A United Methodist pastor with over thirty-six years of pastoral experience, Rev. Wayne Plumstead describes what he has learned about the aesthetics of religion from the philosophy of Aesthetic Realism, founded by Eli Siegel.

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Location: Bloomfield, New Jersey, United States

The Rev. Wayne Jack Plumstead holds a BA from Drake University and an MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary. Ordained a minister in the United Methodist Church in 1973, he has served since 1991 as Senior Pastor at the Park United Methodist Church in Bloomfield, New Jersey. Prior to that time he served pastorates in Lower Berkshire Valley, Bayonne, Arlington and Jersey City, all in New Jersey. Rev. Plumstead credits the philosophy of Aesthetic Realism, founded by Eli Siegel, with having an invaluable influence on his theological formation. He has given many public seminars at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation in New York City. In 1994, the Board of Global Ministries invited him to give a presentation at a consultation on Developing Multicultural Congregations in San Antonio, Texas to assist national church staff in developing strategies for congregations in transitional communities. In 2000, he was invited to give the opening sermon at the first meeting of clergy in the newly formed Greater New Jersey Annual Conference. And, in 2002, the United Methodist Publishing House printed an article he authored in its national magazine for United Methodist clergy, Circuit Rider.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Eli Siegel Honored in US Congress

A resolution introduced into the Congressional Record
by the Honorable Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland,
Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Friday, July 26, 2002

(Note: this tribute was offered on the 100th anniversary of Eli Siegel's birth, declared "Eli Siegel Day" in Baltimore, Maryland by the mayor and governor.)

Mr. CUMMINGS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor a great Baltimorean poet, educator, and founder of Aesthetic Realism, Eli Siegel.

Mr. Siegel was born in 1902 and grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, where his contributions to literature and humanity began. Mr. Siegel founded the philosophy Aesthetic Realism in 1941, based on principles such as: Man’s deepest desire, his largest desire, is to like the world on an honest or accurate basis, and ... The world, art, and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites.

Mr. Siegel explained that the deepest desire of every person is "to like the world on an honest basis." He gave thousands of lectures on the arts and sciences.

Mr. Siegel’s work continues at the not-for-profit Aesthetic Realism Foundation in New York City, where classes, lectures, workshops, dramatic presentations, and poetry readings are offered. In addition, a teaching method, based on Aesthetic Realism, has been tested in New York City public schools. The teaching method has been tremendously successful.... The teaching method may be used as an effective tool to stop racism and promote tolerance; because it enables people of all races to see others with respect and kindness.

In 1925, Eli Siegel won the esteemed Nation Poetry Prize for "Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana," which brought him to national attention. "Hot Afternoons," Mr. Siegel said, was affected by his thoughts of Druid Hill Park. And so, it is fitting that on August 16, 2002, the city of Baltimore will dedicate the Eli Siegel Memorial at Druid Hill Park on a site near the Madison Avenue entrance, not far from his early home on Newington Avenue. The bronze memorial plaque ... includes a sculptured portrait and poetry.

Mayor Martin O’Malley has designated August 16, 2002 as "Eli Siegel Day" in Baltimore. At this time, I would like to insert the Mayor’s proclamation and a few of Eli Siegel’s poems found in the June 5, 2002 [issue] of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation magazine for the record.

Eli Siegel died in 1978, but his poetry and the education of Aesthetic Realism will be studied in every English, literature, and art classroom across the nation for years to come. I would like to end this tribute by reciting a poem Eli Siegel wrote honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

By Eli Siegel

In April 1865 Abraham Lincoln died.
In April 1968 Martin Luther King died.
Their purpose was to have us say, some day:
Injustice died.

Eli Siegel wrote poems for more than six decades. These poems expressed his thoughts on people, feelings, everyday life, love, nature, history. I am proud to offer this tribute. Thank you.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

New York Times literary critic Kenneth Roxroth on Eli Siegel

(As quoted by Ken Knabb in Gateway to the Vast Realms, Recommended Readings from Literature to Revolution)

Eli Siegel [1902-1978] is a remarkable and most unjustly neglected writer and thinker. His poems are among the few modern ones that I still read and reread with pleasure. His other writings are generally concerned with expounding his philosophy of “Aesthetic Realism.” According to this perspective (which is not limited to narrowly artistic concerns, but relates to psychology, education, social relations, and in fact just about every aspect of life), people are fundamentally seeking to “unify opposites” within themselves and in their relations with each other and with the world. The arts are seen as key means or expressions of such unity. The primary danger — the “original sin,” so to speak — is contempt: the temptation to think that you will enhance yourself by demeaning someone else. It is, of course, difficult (and sometimes in fact inappropriate) not to be contemptuous of certain persons or things. Siegel’s point is that you should make sure that you have not got into the habit of actually seeking such situations so as to make yourself feel better by contrast.

He works out the implications of these deceptively simple insights with a delightful zest and a remarkable lucidity...I have reread many of his works many times and each time it’s like a breath of fresh air.

His two volumes of poetry are Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana and Hail, American Development. His other books include The Williams-Siegel Documentary (about William Carlos Williams, who enthusiastically saluted Siegel’s poetry), James and the Children (a study of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw), Damned Welcome (a collection of aphorisms), Goodbye Profit System (an anticapitalist polemic), Self and World (an exposition of his psychotherapeutic theories and methods), a Children’s Guide to Parents and Other Matters, and numerous articles, essays and talks. You can order any of them at The same webpage includes links to online samples of Siegel’s poetry and to other information about Aesthetic Realism publications and programs.