I-Thou/I-It: 60/40 Split

I have demarcated spaces for what I call an I-Thou approach to serious poetry, and an I-It. The I-Thou approach leans towards naturalness, intimacy, and Nature as principles; while the I-It approach prizes objectivity, distance, and a rough or harsh version of Nature. Also under the aegis of I-Thou: what Keats calls “sweetness,” which usually has to do with sexual or sexualized processes in Nature; purity, whereby perverse impulses do not destabilize subsistence within Nature’s bounds, and most impulses are wholesome or healthy; sex itself; Keats’ Odal Cycle and the Cheltenham Elegies; and what John Keats (his body of work) does as a textual signifier in general. Under the aegis of I-It: perversity in regards to the Nature, and a tendency to dwell on the rougher, harder aspects of Nature; less interest in sex, and more fascination with death, bodies as cadavers/corpses; the two poems which I feel constitute the most incisive work of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Adonais and Mont Blanc (which is, admittedly, and more than Adonais, split between I-Thou and I-It); and many of my own Apparition Poems. As per Mont Blanc into Adonais: Shelley’s vision of Mont Blanc, which is then internalized and imposed on the corpse of Keats in Adonais; that Nature (human and otherwise) is halved between creative and destructive elements/impulses; still leaves the door open for Shelley to emphasize death over sex, and perversity over pleasure, to then create a lurid palimpsest over the Odal Cycle, and to bring his attentive readers back to the home truth of the mortality of flesh, sans what redeems mortality for Keats— the possibility of a chiasmus, always, with the immortal in Art and Nature. So, Shelley finds a way of bullying Keats into place once he is merely flesh.

If I had leave to quantify which is more relevant, incisive, truth consonant, and major high art consonant between I-Thou and I-It: I give, for reasons I will explain, I-Thou a 60/40 advantage over I-It. My reasons have to do with philosophy: that there is an ontological sense in which it cannot be proven that being, or being-in-itself, or (to use Kant’s term) the noumena, is finite or perishable. Once a cohesive being is set into motion within the charmed circle of existence as matter, or being-in-matter, it cannot be created or destroyed. To simply matters: where existence is concerned, and on a profound level most do not realize subsists: when you’re in, you’re in. The pulverizing perversity which prefers corpses to sex and objectivity to intimacy— I-It— has in it something eternal— about severity, ends, severance in general. There will always be deaths following births through the cosmos, just as third person objectivity has an interesting way of animating, via incisive angles, different forms/manners of existence. Third person objectivity is a kind of knife in serious art and poetry, cutting through things, sharpening perceptions with incisions. If first person intimacy is slightly more powerful, and in tune with the endeavors of both Romanticism and Neo-Romanticism, it is because by consolidating the very basis of being, in the world and out, and by showing us the ways and manners of being-in, and of matter changing, specifically matter changing forms (corpses being static, sex being dynamic), first person (first person to second person, to be precise) intimacy takes us to what the richest veins of our existence are, in a way that third person objectivity cannot. First person intimacy illuminates rather than incises, and what it illuminates symbolizes how our perceptions can attain at least a degree of immortality.