Tag Archives: Literature

Robert Hayden’s Angle of Ascent

Robert HaydenRobert Hayden’s Angle of Ascent. Presented at Wayne State University, ROBERT HAYDEN/DUDLEY RANDALL CENTENNIAL SYMPOSIUM, April 2, 2014, where I also read on April 3, the canto, from my epic poem, The Parliament of Poets, “The Flight to the Moon of the persona, with his guide, the poet Robert Hayden.”

Emphasizing the continuing influence of Robert Hayden, Phillip M. Richards of Colgate University, educated at Yale University and the University of Chicago, writes, in his 2006 book, Black Heart: The Moral Life of Recent African American Letters, “In the long view of African-American poetry, Hayden’s symbolist poetry has proved more influential than the Black Arts movement…. Hayden, years after his death, remains our most influential black poet, and his followers the most productive and distinguished school of artist intellectuals” (178). Similarly, Charles Henry Rowell, editor of the journal Callaloo, in his book published last year, Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry, writes, “The title of this anthology . . . pays tribute to Hayden, a master artist who left behind an extraordinary gift in the pantheon of North American poetry.”

I want to emphasize what Charles Henry Rowell is implying by his carefully choosing the words “North American Poetry.” Rowell understands the literary, social, and aesthetic values that Hayden stood for and realized he couldn’t narrow them down. I myself read Robert Hayden’s poetry for years before I became one of Hayden’s students in 1979. While fully recognizing and relishing Hayden’s poetry, then and now, as I believe the foremost engagement with African-American experience in poetry, I’ve always had the sense, too, which Rowell suggests, that Hayden’s poetry speaks to the human experience of all North Americans, with the universal aspirations of the greatest poets, such as a Whitman. As the author of an epic poem in which Robert Hayden is a character, that has been reviewed in Poetry Cornwall in England as “a masterpiece that will stand the test of time,” and reviewed by Dr. Hans-George Ruprecht of Carleton University in Ottawa as “a great epic poem of startling originality and universal significance,” I gratefully acknowledge that I could never have written my epic poem, The Parliament of Poets, without the example of the art and tutelage of Robert Hayden. Today, we honor Robert Hayden’s striving for the universal, his ability to help us see and understand that about ourselves and our nation, our national experience, one of the perennial goals of great art. At a time when the goals and scope of the literary art were becoming smaller and smaller, turning inward on the small experience of the confessional postmodern self, all the cliches of the personal, the deriding of so-called meta-narratives, Robert Hayden unabashedly saw the personal against the backdrop of a wider social canvas, ever increasingly global in his reach, leading to his poem “[American Journal],” the cosmic vision of his persona from an alien civilization, more human than we are, pondering the nature of life in the United States and on the entire planet…..

The full essay, with an additional biographical paragraph, is now available in

The Myth of the Enlightenment: Essays
Forthcoming, September, 2014.


Frederick Glaysher

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Finished the Fifth Draft of The Parliament of Poets

Moon Ground

Lunar Soil

I finished the entire fifth draft of my epic poem The Parliament of Poets, after four years of writing, on March 30, 2012. I’d welcome invitations to read from it.

See my reading at the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair, Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, March 24, 2012, from Book III, in medias res, on the moon. Copyright (c) 2012 Frederick Glaysher.

“Who needs warp drive when I’ve got Queen Mab,
My escort and midwife of my dreams.”

YouTube:  https://youtu.be/XlWTzhNjIb4

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Postscript. eReading and the Post-Gutenberg Age

ebooks, eReading

ebooks, eReading

Postscript: eReading and the Post-Gutenberg Age

I am highly conscious that Google Books made my discovery of Milton’s “Of True Religion” possible. Without Google’s digitizing much of the intellectual heritage of humanity, now available from anywhere on earth, I would never have found this piece by Milton, since modern scholarly editors thought they knew better than Milton what was worth writing and reading. I feel, therefore, it is incumbent on me to give credit where credit is due. Literary, intellectual study and scholarship have and will continue to benefit from what is clearly a Post-Gutenberg Revolution. As a writer and poet, I am constantly now, even for years, finding one thing after another impacted by the exponential transformation in the availability of knowledge and information, the most nuanced, substantive dimensions of literary and aesthetic study, classic works, books, and publications. The world has truly entered into a new age, properly called the Post-Gutenberg Age.

Less recognized is the fact that the requisite spiritual vision appropriate to sustaining it is evolving, has evolved, and is manifesting itself in lived experience. In time, the world too will increasingly awaken to that transformative recognition.

Frederick Glaysher

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Silent Cry. Kenzaburo Oe.

Kenzaburo Oe

Kenzaburo Oe

The Silent Cry: A Novel. Kenzaburo Oe.

The Global Cry…. June 24, 2000

Let me discuss “The Silent Cry” and Kenzaburo Oe’s work in general by first sketching in a broader view of Kenzaburo Oe’s literary interests.

