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.
The Parliament of Poets: An Epic Poem – Reviews, Excerpts
January 25, 2016. Excerpts from The Society of Classical Poets > “To put this in context, in my view the last complete and true epic poem in the English Language was Paradise Lost written by John Milton in the 17th century, and apart from that poem there are only two others: the anonymous Beowulf from old English, and the unfinished Faerie Queen by Edmund Spenser from the 16th century. Don Juan, by Byron [unfinished], is perhaps a true mock epic and apart from that the only poet since Milton who has come remotely close to writing in the epic style is Keats with his two sublime, but unfinished and maybe unfinishable (even had he lived), Hyperion fragments…
This brings us to the 20th century and all the phoney poets (Brits and Americans alike) claiming to write epics, “modern epics,” but doing no such thing. The most egregious example of this would be Ezra Pound and his Cantos: unreadable and undecipherable rubbish masquerading as a work of genius in the manner we are nowadays too familiar with in conceptual art and music. Indeed, only two types of people ever read the Cantos: university professors who make a career out of untangling it; and wannabe poets who write just like that (except of course completely differently – solipsism smears the pane in its own way: there’s a brown smudge, but here’s a green stain) and naturally vote for models justifying their own inanities. (As for modern epics of the “human mind” – beginning Wordsworth, Whitman et al. – these, despite their odd purple patches, seem extended and tedious forms of narcissism)… The true epics delight all intelligent peoples throughout the ages because they speak to them in a language they can understand even when that language is “elevated.”
What is extraordinary, however, is the language, and so the style… One fabulous quality of this poem is its clarity and luminous quality. I love the fact that despite the wide ranging topographical and lexical references this poem is easy to understand and follow: it is a poet writing for people, not one trying to be clever, and not one concealing their lack of poetry in obfuscation.
There is actually a lot of humour in the poem. Thematically, too, it is epic: it is about the survival of the human race, despite—Dante-like—facing the full horrors of human history. I take the view, therefore, and surprisingly to myself, that Glaysher is really an epic poet and this is an epic poem! One can hardly congratulate him enough, then, on this achievement, since it has been so long awaited… Glaysher has written a masterpiece… I strongly recommend Frederick Glaysher’s poem and hope he will find a larger readership for it.” —James Sale (UK), The Society of Classical Poets (2,272 words)
“A remarkable poem by a uniquely inspired poet, taking us out of time into a new and unspoken consciousness…” —Kevin Mcgrath, Poet, Lowell House, South Asian Studies, Harvard University
“Mr. Glaysher has written an epic poem of major importance… Truly a major accomplishment and contribution to American Letters… A landmark achievement Mr. Glaysher. Bravo!” —ML Liebler, Poet and Senior Lecturer, Department of English, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan
“It’s very contemporary, in some ways, and very much old school… This is really some cool stuff, I have to say, and I’m not just saying that, just to say it. It really is, and when you hear some of his epic poetry and poetry, hopefully you’ll agree and want to grab a copy of The Parliament of Poets. If you’ve done any study of classic epic poetry, this fits the bill. And don’t let that turn you away. It’s really good stuff.” —M. L. Liebler, Poet and Senior Lecturer, Department of English, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan (At my reading from Into the Ruins: Poems and The Parliament of Poets: An Epic Poem. November 30, 2015. Hosted by M. L. Liebler. Funded by Poets & Writers, Inc. Poets & Pies Series: Special Holiday Edition. Hannan Cafe. Off campus at Wayne State University. YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLUhnbp4QVs)
“A great epic poem of startling originality and universal significance . . . in every way partaking of the nature of world literature.” —Dr. Hans-George Ruprecht, CKCU Literary News, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
“And a fine major work it is.” —Arthur McMaster, Department of English, Converse College, Spartanburg, South Carolina, Contributing Editor, Poets’ Quarterly (Spring 2015), in “My Odyssey as an Epic Poet: Interview with Frederick Glaysher.”
