Theologians of the Poetic Imagination: Rainer Maria Rilke and Wallace Stevens


  • Matthew del Nevo


Under this title I will be talking about two poets in particular and about poetry, I hope, in general. I will be talking about Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), the Austrian poet writing mostly in German, and Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), the American poet of Connecticut. The phrase 'theologians of the poetic imagination' is mine. It originally occurred to me as a description of Rilke's stance toward poetry and imagination. In this stance poetry and imagination are fundamentals and essentials of everything whichever way you look at it. As 'theologian', I envisaged the poet as an authoritative figure, and someone caught up with God - that is, with the ultimate unknowns - whether the presence of these or their absence.