do want to go to heaven?' I ducked. I didn’t have the courage to ask: and what makes you believe?--since the closest I could get to where you stood was an apprehensive, morbid curiosity. We were months away from easier conversation. I wasn't sure I'd be back. I said, 'I’m just trying to get it right here, first.' You nodded, nearly finishing my sentence for me as I said it, and held the door. Now I'm pretty sure you also winked."