On the Metaxy and the Conceptual Mind

The ‘between,’ metaxy, foregrounds the way the conceptual mind charts experience in terms of extremes like life and death. Conceptual dependence on immanent wholes is dissolved by metaxical mindfulness. The extremes are conventions and the between is living space shaped around openness toward transcendent others. The whole is not the whole. The pantheistic immanentism of Romanticism breaks away from these counterfeit wholes in the between, where all is passage.

The Welling


Michael Longley, The Stairwell.

Naming the birds calling from the pages of “the huge sadness of the Iliad” is an essential act of poetry. Longley’s poems, however short, often funnel this wild energy from between his lifelong fidelity to Ancient Greek forms of the imagination and the contemporary occasion. The between flows in several directions here. The welling is between the emptiness of death and the deathless origins of his love. Characteristic of metaxical orientation toward what exceeds finite mind, this poem is overflowing with communication of purpose: “Honking, settling in front of one another,/ Proud of their feather-power”—-the last phrase expressing the paradoxical power of feathers, evocative of the double as in winged words.