The Parliament of Poets: An Epic Poem
Book Cover, The Parliament of Poets: An Epic Poem.
Arguably, fiction evolved out of epic poetry. As a story, a tale, I’m bringing it back!
For years I’ve dreamed about the book cover for The Parliament of Poets, a concrete metaphor of the epic itself, and have finally put it together, with the Hubble Telescope Ultra Deep Field image of space, in the constellation Fornax, from 2003 to 2004, looking back at the light of the universe more than 13 billion years ago, and the photograph from Apollo 11 of Earthrise.
I first began to think in this direction when I saw the Hubble Deep Field images, taken in 1995 and 1998. I knew I was looking at images unlike anything ever achieved by the human being. They came together in my mind, resonating with my long interest in astronomy and the themes of my thought and poetry, science and scientism, imagination and reason, man and woman, all the antinomies.
I’ve finished now the seventh draft through Book IX and should be able to finish the entire seventh draft in about a week to ten days. I continue to think that I’m closer to being done with the entire book than I had realized, the writing of the first five drafts of the epic by hand having put me considerably ahead of the curve. This seventh draft has turned out to be a reading of the printed sixth draft, with particular attention to the readability of the text, to word and eye. I intend still to do one more draft going over my “Epic Notes” folder on my hard drive, but it’s more out of a sense of diligence, now, than of any intention to make major changes or revisions. What I had wanted to include from there in the poem was incorporated long ago. I’m starting to feel that I’m nearly done with the poem and must be careful not to overwork it.
I’d very much like to serialize the individual “Books,” highly episodic chapters, somewhere, as in a magazine or journal, in the old days, when more publications were willing to do so, reminiscent, in my mind, of Charles Dickens and other Nineteenth Century writers, and then the full book in the early fall. The small literary magazines, quarterlies, and academic journals rarely publish anything beyond short lyric poems and single short stories. The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Harper’s have mostly become symptoms of our cultural problems, like Time and Newsweek. None of them would publish something like an entire epic poem! …even in installments of chapters. One Book would probably fill much of a thin issue of a literary magazine like Poetry.
A summer serialization, twelve weeks, as it were, into the fall. A dream in itself… but how, and what would be its fulfillment in the Post-Gutenberg Age? What would it look like? Where?
As someone involved for so long in independent publishing and Post-Gutenberg developments, I resist the idea of publishing The Parliament of Poets in a conventional manner, for reasons I explain elsewhere. There must be a way to publish it so as to affirm the expanding freedom of the individual as a result of the decentralization of the Digital Revolution. And given the Web 2.0 world of social networking, it would be interesting to receive and learn from reader feed-back prior to book publication. I know my poem has already benefited from discussion with friends on Facebook and Google Plus, and it’s an exciting thought to wonder what else might be the result of serialization.
And yet after thirty years of study and reflection, four of incessant writing, I’m not about to give the book away, lose control of my own book, so I won’t be posting it here on my blog or anywhere else online.
I suppose I could publish each chapter separately on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google ebookstore, and their affiliates, as well as Earthrise Press, though I don’t believe that alone would achieve what serialization in the Nineteenth Century accomplished for writers, publishers, and readers.
In Post-Gutenberg terms, a serialization that reflects our new world would have to go around the old intermediaries. Again, it must affirm the freedom of the individual now made possible globally, while protecting the individual right to intellectual property. It would, too, I believe, contribute to the exponential change that is sweeping the globe, by helping to demonstrate what is now possible, brought further to fruition, which has not yet really been made evident by a piece of literature of the highest order, but rather only the popular genres, such as detective, romance, and vampire fiction.
The clearest wake-up call to the old order will be when a serious literary work goes global and viral, without them. I believe I’m the poet, with the epic poem, that has that potential. Where is the Post-Gutenberg venue that has the vision and ability to make it happen? That is ready, and has evolved, to the point that it can? I have the history and background congruent with what’s required, and the poem. Do they have, not only the technical ability, but the humanistic, visionary prerequisites to recognize and promote it?