School of Athens (1510) Raphael

III ‘Poetry: Word Made Flesh, Flesh Made Word'

The Power of the Word International Conference 3
12–14 September 2013
University of Gdańsk, Poland.

Potw Logo Blue 100The third Power of the Word conference was hosted by the Institute of English and American Studies of the University of Gdańsk in September 2013. It attracted participants from the USA, UK and other European countries, with a notable group of Polish scholars also in attendance. The conference focused on poetry in relation to themes of revelation, incarnation and human embodiment under two main headings. ‘Word made flesh’ explores and examines claims that poetry might have theophanic value, opening up a connection with a transcendent world. ‘Flesh made word’ on the other hand addressed questions of poetry as translating into words the embodied self in such a way that the corporeal self is reborn, recreated through the power of words.

Keynote speakers and short paper presentations explored a wide range of topics, including:

  • Poetry human and divine
  • Word made flesh in poetry (instancing Richard Crashaw, T. S. Eliot, George Herbert, Stanislaw Lubormirski, Andrew Marvell, Metaphysical poets)
  • Flesh made poetic word (Czesław Miłosz, Oskar Miłosz)
  • Philosophical perspectives on poetry as word made flesh/flesh made word (Pindar, Heidegger, Jasper, Cixous)
  • Body and the material in the poetry of religious experience (Isaac Watts, R. S. Thomas, Karol Wojtyła)
  • Word, flesh and suffering (Georg Traki, Anna Swir, Miroslav Holub, Gerard Manley Hopkins)
  • Poetry, Incarnation and the mystery of language (Roman Brandstaetter, Elizabeth Jennings, David Jones)
  • Poetic interpretation of the bible (Racine)
  • Poetry and the sacramental imagination (R. S. Thomas, David Jones)
  • The spiritual becoming material in the poetic word (Jonathan Edwards, Eugeniusz Tkaczyszyn-Dycki, John Burnside)
  • Poetry, darkness and the via negativa (Ad Reinhart, Thomas Merton, Eugenio Montale)
  • Poetry in theology, theology in poetry (R. S. Thomas, Yves Bonnefoy, Rainer Maria Rilke, Renaissance poetry and iconography, Augustine of Hippo)

As always in these conferences, topics were addressed either as theoretical issues or through the lens of texts by individual writers and thinkers.

Keynote addresses and reworked and expanded short papers from the conference were collected in a third volume in the series with the title Poetic Revelations. Word Made Flesh Made Word. The Power of the Word III edited by Mark S. Burrows, Jean Ward, and Małgorzata Grzegorzewska (Routledge, 2017).

The conference also gave rise to two further collections of articles which explore, among many other themes, the works of Polish poets from the Baroque to the present era: Breaking the Silence: Poetry and the Kenotic Word edited by Malgorzata Grzegorzewska, Jean Ward and Mark Burrows (Peter Lang, 2015) and Striking the Chords of Spirit and Flesh in Polish Poetry: A Serendipity edited by Jean Ward, Maria Fengler and Malgorzata Grzegorzewska, (Gdansk University Press, 2016).

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