View Full Version : EPIPHANY

James Hercules Sutton
March 25th, 2016, 02:36 AM

The word abused most by poets nowadays is "epiphany.". It means “something invisible that emerges from something visible.” My peers don’t remember this religious word requires God’s Grace for actualization. They use it to mean any eureka moment, particularly one that produces a warm personal gesture of satisfaction from a poet to himself. I’m against misuse of words, as it leads to uncertain outcomes.
The classic case is the word “pnevma.” Ancient Greeks believed pnevma, “breath,” was life’s essence, since it went obviously missing when one died. Later Greeks abstracted “breath” into “spirit,” surmising that, at death, breath went somewhere in particular. Then “spirit” became “Holy Spirit.” The way “breath” becomes “God” demonstrates how debasement of a single word can ruin a pantheon. That’s enough to make me careful.
My American peers are on an egg hunt for epiphany. I don’t fault them for writing what they know; the alternative lacks verisimilitude. Tiny moments are worth preserving, in the hands of Emily Dickinson. Interesting people write interesting things, no matter how impoverished their lives are.
Uninteresting people write uninteresting things that crowd out interesting things. That may be because uninteresting readers make uninteresting things popular, since there are so many of both. But this is unlikely, since there few regular readers of poetry and few of these buy books, The simplest explanation is that pretentiousness kills art.
I blame the creative writing industry. Even at its beginning, there were “Workshop poems.” “Self-absorbed” puts it mildly; it’s more like examining lint in one’s own naval. 328 programs produce them and hire one anothers' graduates to do it.
Since they no longer have any other social function, certified public poets haunt universities, which nest them to hatch large rare eggs, preferably gold. Such husbandry been going on since Paul Engle invented it and the University of Iowa went along to generate a surplus from a low-cost graduate program that could be diverted to released time for faculty conducting unsponsored research in STEM subjects. Stanton Arthur Coblentz wrote about it in The Poetry Circus; That was in 1967. It’s still a circus.
“Poetry school” raises guttural guffaws in France, where poets are born, not raised. But nature and nurture are siamese twins, and separating them is dangerous. Poets need to know their craft, its best examples, and how to smell roses. A poet that doesn’t has nothing but talent. Eliot says that isn’t enough, after age 21.
It’s not poets’ fault that media have usurped poetry’s function, creating culture in the act of transmitting it. It is their fault that their programs have no curriculum and consist of apprentices lambasting one another, which turns half of them into under-achievers. Universities are to blame, too, for eschewing standards. This began around 1965, when they succumbed to credit hour economics, substituted prestige for merit, and abandoned students to each other (Teaching Assistants).
It’s unlikely that poetry can be improved by imposing standards, but there must be some worth teaching, since quality has a way of jumping out of the pack. Political correctness hasn’t helped. It holds that everything has merit, as long as it has redeeming social importance. But aesthetics have little to do with social importance. Soviet insistence on Social Realism proves art that’s useful isn’t art at all.
America’s lapse into Stalinism takes the form of social justice. This denigrates the canon; Langston Hughes is as good as Shakespeare. Quality doesn’t matter where the goal is equity; everything else is disposable. That was inevitable, too, in a mass culture where everything is disposable.
The good news is that the Internet is changing poetry, just as it changes everything else, by connecting all to every. Literary magazines are no longer gate keepers; every poet is a publisher. Poetry is free for download, as should be, since it was never made to sell. Bloggers help one another without benefit of high clergy. Everything is available instantly to anyone. The circus faces competition from outside the tent. This is bound to move poetry into the life of its time. It hasn’t been so since Robert Browning.
It’s unlikely that the Internet will improve quality. My guess is that quality will sink as participation increases. If I sound like a Tory curmudgeon, it’s not that I’m in love with the Eighteenth Century, when “quality” and “social class” were synonyms. It’s because “quality” and“happiness”are the same. Both are “doing all that you can with all of your talents according to the highest ideals,” said Epicurus. The result isn’t an epiphany, but could produce a high plateau experience for those who can do it.

