A! Magazine for the Arts

King alumnus speaks about his new book

March 31, 2021

The King Institute for Faith and Culture hosts a Facebook Live conversation between John Van Dyke and Brandon Story April 13 at 7 p.m. Van Dyke, King Alumnus and Navy Chaplain, is the author of “Poetic Creation: Language and the Unsayable in the Late Poetry of Robert Penn Warren.” Story is an assistant professor of English at King.

Van Dyke earned a bachelor’s degree from King College, a master’s in divinity from Reformed Theological Seminary and a doctorate from the University of Glasgow.

An ordained Presbyterian minister, he serves as a Navy chaplain. He is about to be deployed to the Pentagon. He is a published poet.

Though perhaps best known for his 1947 Pulitzer Prize winning novel “All the King’s Men,” Warren’s ?nal phase of poetry from the 1960s through the 1980s demonstrates a maturity of thought not previously seen in his work. By wrestling with the fundamental questions of language and articulation throughout his work in this period, Warren seeks to understand how the poet can “say the unsayable.”

“Poetic Creation” reads Robert Penn Warren’s later poetry in a way that places his work at the heart of contemporary discourses on language and the unsayable. Van Dyke invites the reader to return to the poems themselves to participate in Warren’s pursuit of poetry’s unique power to speak the unsayable into the world.

“Van Dyke demonstrates that Warren’s work achieves its full coherence and power when read through the prism of the apophatic as creative resource ... a critical work with a crystalline literary quality of its own that fosters pleasure in reading,” says William Franke, author of “A Philosophy of the Unsayable.

“Van Dyke examines how Warren, not through developing a systemic philosophy of poetic language but by struggling among the concrete realities of the act of poiesis, wrestles with the angel of poetry’s power to shape, in a completely implicit way, a way to face what is beyond language but which inhabits and haunts it, fulfills it and torments it, and at once delivers to the poet the power of primary speech and reduces the poet to anguished silence,” says John Burt, editor of “The Collected Poems of Robert Penn Warren.”

For more information, visit www.king.edu/events.