As I have previously mentioned, either here or on Facebook, my output of new poems has been unprecedentedly prolific during the past few months. This has been made possible by a mechanism that I have attributed to external help -- inspiration -- coming from the Muses, or the Holy Spirit, or perhaps sometimes from sources less wholesome. I will be reading a poem, or a prose text, and a word, or a group of words, will suddenly stand out from the original context to form the nucleus of a poem. The whole poem will be intuited -- nearly as a thing completed -- in this instant of awakening. In this process, I am left feeling as though I have been used as the conduit for the creation of a window to serve as a minor vision of revealed truth.
For this reason I was very taken by my reading of the first few pages of Christopher Rowland’s recent book, Blake and the Bible, in which he discusses William Blake’s creative methods:
Dr. Trusler had commissioned Blake to produce several paintings, but when he was sent the first for approval he took exception to Blake’s flights of imaginative fancy and the lack of naturalism, and demanded an explanation for the picture. Blake responded that he had ‘attempted every morning for a fortnight together to follow your Dictate’, but ‘have been compelled by my Genius or Angel to follow where he led’. In other words, the ideas were the result of a supernatural impulse. In response to Trusler’s request for an explanation, Blake responded in one of his eloquent statements of his art:
I really am sorry that you are fall’n out with the Spiritual World, Especially if I should have to answer for it. I feel very sorry that your Ideas & Mine on Moral Painting differ so much as to have made you angry with my method of Study. If I am wrong, I am wrong in good company. I had hoped your plan comprehended All Species of this Art, & Especially that you would not reject that Species which gives Existence to Every other, namely Visions of Eternity. You say that I want somebody to Elucidate my Ideas. But you ought to know that What is Grand is necessarily obscure to Weak men. That which can be made Explicit to the Idiot is not worth my care. The wisest of the Ancients consider’d what is not too Explicit as the fittest for Instruction, because it rouzes the faculties to act. I name Moses, Solomon, Esop, Homer, Plato. [p.6]
On page 9, Rowland explains that “in Blake’s use of the Bible, the original context of the various allusions is almost completely left behind as the new narrative is woven together. In this kind of interpretation the Bible is a stimulus rather than a template.” [emphasis added]
Rowland goes on to say that for Blake “art is not something to be deciphered” and that “Throughout his work Blake challenged the hegemony of reason.”
In Blake’s own words, “Vision or Imagination is a Representation of what Eternally Exists, Really & Unchangeably.”
The role of the poet, and the function of art, is to catapult the human mind out beyond the somnambulant state of ordinary consciousness, in order to ‘rouze’ an experience of the Real, which is the Eternal and the true Being of man. Exposing oneself to any true art, be it poetry or prose or visual, can excite the mind to participate in this process of creation.