In the post-enlightenment era, the division between poetry and ‘truth’ has largely been framed in terms of scientistic versions of truth. In the modern era, this has manifested itself in a number of ways: in the adoption of ‘experimental’ as a metaphorical term for innovative poetic practices, and in the positivist framework for the notion of ‘progression’ in the arts generally. In this paper I seek to establish a frame for speculative poetry that is invested in myth conceived of as a resource of language. Following Ronald Hutton’s The Triumph of the Moon, I trace the development of James Lovelock’s ‘Gaia hypothesis’ as having its roots in eighteenth century mythopoeic practice, and also the foundations of scientism in the myth of atomism. I argue more broadly for the importance of poetry as a form of speculation predicated on myth, and that this aspect of poetry can be of vital importance in facing large-scale challenges such as global warming.
Keywords: myth; poetry; atomism; Mary Midgley; Northrop Frye; Ronald Hutton; Gaia; James Lovelock; Claude Lévi-Strauss; Jean-Luc Nancy; Lucretius; Earth Goddess; Jindyworobak