Academic Sublimity + Reflection

By Alissa Rehmert

This poem was published in the Dec. 2019 edition of Live Ideas. View it HERE.

Thin pages slip

through my trembling fingers

as a familiar odor

stings my nostrils

and bursts into an aroma

sweeter than fine chocolate.

My mind’s mouth waters profusely

as I split the pages

and reveal an entire world

where the inquiries of life are examined

and I lie,


in the dim moonlight of another soul’s creation.

Plato, Rousseau,

Cummings, Poe.

My curious eye drags across the paper

as I long to grasp

a mere inkling

an iota

of their daunting and boundless wisdom.

I read

and I read till the

Acquainted dread of inadequacy

settles in

as if peering up at the starry midnight sky

and realizing just how



Within the intricate works of this finitely infinite universe,

I am but a stroke,

A pigment,

in the grand painting of thought.


Artist Reflection

Imagine with me, if you will, that you are standing on the edge of a cliff side. You look out and can see for miles and miles. There are colorful trees blooming as far as your eyes can see. You look down and the drop is so far, you can just barely see the ground. You feel a deep sense of awe from the beauty, but also of fear of the danger of falling. This piece was inspired by this complicated emotional experience: sublimity.

The semester before I set out to write this, I took a British Literature course where we talked a lot about the Romantic’s concept of the sublime. Their obsession with the concept and its relation to nature is apparent in their literature. I too was interested in this and wanted to explore it and see how it relates to me. The next semester, when I took a Creative Non-Fiction course, I wrote the first form of “Academic Sublimity.” This piece explores the feeling I get when I crack open the masterpieces of those who came before me. I am faced with a feeling of great awe paired with the crippling fear of inadequacy. This is my own sense of sublimity.


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