Back from the Voyage.
August 4, 2011
I finished the second full draft of The Parliament of Poets a few days ago. It’s now a readable manuscript, entirely cast in verse.
For decades I really didn’t know how to begin, though I made notes and thought about the book endlessly. I had written The Bower of Nil as a book-length narrative poem thinking it would be a bridge to writing an epic. In my mind, the three sections were based on the Greek choric dance, which I didn’t actually make clear until the ebook edition in 2010. Nevertheless, the enormous amount of reading of philosophy that I had done for The Bower of Nil helped me to understand how to handle and structure a theme around a cultural story in dramatic, literary terms. That in itself was a considerable leap forward from the lyric poetry of Into the Ruins, at times a story told or suggested in lyric sequence. The universal epic scale proved far more difficult, even arduous. It was extremely difficult and challenging to absorb and synthesize the decades of reading, my whole life, truth be told, and beyond my own personal life, into a literary, epic form that might hope to speak to our global age.
It was Virgil who finally made me realize how to begin. He had written out the Aeneid first in prose and then worked it into verse. I thought of that for years. That opened the door for me. And then the time was right.
I know I can’t possibly be objective about the book. I’ve been completely wrapped up in it. It will be for others to judge if it flies as a universal epic. For me, after decades, since the early 1980s, I feel I’ve at last crossed a threshold and can look back, as it were, from earth to the moon, back at the earth from the moon, the physical manuscript on my desk proving I have made the voyage.
I have three more drafts planned which I hope to finish by the end of this year, each one working on smaller levels of detail, tying up the loose ends. And then perhaps a few more drafts for further polishing, like a cabochon stone.