Seth Abramson was corrected by notevensuperficial when he (Seth) wrote: “The greatest divide in poetry, by far, of the past hundred years has been between poets who treat language as a locus for imminent meaning and those who treat it as a locus for transcendent meaning.”
Surely Seth meant immanence, not imminence. Immanence is the opposite of transcendence, right?
Not so fast.
In the sense that Seth uses immanence, a pun is divine.
The Latin root of immanence is ‘within.’ This, of course, implies a duality: within/without. Immanence itself implies transcendence. That’s only the first of many difficulites which Seth has brought upon himself.
In theological terms, immanence features a mere earthly object glowing with transcendent radiance; in philosophical terms, immanence means self-defined, but neither of these meanings works in Mr. Abramson’s schema.
The issue here is a metaphysical conundrum for those who enjoy that sort of thing, or for those who waste their philosophy on philosophy, or for those post-avants who occasionaly fool themselves into thinking they know what they are talking about.
For the religious, immanence does imply a holy radiance like the halo around Christ’s head, because, theologically, it is God shining within and through the created world, shining outward from the center of the world, as it were, as if the divine were here and now, and we experience the divine here and now, and yet, it can also be interpreted as ‘within,’ as in the sense of being inside and not radiating its divinity, but hidden— just to put it in stark theological terms.
But Seth was positing two uses of language:
1) we read a word as referring to something else: red, meaning ‘the color red’ and thus the word red is transcendent, pointing to its referent, the actual color red.
2) we read ‘red’ as a pun on ‘read’ or we use ‘red’ to rhyme with ‘bed,’ and thus ‘the word itself’ has an immanence in the sense that is has a significance in itself.
However, ‘red’ used as a rhyme or as a pun has no interiority. The word in this case is not significant in itself, but significant as itself, as mere ‘surface effect’ —so we could say imminence is more correct, for imminent implies here it is— about to happen, which is closer to what Seth actually means than interiority (which is the Latin root of immanence).
The pun is imminent. And I am afraid.