It seems appropriate that poetry appears regularly in Ong's first few years of serious literary publication (1939-42) since two of his earliest lengthy critical publications, "The Province of Rhetoric and Poetic" and "The Meaning of the 'New Criticism'," take the analysis of poetry as their subject matter.

The first poem in this particular publication, "Disposed in Labels:  After Reading a Biography," seems to reflect some of the themes which Ong was writing about critically at this time in his life.  The first few lines of the poem--"Dried on the rack of history/Immortal being comes to be/Leached with a subtle alchemy"--seems to evoke the complaint Ong makes in "The Meaning of the 'New Criticism'" that throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, literary critics reduced the study of literature, particularly poetry, to the "scientific study" (a phrase that occurs in a later line of the poem) of a Cartesian mindset.

In the second poem, "In Other Words," Ong again displays his assertion that abstract meaning is not a complete way of knowing when he writes:  "Give us the fact/Without comment, the thing without a knowledge/Of its nature."  Here, Ong suggests that people too often accept abstract ideas without looking at the material origins of those ideas (Ong discusses more thoroughly the way people react to facts, especially historical facts reported in the news, without looking at the origin of these facts in "Reporting Providence").

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