“This Great Poem promises to be the defining Epic of the Age and will be certain to endure for many Centuries. Frederick Glaysher uses his great Poetic and Literary Skills in an artistic way that is unique for our Era and the Years to come. I strongly recommend this book to all those who enjoy the finest Poetry. A profound spiritual message for humanity.” —Alan Jacobs, Poet Writer Author,Amazon UK Review, London, UK
“Am in awe of its brilliance… Everyone must read this book.” —Anodea Judith, Novato, California, Amazon Review
“Don’t be intimidated by an epic poem. It’s really coming back to that image of the storyteller sitting around the campfires of the world, dipping into and weaving the story of humanity, in the most beautiful, mellifluous language.” —Miriam Knight, Portland, Oregon, New Consciousness Reviewradio
“Very readable and intriguingly enjoyable. Frederick Glaysher’s hours of dedication have produceda masterpiece that will stand the test of time.” —Poetry Cornwall, No.36, England
“An attempt to merge the sciences and the humanities to reach a greater understanding of the human condition. …the poetry and language is rather beautiful. …it’s really very readable.” —Chris Hislop, Savage, London, UK
“A uniquely powerful work.” —Spirituality Today, UK
“The Parliament of Poets carried me on the journey of Universality and All is One with the melodic rhythm only poetry can bring. Everyone needs to take this visit to the moon and look about the universe and all that it encompasses with the Awe with which it deserves! …read this magnificent epic that will raise your eyes to the sky and wonder how someone could capture it all so well!” —Cheryl B. Duttweiler, Fernandina Beach, Florida, Amazon Review
“Bravo to the Poet for this toilsome but brilliant endeavour.” —Umme Salma, Transnational Literature, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia
“But possibly even the ambition of these [Odysseus Elytis and Derek Walcott] is dwarfed by what is attempted here.” —Graham Mummery, Amazon UK Review
“An impassioned plea on behalf of humanity that reaches down and grabs the human longing for the Awakened Heart. …a very important book for our time.” —Tina Benson, California, Amazon Review
“An exquisitely rendered epic poem that weaves ancient and contemporary vision into the heart of modern darkness and the light of eternal hope… For this reader it was like being enfolded into a glorious, celestial, orchestral song in which every instrument is finely tuned, timed, and vital to the whole, with different melodies coming together as a single motion to do something none of them could do alone… The Parliament of Poets is a worthy literary masterpiece… Once read, you know your life was impoverished without it.” —Julie Clayton, Portland, Oregon, New Consciousness Review
“I especially enjoyed Don Quixote’s cameo appearances. Bravo. A fine and enjoyable read.” —Marylee MacDonald, Tempe, Arizona, Amazon Review
“It only takes the first few paragraphs of this modern epic poem to feel the mental gush of ideas,fascinating juxtapositionings, and unique symbolism for our time.” —Dave Gordon, The Jewish Post and News of Winnipeg, Canada
“Beautiful book.” —Dr. Catherine Al-Meten, Portland, Oregon, The Examiner
“The main story is an interesting proposition, that maybe it is poets and philosophers, rather than activists and politicians, who can ultimately help transform this world into something better.” —Mr. P. J. Morris, Amazon UK
“Brilliant writing! I’m in awe… A perfect Christmas gift. But, buyer beware, you’ll want it for yourself! Bravo. Well done.” —Michele Ficano, Las Vegas, Nevada, Amazon Review
“AWESOME BOOK!! This was ordered as a gift and I have to admit I had a hard time letting it go! Highly recommend both the book and the seller!” —Stanleys Mom, Amazon Review
“Awesome is not a grand enough word to describe the timeless brilliance of these words.”—Donna Surles, Florida, Amazon Review
“This masterful work goes well beyond the norm for literature of any type… Quite simply a masterpiece…” —Marv Borgman, Prattville, Alabama, Amazon Review
Longer excerpts below…
“A great epic poem of startling originality and universal significance, ingeniously enriching the canon of ‘literary epics’ while in every way partaking of the nature of world literature. Glaysher is in a creative dialog with the greatest epic poets of all time. He is bringing together in beautiful verse form diverse visions of humanity from all over the world, frequently casting them in the form of spatial and cosmic imagery. A pure joy. Contemporary ‘world literature’ at its best.” —Dr. Hans-George Ruprecht, CKCU Literary News, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