March 25th, 2016, 06:23 PM

The word abused most by poets nowadays is "epiphany.". It means “something invisible that emerges from something visible.”

By definition, the third listed by dictionary.com is : a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.

How is the use of the word, within the parameters of its definition, an overuse or abuse of the word, especially in cases where the writer has not stated religious or philosophical leanings? By applying a requirement of divine intervention to the word, it negates almost all circumstances in which the word can be employed. Thus relegating its use to the descriptions of saints, gods, and others of similar ilk. That being said, what then would be the point of even having the word. There are reasons for multiple definitions, so the words survive.

An idea coming out of no where, while doing something mundane, such as walking the dog or mowing the lawn. Consider the reasons why these moments happen. Because we aren't thinking about the activity, our brains wander and we wonder. At these moments our brains are at their most fluid. Unseen patterns emerge and connections ignite. How, but its stated, documented definitions, is that not an epiphany on a personal level?

An epiphany signals a moment of extreme intellectual, creative, or spiritual clarity, the first step toward greater ideals and enlightenment. Who are we to determine what the proper circumstances make those moments epiphanies. It is subjective to the individual. And there are intellectual epiphanies. Einstein and Hawking, both being excellent examples.

Also, what are the parameters and circumstances determining the poets who are overusing epiphany. Is it through interviews, commentary, forum discussions, examples of the poets' work itself? It is an interesting concept, but I could use a little more information.

- D. the T. of P.B.

March 25th, 2016, 06:33 PM

It’s unlikely that the Internet will improve quality. My guess is that quality will sink as participation increases. If I sound like a Tory curmudgeon, it’s not that I’m in love with the Eighteenth Century, when “quality” and “social class” were synonyms. It’s because “quality” and“happiness”are the same. Both are “doing all that you can with all of your talents according to the highest ideals,” said Epicurus. The result isn’t an epiphany, but could produce a high plateau experience for those who can do it.

I'm just passing through to point out, first, I agree with Darkkin, and second, quality and happiness are most definitely not the same...but alas, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, so you are allowed to yours, and by reading and responding, I am possibly giving you some semblance of acknowledgment and self-worth, so hey, at least there is that as well. My response may not be a quality one, but perhaps the fact you are getting responses, will give you happiness

March 25th, 2016, 06:51 PM
Context and permutation determine the perceived, inherent definitions of words, the reader being the final judge as to which definition best applies. Yes, the word has its origins in Middle English religious context, roughly 1275 - 1325, but the widely accepted definition of the word shifted when the intuitive and intellectual constructs were applied, bringing a deified word within reach of common men.

Call me sentimental, but I honestly think, that by having access to a word that describes the elusive phenomena that are epiphanies, people as a whole, are able to identify such occurrences more readily. Thusly, we are then able to act upon the idea before the moment is lost.

- D. the T.

March 26th, 2016, 02:19 AM
Interesting. My son is a cerebral, educated priest in the Episcopsl church but this is how I perceive 'Epiphany"

In many Protestant churches, the season of Epiphany extends from January 6 until Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. The last Sunday of the Epiphany is celebrated as Transfiguration Sunday. I will come back to this as I find it especially intriguing. I am agnostic in spite of my son's beliefs.

March 26th, 2016, 02:23 AM
^^ This is the original definition of the word. ^^

So the question then becomes, what definition will people provide when asked. The first, the second, or the third?

