1st int'l forum on process poetry finds harmony between Chinese, American poets

(Xinhua) 08:21, November 25, 2021

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 24 (Xinhua) -- The First International Forum on Process Poetry was jointly hosted last weekend by the Cobb Institute, the Institute for Postmodern Development of China and the Center for Process Studies, to share the contributions of "process poets" and explore the question: What Are Poets for in the Age of Ecological Civilization?

Held online, the weekend-long forum brought together poets, academics and thought-leaders from both sides of the Pacific to share insights from East and West as process poetry moves beyond the industrial context of "modern" and "post-modern" poetry into a more ecological understanding of life in the world.

Philosopher and theologian, Dr. Jay McDaniel, and advisory board member of the Institute for Postmodern Development of China, described process poetry, "A process poem, like any poem, is an event, a happening, a lure for feeling. Or, it is 'a plant growing wildly in our eyes' so that our souls can grow, too. It is verbal music." He explained to Xinhua Tuesday, and, to his ears, "music is what feelings sound like."

McDaniel felt that process poetry evokes a sense of connection that extends well beyond the human world, creating a web between "hills and rivers, trees and stars, plants and animals."

Andrew Schwartz, from the Center for Process Studies, said process poetry enables readers to become more attentive to the beauty of nature -- the sublime and the particular -- like "the mountain range and the dragonfly wing."

But far from simply idealizing nature, process poetry encompasses the pain of nature as well, the "reality of decay and dissolution," which process philosophy pioneer, Alfred North Whitehead, called the "perpetual perishing" of things.

"I would argue that poetry, like music, is an expression of feeling," explained Schwartz. "If poetry expresses feelings, and feelings are fundamental to reality, then poetry is a truly important practice in the nature of things," he said, calling process thought a "metaphysic of compassion."

Process poets pen poems that seek to bring humanity closer to a more intense "lived experience" by liberating them from the empty homilies, stale patterns, and tired cliches of everyday existence by revealing the amazement and wonder of life's peculiarities.

"Composing a poem is like sitting in the presence of a mountain, hearing the water, and bursting into tears ... Even if they burst into tears, there is a joy in the bursting," explained McDaniel.

Chinese poet and forum keynote speaker, Bai Ya, felt that process poetics is an organic fusion of process philosophy and traditional Chinese culture, which both share the emphasis of "harmony between man and nature."

Ya believed that as the process poets return to their mission with the creative motivation of ecological heart, it will be possible for poetry to "avoid technicalization, industrialization, and commercialization of culture."

He said that the powerful spirit of modern poetry has "ignited a new poetry consciousness which is also defined as Sino-Western Process Poetics," because ecological civilization rethinks and innovates industrial civilization.

John Cobb said there is no conflict between rigorous thinking and poetic expression. The American theologian, philosopher, and environmentalist is often regarded as the preeminent scholar in the field of process philosophy and process theology, the school of thought associated with the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead.

"Poets are often thinkers. But they are thinkers who pay close attention to the emotions that particular verbal expressions arouse," he said. He believed that serious poets want the finely crafted words they use to evoke deep emotions that "open their auditors or readers to neglected aspects of their experience" and enliven their lives and thought to their fullest potential.

The forum complied a collection of process poems and papers that included words of wisdom and insight from many process poets from China and the United States. 

(Web editor: Shi Xi, Liang Jun)


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