“I’m not kidding! Get this book by Frederick Glaysher ASAP! Mr. Glaysher has written an epic poem of major importance that is guaranteed to bring joy and an overwhelming sense of beauty and understanding to readers who will travel the space ways with this exquisite poet. While the poem reads like the classic poetry of Milton, it has the contemporary edge of genius modernity. I am truly awed by this poet’s use of epic poetry that today’s readers will connect with, enjoy and savor every word, every line and every section. Frederick Glaysher is a master poet who knows his craft from the inside out, and this is really truly a major accomplishment and contribution to American Letters. Jump in. Taste and see if what I say (and many others are saying) about this tome is not the truth. Once you enter, you will not stop until the end. A landmark achievement Mr. Glaysher. Bravo!” —ML Liebler, Poet and Senior Lecturer, Department of English, Wayne State University, Amazon Review
“I’ve only just gotten ahold of this book and am in awe of its brilliance. Food for the soul, and answers to humanity’s most pressing problems, right where they belong, in the epic poetry of all the teachers, magicians, prophets, shamans, and poets of all time… Bravo, bravo, bravo. Everyone must read this book.” —Anodea Judith, Novato, California, Amazon Review
“In the classic epic poem, the hero suffers many challenges, meets many obstacles, and experienceswhat Joseph Campbell described as the Hero’s journey… A hero must meet obstacles, and in the case of the Persona, the obstacles are both internal and external—very Jungian is our hero. The quest for individuation or the coming together in wholeness, is evident as we, the readers/listeners follow the trials and travels of our hero. Beautiful book.” —Dr. Catherine Al-Meten, Portland, Oregon, The Examiner
“The purpose of the spiritual journey of the Poet of the Moon is to seek deliverance of the modern human from the captivity of nothingness, nihilism and atheism, and from the resulting chaos and chasm of soul. From the versatile he gets scores of life-affirming lessons, yet the core meaning of all is that the Supreme Being as well as the earth is one, and so human beings are one nation irrespective of their clan, class, color, race, religion and gender. In this earth human beings are part of the Great Mystery’s creation and their duty is to keep the balance and harmony of the universe, to achieve union, to choose sacrifice, and to be self-controlled. In this manner Glaysher sings the song of ‘one Earth, without borders, Mother Earth, her embrace encircling one people, humankind’ (19)…. The lucid and placid feet of the language moves deftly and smoothly from the beginning up to the last line of the poem. Bravo to the Poet for this toilsome but brilliant endeavour.” —Umme Salma, International Islamic University, Department of English Language and Literature, Chittagong, Bangladesh, in Transnational Literature Vol. 7 no. 1, November 2014, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia
“The Parliament of Poets is an exquisitely rendered epic poem that weaves ancient and contemporary vision into the heart of modern darkness and the light of eternal hope…. For this reader it was like being enfolded into a glorious, celestial, orchestral song in which every instrument is finely tuned, timed, and vital to the whole, with different melodies coming together as a single motion to do something none of them could do alone…. ‘Always the world awaits the poet who can find the right words, more so now than ever,’ says Tolstoy, final words of counsel to the Persona after his many crossings. In this book are such words, and the author, like Gandhi, must surely be ‘wrapped in selfless practice’—dedicating thirty years of his life to finding them on our behalf. The Parliament of Poets is a worthy literary masterpiece, the author a curator of the human story, the book a living cultural artifact.Once read, you know your life was impoverished without it.” —Julie Clayton, Portland, Oregon, New Consciousness Review, and Amazon Review
