It was in medias res that took me decades to figure out, repeatedly pouring over Homer, Virgil, Dante, and Milton, and every other epic poet and form, struggling again and again for the right structure. I knew the plot of The Parliament of Poets was the backbone of the book itself, the very crux, first and foremost, for it to work, to draw the reader into it, and to play on the great tradition, evoke it, honor it, raise everything to a higher level of seriousness and import. It proved to be the hardest part of the epic form, a seemingly insurmountable challenge over which I stumbled, trying one idea after another, rejecting sketch after sketch, setting my notes aside knowing that way and that idea wasn’t it, wouldn’t work.
And then it came to me, while I was doing some trivial task of life, and I rushed to my study to write it down, lest I lose it after all these years. I knew I had it with the certainty of that’s it! get it down on paper, before the phone rings or whatever, before it’s gone forever–surprise, relief, elation.
With a rough draft written of the first three books, I now sense that I can finish writing The Parliament of Poets, see my way to the end of it, a sense of confidence I’ve never had before, since it was always entirely in the future, the book I would write, God willing, one day, as notes accumulated, as decades went by.
Now the challenge has become time, acquiring it, holding on to it, and worrying over the unpredictability and evanescence of life, of completing what’s begun.