The notion has been raised that my poetry is about “ideas.” I assure my readers that there are, in that sense, no “ideas” in my poetry, for it has been my life-long ambition that Fancy, that highest form of epistemology, might reign in that estate, as in the great epics around the world, East and West, Cervantes’s Don Quixote or Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.
Alas, we human beings are dying all around the world because of “ideas”! So, I said to myself, let us journey to the Moon, beyond the world of “ideas…”
Yet in another sense, if you’re really interested in knowing where my “ideas” come from, I invite you to read my five literary books, which together represent more than forty years of study of Western and world literature, world religions, history, and philosophy. In The Grove of the Eumenides, I concentrated especially on the rise of nihilism in modern culture and its spread around the globe, ending with essays looking to the future, on the United Nations and epic poetry. My study for that book forms the foundation of my epic poem, while much of The Myth of the Enlightenment was written concurrently with my epic and was where I resolved many issues, as I wrote my way through it.
When I was in about my mid-twenties, I had decided that I would follow the example of Virgil, who wrote three books, two often thought of as leading up to his epic poem. When I had looked around at many of the “prominent” poets back then, I felt that I didn’t want to write thirty or seventy books of lyric poetry but, as they say, “cast all my lot on one book.” And so my two books of poetry are where I very much felt that I was developing the ability that I needed to write an epic poem, by writing lyrics that developed my voice and sense of language, grappling with what seemed to me the “ruins” of the 20th Century, Into the Ruins, along with a number of dramatic monologues in which I first experimented with “putting on the mask,” of a character, and speaking through personae. With The Bower of Nil, I surveyed Western philosophy and Buddhism in Japan, speaking through a few characters in a dramatic book-length narrative poem, telling a story of an academic philosopher and his family, with wider symbolic implications.
In broad outline, this is how I thought and think of my own personal journey toward writing The Parliament of Poets: An Epic Poem. I invite you to make the Journey and read my four other literary books, which should help you understand what my “ideas” really are and their sources.
Last year I also discussed my development as a poet in “My Odyssey as an Epic Poet: Interview with Frederick Glaysher,” with Arthur McMaster, Contributing Editor, Department of English, Converse College, in Poets’ Quarterly (Spring 2015). ” You might find it of further help in understanding the sources of my ideas.