March 26th, 2016, 02:35 AM
The epiphany of Jesus is one of the great events in the life of Christ and subsequently celebrated by the church. I live in a Spanish speaking world,

Across the world, the day's festivities vary. In the Spanish speaking world Epiphany is known as Dia de los Reyes (Three Kings' Day). In Mexico, for instance, crowds gather to taste the Rosca de Reyes - Kings' bread. In other countries, a Jesus figurine is hidden in the bread.
Ten facts about the Feast of the Epiphany

The three Kings (Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar) represented Europe, Arabia and Africa respectively.
Hundreds of years ago, roast lamb was traditionally served at Epiphany in honour of Christ and the three Kings' visit.
Whoever finds the small statue of a baby Jesus hidden inside their slice of the Rosca de reyes throws a party on Candlemas in February.
In some European countries, children leave their shoes out the night before to be filled with gifts, while others leave straw for the three Kings' horses.
According to Greek Orthodox Church's traditions, a priest will bless the waters by throwing a cross into it as worshippers try to retrieve it.
In Bulgaria too, Eastern Orthodox priests throw a cross in the sea and the men dive in - competing to get to it first.
In Venice a traditional regatta that started as a joke in the late 70s has been incorporated in the celebrations of Epiphany Day.
In Prague, there is a traditional Three Kings swim to commemorate Epiphany Day at the Vltava River.
In New York, El Museo del Barrio has celebrated and promoted the Three Kings' Day tradition with an annual parade for more than three decades. Thousands take part in the procession featuring camels, colorful puppets and floats.
The day's activities involve singing holiday carols called aguinaldos.

March 26th, 2016, 02:41 AM
I was talking with my brother-in-law earlier today, he's an ordained minister, and out of curiosity, I asked him about the meaning of epiphany. His first response was the third and most common definition of the word, his second, the original definition. I live in the middle of Northern Nowhere America, so it's interesting to see how it varies, not only by person, but by region, as well.

March 26th, 2016, 03:54 AM
epiphany |iˈpifənē|
noun ( pl. -nies) (also Epiphany)
the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Matthew 2:1–12).
• the festival commemorating this on January 6.
• a manifestation of a divine or supernatural being.
• a moment of sudden revelation or insight. — (I would suggest that poets tend to think of the word in these terms. That the poem carries a deeper insight to be realized that is below the surface level of the poem's story line. Or that there might even be levels of concern regarding the story-line in the poem's presentation depending on the viewpoint of the reader or even their age in the depth of understanding toward the feeling(s) being presented by the poet.) The more interesting aspects of words is that they are never used as a single unit. So the meaning of words in general is derived from the grouping of words for a common good in their overall understanding. Intent is derived through context and not just by denotation; it also involves suggestion and connotation. / A poet friend// RH Peat

epiphanic |ˌepəˈfanik| adjective
ORIGIN Middle English : from Greek epiphainein ‘reveal.’ The sense relating to the Christian festival is via Old French epiphanie and ecclesiastical Latin epiphania.

March 26th, 2016, 04:06 AM
The third definition is by and large the most common occurence and usage of the word. While the other definitions are also accurate, they do not negate the accepted parameters of the word as it is used by writers. It doesn't take an epiphany to recognize an epiphany because we have word that defines that abstracle construct. By its very innate characterstics it illuminates itself.

March 26th, 2016, 10:20 PM
After reading this through a few times I still can't quite decide if it's claiming a Christian origin for the term, or only that the term requires divine inspiration, but allowing for the case that some people might accept other sources except the Christian Deity. I would need more precise references to accept the former, but a quick google has lead me to consider that such an origin is possible. I'm not even positive this is really the main point of the piece. I'm not one to require a strictly linear argument, but this one seems to lead me into side alleys and dead ends purposelessly. I recommend a re-write which states the purpose more explicitly and connects to the point more efficiently.

March 26th, 2016, 10:41 PM
My take on this is that James is referencing the used car salesman approach by poets in using the word Epiphany in promotion of their work. It is the overuse of the word in an place completely out of context with the original intent of the word. I might be a simple guy, but my guess is some of you might be over thinking this.

March 26th, 2016, 10:52 PM
The crux of the matter then becoming a lack of context in which the word has been demonstratively overused, misused, or misconstrued by not only writers, but poets.

March 26th, 2016, 11:41 PM
The style of the piece invites over-thinking. Sets the thinking bar at the over level. Which btw, is, in my experience, the better of the two alternatives.