Epic Poetry Reading, Birmingham Unitarian Church (UU)
Frederick Glaysher reading from The Parliament of Poets: An Epic Poem, at the Birmingham Unitarian Church (Unitarian Universalist), Birmingham, Michigan, April 6, 2013.
From BOOK I (in medias res), BOOK II (Black Elk and Chief Seattle; Japara, Australian Aborigine), and BOOK VI (Buddhist Mogao Caves, Dunhuang, China). Copyright (c) 2012-2013 Frederick Glaysher.
The last several minutes include questions and answers on epic poetry, world religions, and other background material and reflections.
Tags: Birmingham Unitarian Church, Black Elk, Buddha, Buddhism, Buddhist, Chief Seattle, China, Dunhuang, Epic, epic poetry, Frederick Glaysher, Mogao Caves, poetry, Poetry Reading, Unitarian Universalist, UU
Format:Hardcover|Amazon Verified Purchase
“I loved this book as a help in focusing on our human family. The image of our green-blue planet from the moon is a symbol of humanity without borders. Perhaps this is the greatest image ever seen. “The indifferent wealthy, whose souls had grown cold, hardened against human cries of hunger and pain”. “Our duty is to give hope to the hopeless, love to the loveless, sustenance to the poor”. “The man that is kind and righteous, treating all as his own, attains immortal being.” The poets that are identified in this fascinating book see a universal brotherhood, as to why they are full of love for our planet. The eternal and universal creative process is in every man, women and child.”
Epic Poetry Reading, Albany Poets Word Fest, April 21, 2012
Albany Poets News, (February 8, 2013) “If you were at the 2012 Albany Word Fest Open Mic at the Albany Public Library you will remember Frederick Glaysher and his epic poem The Parliament of Poets. His work certainly wowed the crowd at the library with the performance and the words themselves. …read an extended section from lunar epic “The Parliament of Poets,” with the 20th Century Afro-American poet Robert Hayden as guide.”
“I found myself sitting in my study, dozing
over a book, Cervantes’ Don Quixote,
surrounded by volumes of world classics….”
Copyright (c) 2012 Frederick Glaysher.
The entire reading is available on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL21F9D6C4DA6FE818
Read a free chapter, BOOK I, The Parliament of Poets: An Epic Poem
Two Reviews of The Parliament of Poets
Goodreads, Ratul Pal Jan 25, 2013, rated it
LibraryThing, “A wonderful book. As a fan of poetry and especially epic poetry I found this book to be up to the standards set by Homer. I met some new poets that I have looked up and added to my collection. This book also is very thought provoking as it brings into question what humanity is doing to the Earth and each other. I highly recommend it.”
( ) | wtshehan | Oct 25, 2012
Read a free chapter, BOOK I, The Parliament of Poets: An Epic Poem
Tagore and Literary Adaptation
Accidentally including three or four poems by another poet among his collection of short poems, Fireflies (Lekhan), what Tagore did was discussed in 2002, in a different context, by Richard Posner, in “On Plagiarism” in The Atlantic Monthly:
“…the writer who plagiarizes out of … forgetfulness, the latter being the standard defense when one is confronted with proof of one’s plagiarism.”
It was a mistake. Tagore immediately owned it. He was human, too, and graciously admitted he had erred, when it was pointed out to him, dealing with many manuscripts from years ago, jumbled together. Why should it be held against him by later sticklers?
Unlike his honest mistake, using material from another writer in a different context for literary purposes should not be confused with the niceties of English 101 pedagogy. There are other kinds of borrowing and using material from other writers, of which much of English literature would be the worse without:
“Shakespeare himself was a formidable plagiarist in the broad sense in which I’m using the word. The famous description in Antony and Cleopatra of Cleopatra on her royal barge is taken almost verbatim from a translation of Plutarch’s life of Mark Antony: “on either side of her, pretty, fair boys apparelled as painters do set forth the god Cupid, with little fans in their hands, with which they fanned wind upon her” becomes “on each side her / Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids, / With divers-colour’d fans, whose wind did seem / To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool.” (Notice how Shakespeare improved upon the original.)”