No other Japanese writer has seen as deeply into Yukio Mishima’s suicide and the “vacuum” of modern Japanese life as has the 1994 Nobel laureate in literature, Kenzaburo Oe:

“His death was a performance for the foreign audience, a very spectacular performance. The relationship between Mishima and the emperor system was rather dubious; the Japanese knew that. But from foreigners’ point of view–say, an American reader’s point of view–the Japanese emperor system is something inexplicable. Therefore, that final act by Mishima, tied in with the emperor system, appeared to be a kind of mystical thing. In actuality, he did it in order to entertain foreign readers.”

As in this excerpt from a 1986 interview, Oe, also influenced early on by Marxism and existentialism, especially Sartre, has had the vision and strength to confront in his writing not only the nostalgia of Mishima but also the past and present implications of the emperor system for Japan. In 1971 his novella “The Day He Himself Shall Wipe Away My Tears,” written just after Mishima’s suicide, courageously explores the nature and meaning of emperor worship. Having known Japanese students and friends who fiercely supported the emperor, loathed him, or were simply indifferent, with most falling into the last category, I believe it may be difficult for Americans to appreciate fully the scope of Oe’s achievement in this novella. Oe tried to convey the challenge of his theme when he wrote in an essay, “A man who criticises Mishima and his works must have the determination to criticise the total culture that orients itself toward the Imperial hierarchy.” Far from falling short of this determination, Oe creatively confronts the Japanese fascist and wartime past in “The Day He Himself Shall Wipe Away My Tears” and thereby truly serves the Japanese people and, I would argue, the emperor as well.

Oe grew up in a small village on the island of Shikoku where the events of “The Day He Himself Shall Wipe Away My Tears” and many of his stories take place. While in a Tokyo hospital dying of cancer, the persona narrates the densely complicated events of his father’s fervent devotion to the emperor, filtered through his own consciousness as a child and a mentally unbalanced adult recalling his “happy days.” His Japanese mother, who grew up in China, and whose own father was involved in the Daigaku Incident of 1910-11, an attempt to assassinate the emperor, believes her son has never been mentally stable since the age of three. Lying in his hospital bed, he recalls “hate-filled exchanges” between his mother and father about the role of his grandfather. Later in his life, she had always refused to discuss anything with her son about his father, a military official who returned from Manchuria a few years before the end of the war and who died attempting to lead an uprising in support of the emperor after his 1945 announcement of surrender on the radio. Respected by the village people, the father, suffering from cancer, secludes himself in the family storehouse. For the boy observing his father, he becomes a “kind of idol,” obedient to the emperor. After his older brother deserts in Manchuria, the boy shouts in defiance at his mother, “I don’t have no traitor’s blood in my veins”:

“Even now he could recall, with extreme vividness and reality . . . wanting to shout Long live the emperor! so that [his father] would acknowledge that it was his young son who was the true heir to his blood.”

Oe slowly leads the reader to the realization that the young boy has grown up to repeat the obsessions of the father, destroying himself in the process. When the mother, “a simple old country woman,” visits him as a thirty-five year old adult in the hospital, she struggles to no avail to get him to recognize what an absurd, cowardly figure his father actually was, while cancer literally and symbolically continues to eat him up. Near the end she says to the persona’s wife, whose own marriage and life have been ruined, “Sooner or later the Japanese are going to change their attitude about what happened, and I intend to live to see it, yessir! THIS IS THE DREAM. THIS MUST BE THE DREAM!” This is clearly the dream of Oe and many Japanese. He more than any other modern Japanese writer has had the courage to write fiction that might help Japan to accomplish it.

Also set mostly in Shikoku, The Silent Cry (1967), presents two brothers who return to their country village nestled in a valley. Although a dialectical struggle takes place between them, reminiscent of Dostoevski’s Brothers Karamazov, the older brother Mitsusaboro is the central figure of the novel, which is told from his point of view. In the opening paragraph, Mitsusaboro thinks to himself,

“Awakening in the predawn darkness, I grope among the anguished remnants of dreams that linger in my consciousness, in search of some ardent sense of expectation. Seeking in the tremulous hope of finding eager expectancy reviving in the innermost recesses of my being . . . still I find an endless nothing.”

He crawls into a hole dug for a septic tank and claws at the sides with his bare fingers trying to get the walls to cave in on himself. At the end of the summer his best friend, who had been injured in front of the Diet demonstrating against the Japan-US Mutual Security Treaty, had painted his head red, stuck a raw cucumber up the anus of his naked body, and hung himself. Mitsusaboro reflects, “And I too have the seeds of that same, incurable madness. . . .” Beginning in the hole, haunted by despair, madness, and nihilism, he gropes and searches throughout the novel for something worth living for. At dawn sticking his head up “two inches above the ground,” he notices,

“the backs of the dogwood leaves were a burning red… a red that reminded me of the flames in the picture of hell that I’d seen in our village temple every year on the Buddha’s Birthday. . . .

Frederick Glaysher


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