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Jack Spicer’s Impossible Quest for the Holy Grail

The American poet Jack Spicer (1925-1965) called, in his second lecture for students in Vancouver, his serial poem The Holy Grail (1962), ‘fairly simple’. Readers will undoubtedly find it not simple at all. ‘Cryptic’ would be a better characteristic. But Spicer does not want to be more explicit. Is he concealing something? The poet did not, however, leave us without some clues, two of them being references to authors, namely Jessie Weston and Hans Jonas. The editors of his lectures did give some, but in my view not sufficient, attention to these references. Through this article I intend to correct this shortcoming. Weston’s medieval studies, especially those pertaining to Arthurian Literature, contain many elements also present in Spicer’s serial poem, thus providing a possibility to examine his poetics more closely. In addition, Hans Jonas’s book The Gnostic Religion (1958), subtitled The message of the alien God and the beginnings of Christianity, helps us gain a deeper understanding of Spicer’s poem; moreover, it explains his reluctance to write plain language. The knowledge Spicer intends to make known should at the same time remain somehow hidden, because, as an ancient tradition demands: only initiates have a right to know, to obtain access to gnosis.

Jack Spicer, Poetics, the Holy Grail, Arthurian Literature, Gnosticism, Initiation

APA Style

Wilhelmus Johannes Lukkenaer. (2021). Jack Spicer’s Impossible Quest for the Holy Grail. International Journal of Literature and Arts, 9(4), 147-154.

ACS Style

Wilhelmus Johannes Lukkenaer. Jack Spicer’s Impossible Quest for the Holy Grail. Int. J. Lit. Arts 2021, 9(4), 147-154. doi: 10.11648/j.ijla.20210904.11

AMA Style

Wilhelmus Johannes Lukkenaer. Jack Spicer’s Impossible Quest for the Holy Grail. Int J Lit Arts. 2021;9(4):147-154. doi: 10.11648/j.ijla.20210904.11

Copyright © 2021 Authors retain the copyright of this article.
This article is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License ( which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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