There are many instances of such “plagiarism” in Shakespeare. The Tempest also comes to mind, from Ovid. Posner continues,
“In The Waste Land, T. S. Eliot “stole” the famous opening of Shakespeare’s barge passage, “The barge she sat in, like a burnish’d throne, / Burn’d on the water” becoming “The Chair she sat in, like a burnished throne, / Glowed on the marble.”
“If these are examples of plagiarism, then we want more plagiarism. They show that not all unacknowledged copying is “plagiarism” in the pejorative sense. Although there is no formal acknowledgment of copying in my examples, neither is there any likelihood of deception. And the copier has added value to the original—this is not slavish copying…. Eliot and Mann wanted their audience to recognize their borrowings.”
I would argue, the more expansive the scope, the more necessary to his craft—that the poet will find himself compelled to lean on the tradition to reach his audience, educate it, realizing readers cannot be assumed to follow the sweep and depth of his own study, unless he pays tribute to the original sources within his work, adapting and raising the material to the service of his vision. What is germane, is, as Posner suggests, does it work? Does the poet lift the sources to something new? Tagore’s little gaffe never reached the level of these questions that no conscientious poet can fail to ask him or herself because it truly was a mistake.
It seems to me that Posner is right, though, about Shakespeare, T. S. Eliot, and Thomas Mann: They stole whatever they needed and wanted, leaving it to readers to recognize the sources, as extended allusion, if nothing else, in some cases. Footnotes in a creative work would be contradictory by nature and disruptive of the reader’s concentration. The proverbial pedant might think highly of them, especially today, struggling to get tenure, what better way to justify one’s self than alleging plagiarism and creating an uproar, preening self-righteously, but consider Shakespeare’s lampooning of Polonius! The Bard knew what that kind of thing amounted to.
For a writer it’s hard to know sometimes what to do. I’ve read widely for forty years, yet can’t assume the reader in the US or elsewhere has, quite the reverse, in an age of nauseating, dehumanizing specialization. How do I attempt to embody and represent the fullness of human reflection without *using* the originals? I went through much agonizing over all this through the years, but decided the tale must come first. Its roots must be allowed to draw from the soil of literature and culture whatever they need to produce and sustain their fruit. Many writers have done that. I studied extensively many years ago the original Puritan documents that Hawthorne and the playwright Arthur Miller used, put to similar uses. Ultimately, there’s no easy answer, I suppose, but hope that there will be those who will acknowledge I serve the higher aims of my vision.
Much of the literary world has become closed off in doctrinaire nihilism and rhetoric, cocooned in the Myth of the Enlightenment, clutching to its chest its Goddess of Reason, ignoring the extent to which these ideas have led to or participated in many of the most bloody upheavals of modernity, around the globe, and lie at the core of many of our continuing dilemmas. Intellectual rigidity, politicization, and closed-mindedness supplant the search for truth. In this sense, there’s little difference between the “truth” of the complacent cultural elite and various fundamentalists that they castigate. Most cultural organs and publications are fanatically devoted to the secular god of modernity. Like the worst of Christian fundamentalists that many enjoy caricaturing, lumping all people of spiritual sensibility together with them, liberals and progressives, in and out of the university, can be just as closed off to other visions of life and human possibility.
Basically noting this, the theoretical physicist Peter Higgs, of the Higgs boson particle, has observed in The Guardian about Richard Dawkins that
“What Dawkins does too often is to concentrate his attack on fundamentalists. But there are many believers who are just not fundamentalists…. Fundamentalism is another problem. I mean, Dawkins in a way is almost a fundamentalist himself, of another kind.”
I think these are also refreshing and interesting passages from Peter Higgs:
“The growth of our understanding of the world through science weakens some of the motivation which makes people believers. But that’s not the same thing as saying they’re incompatible. It’s just that I think some of the traditional reasons for belief, going back thousands of years, are rather undermined.”
