WHAT POETS USED TO KNOW: Poetics - Mythopoesis - Metaphysics
Publisher: Angelico Press / Sophia Perennis
Genre: Poetry - Metaphysics
ISBN: 9781597311717, $17.95, 210 pp.
I am going to deviate from how I usually start my reviews (quoting from the back cover) in that the back cover information is basically endorsements for the book, and although they are right on, do not tell us much about the book or its author.
What Poets Used to Know is not an easy, light read in any manner, shape or form and probably will not appeal to the average reader. I am also from San Francisco, have a background in comparative religions, Homer, Basho, Kundalini Yoga, Carlos Castanada, Alan Watts, Gurdjieff and taught hatha yoga for many years and found this book quite a challenge.
It's an eclectic collection of twenty-one chapters having to do with poetry with a strong leaning toward the metaphysical. Allow me list some of the chapters: 1) Poetry, the Siege Perilous; 4) Mythopoesis; 7) The Metaphysical Uses of Metaphor, Kenning, Riddle and Rune in the Teutonic Tradition; 11) The Dark Side of Poetry: Terence McKenna, DMT, the Techno-Elves, and the Deconstruction of the Human Form; 12) Sufism, Spiritual Romance, and the Union of East and West; 14) An Exegesis of the Prologue to William Blake's The Marriage of Heave and Hell; 16) The City of Byzantium in the Symbology of William Butler Years: 19) The Curse of Poetic Subjectivism.
If you're a serious student of poetry or a seeker of truth on a spiritual path, you may find Charles Upton's writing of value, This book is not to be read lightly; it's more a book to be studied a little at a time. It is clear from the start that Charles Upton is an extremely well-educated, consummate writer and the quality of the book (its cover, paper, print, editing) are far above average.
For the educated reader, a reader interested in metaphysical studies, What Poets Used to Know will be worth the time and energy, adding to their collective knowledge.
Upton quoted one of my favorite haiku poems from Japanese poet, Basho, to demonstrate phanopoeia (the power of poetry to make us see images with our mind's eye): "An old pond - Then a frog jumps in, Kerplop!" However, the interpretation with which I am familiar is slightly different: "The old pond - A frog jumps in - Plop!" Regardless, yes, you can see it in your mind's eye.
For the rest of us, much of what Upton has to say may not appeal to the average reader. You know who you are.
Reviewed by Kaye Trout - March 12, 2017