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What Poets Used to Know

What Poets Used to Know

By Charles Upton

210 pp

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About the Book

From the days of the first shamans, through Homer, Dante, the traditional ballads, Rumi, Blake, Emily Dickinson and Lew Welch, poetry has been rooted in metaphysics. In What Poets Used To Know: Poetics, Mythopoesis, Metaphysics, Charles Upton presents poetry both as a set of contemplative techniques and as a key to the accumulated lore hoard of the human race. If The ABC of Reading had been written not by Ezra Pound but by Owen Barfield or René Guénon or Robert Graves, it might have looked something like this. What Poets Used To Know does what it can to restore poetry to its original theurgic function: the concentrated expression of human and spiritual truth.


“Dear Readers: Enter this book slowly, in the condition of awe, because it is a burning bush of recollection and transmission. Over decades, the poet Charles Upton has paid blood for an astonishingly sacramental and integrated artistry. His voice is movingly disarmed yet fierce. The author knows, cherishes and cultivates the linguistic and symbolic worlds of which he speaks. This volume consists of 19 meditative essays and a moving appendix by Jennifer Doane Upton on sublimity. Poets and musicians, theologians and philosophers, teachers and physicians, liturgists, gardeners and lovers need each and every page of this bright ship. In a world where self-knowledge is rare, fragmentation is the norm, and corporate and cultural spin abound, the truth source of What Poets Used to Know: Poetics; Mythopoesis; Metaphysics faithfully delivers a masterpiece. It is a joy to recommend it whole-heartedly.”


The Chalice of Repose Project 

“In What Poets Used to Know, Charles Upton initiates the reader into a kingdom long thought dead: the metaphysics of poetry. Standing in the lineage of the great Sufi poets, of Blake, of folk lyric, and of the Beats, Upton speaks with prophetic voice, a voice of one crying in the wilderness. For this poet ‘poetry can be numbered among the final reverberations within the soul of God’s creative act,’ and it is to this act that he seeks to awaken our humanity, a humanity more and more entombed in the crystal coffin of postmodernity. To attentively read What Poets Used to Know is to enter an expansive, generous, and moral imagination; to learn again what it means to be fully human.”


author of Meditations in Times of Wonder

About the Author

Charles Upton, born in San Francisco, California in 1948, is a poet (a protégée of the Beats), a veteran of the peace movement, an activist, and a lifelong student of metaphysics and world religions. His entire formal education, from nursery school through high school, was provided by the Catholic Church. He has published four books of poetry and sixteen in the genres of metaphysics, mythopoetic exegesis, spiritual psychology, Islam, Sufism, and “metaphysics and social criticism.” He is co-editor of The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World by Dr. John Andrew Morrow [Angelico, 2013], and conceiver of the Covenants Initiative based on it, an international movement of Muslims to protect persecuted Christians.

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