Plumbing what the poet Michael Palmer calls “the dimension of the Spirit, with that troublesome, rebarbative capital letter,” Norman Finkelstein’s On Mount Vision asks how and why the sacred has remained a basic concern of contemporary experimental poets in our secular age. By charting the wandering, together and apart, of poetry and belief, Finkelstein illustrates the rich tapestry formed by the warp and woof of poetry, and the play of Gnosticism, antinomianism, spiritualism, and shamanism, which have commonly been regarded as heretical and sometimes been outright suppressed.
This beautifully written work begins with an overview of the spiritual problematics found in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American poetry. Traveling slightly outside of the realm of the contemporary, Finkelstein’s discussions of Emerson, Whitman, and Eliot yield to close readings of the works of Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer, Ronald Johnson, Michael Palmer, Susan Howe, Nathaniel Mackey, and Armand Schwerner. In restoring verse to its place alongside scripture, Finkelstein reminds us why the sacred remains crucial to our understanding of postmodern American poetry.