“But that doesn’t end the whole thing. Anybody who is a convinced but not a dogmatic believer can continue to hold his belief. It means I think you have to be rather more careful about the whole debate between science and religion than some people have been in the past.”
I have had the books of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens for a long time, and have read chunks of them, on and off, following their arguments in various ways for many years. A year ago I read, with a group of Unitarian Universalists, Greg Epstein’s Good Without God, sort of an attempt to turn atheism into a religion. There have been and are other such attempts. To my mind, they are logical descendants of modernism and scientism, and I don’t find that persuasive, especially when they become as fanatical and smugly self-righteous as any fundamentalist Christian or whatever. Peter Higgs is a more balanced and nuanced voice.
What constitutes “religion” or *a* religion, is much of the question to me. I wouldn’t include organizations and institutionalized “religions.” By the time that happens, it seems to me that religion is no longer the concern. Cultural politics is often no more a search for truth than fundamentalist sects. I try to grapple with all this in my epic: “One of the major themes . . . is the nature of science and religion, as well as the “two cultures,” science and the humanities.” I think the language of poetry is the best way in which to do that.
The media, too, often uses a definition of “religion” that is a caricature to my mind, very narrow and tiresome, the “old man with a long beard.” Awe before the mystery and majesty of creation is beyond all that, experience of that, not abstractions. Exclusive claims to truth demonstrate a certain problem in their own way, whether “religion,” literary “theory,” or science. The modern understanding of religion and spirituality is much of our problem today, as the exclusivism of all the traditional religions have shown themselves ever further out of touch with experience, life as it has come to be lived, which is much more global and human, universal, than the narrow, isolated cultures of the past in which they all arose. The eyes of the child, or poet, before nature, the awesomeness of the cosmos, as it continues to unfold deeper and deeper *out there*, is the quintessential response to life and is part of what I try to explore in my epic.
For years now with Facebook opening up access for global communication, I have wondered and hoped that perhaps India holds the key for confronting modern nihilism and turning the tide, East and West, if you will, to allude to Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach.” It should be understood that I am not one who naively thinks India is the “mystic East.” My essay about India and Indian literature makes precisely that point, “India’s Kali Yuga,” about the loss of a spiritual vision in various modern Indian writers, as in the West.
I thank a Facebook friend, Pradip Ray, for reminding me of T. S. Eliot’s words in his essay on Philip Massinger, in The Sacred Wood, which my marginalia tells me I read decades ago:
One of the surest of tests is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest. Chapman borrowed from Seneca; Shakespeare and Webster from Montaigne… (Methuen & Co edition, 1972 reprint. Page 125.)
I must admit that I read this choice passage from The Sacred Wood in my twenties, but had largely lost all memory of it, absorbing it really, for it seems the idea has always been with me. As an aside, the “sacred wood” refers to Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough and the wood and grove of Greek and Western early religious experience. It’s partly why I named my collection of essays The Grove of the Eumenides, although thinking primarily of Sophocles’ grove in Oedipus at Colonus.
Eliot’s passage fits precisely how the old masters can be given a new lease on life. That was very much in my mind in writing my epic poem. In the US, it can be a common criticism that many young would-be poets no longer read the work of important writers of only a few decades ago, let alone the ancients, East and West. Everything has become one’s personal life, some dehumanizing academic theory or formalism, obsession with language and technique, the usual trivialities of decadent literary periods. Despite all that, I hope I have honored the great masters, who have meant so much to me throughout my life, who still speak to our time, if we will but listen carefully, with reverence.
Just published in Kolkata, India, Rupkatha, Excerpt from Book IV
Just published in Kolkata, India > Excerpt from Book IV. Rupkatha Journal, Volume IV, Number 2, 2012.
Tagore and the Poet, at Kurukshetra:
“We soon were over a plain, a wide field,
where two vast armies were ranked to battle,
legions on either side for war…”
Direct PDF: rupkatha.com/V4/n2/Poetry_V4N2.pdf
Or available from my own server: Rupkatha_Poetry_V4N2_2012