“It only takes the first few paragraphs of this modern epic poem to feel the mental gush of ideas, fascinating juxtapositionings, and unique symbolism for our time…. The reader travels with the epic poem’s narrator, and hero, the Persona, exploring their journey throughout the seven continents – and transcending space and time – in order to acquire wisdom from mankind. In the case of the Persona, much of the struggle and the obstacles relate to whether or not he can find his way, or know himself. It is perhaps not a surprise, then, that The Parliament of Poets discusses a cross-cultural milieu, especially given Glaysher’s vast and varied experiences in his own life.” —Dave Gordon, The Jewish Post and News of Winnipeg; Landmark Report (Toronto reprint) Canada
“What attracted me was the ambition in this work, which attempts to look at what poetic traditions, ancient and modern might have to offer to a world which perhaps has lost touch with its spiritual and ecological centre of gravity… But possibly even the ambition of these [Odysseus Elytis and Derek Walcott] is dwarfed by what is attempted here. …he is attempting to unify lessons from many traditions, eastern and western, and there are references to many poets from English language ones to ones from places as diverse as China, India, Mexico and Poland, as well as many times. This is an attempt to fuse a truly global vision drawing on many poetic traditions…
“This is a highly stimulating read. The range of reading on display is impressive. It is refreshing to see poetry with a mission, and a suggested role in the modern world. This work is an impressive intellectual as well as visionary feat as well as being poetic. It will certainly be of interest to those of a philosophical, poetic and visionary frame of mind. …I will be getting a book version of this work. There is much to ponder on here as well as to relish.” —Graham Mummery, Amazon UK Review
“The Parliament of Poets is one of the most important books of our time. In this grand sweeping epic, Glaysher has managed to live up to the task given to him by The Parliament of Poets. …a new vision for humanity; one of Unity and Oneness of humankind. …synthesizing and integrating the great thinkers of all time. …a tangible vision of our shared humanity. …an impassioned plea that we WAKE UP before we destroy ourselves and our one precious planet. …an inspired epic that integrates the ancient wisdom teachings of the world’s greatest wisdom teachers and poets. …a new vision and sense of responsibility towards our shared humanity. An impassioned plea on behalf of humanity that reaches down and grabs the human longing for the Awakened Heart.” —Tina Benson,Amazon Review;Goodreads, California
“The plot follows a poet (presumably Glaysher himself, hinted at in the title of “Persona”), taken magically to the Moon, where a collection of the world’s greatest poets have assembled a parliament to consult on the “meaning of modernity”. …an attempt to merge the sciences and the humanities to reach a greater understanding of the human condition. …the poetry and language is rather beautiful. Glaysher has grasped epic poetry’s rhythms and cadences, favouring an iambic meter to create a pleasant, rolling pace to the piece. …it’s really very readable.” —Chris Hislop, Savageonline, London, UK
“The power of a mythological tale is interwoven into the fabric of its narrative. The crescendo that builds, and which ultimately leads the reader to its climax of revelation, is the key ingredient that makes the epic poem so seductive as a literary form. With this in mind I shall not comment overly on the story in The Parliament of Poets for fear of spoiling its essential spiritual message and core dynamic for potential readers. This is more than simply trying to avoid ruining its ‘plotline’ or fear of introducing a ‘spoiler’ into the equation but is, instead, my way of safe-guarding the inherent esoteric value of the work for a reader– one which is invariably expressed within its whole rhythmic phrasing and textual structure….
“In this regard The Parliament of Poets – both as a story and as an independently-produced publication, is a success on many levels. It is a tale of, and about, our age of modernity and several contemporary themes have been woven into its narrative in such a way that remind us that perhaps the spiritual crisis humanity faces is an extension of the technological age that we now live in. On the other hand, the poem, it should be stated, is not without its odd flashes of humour and dry irony which, once again enriches its overall value as a dynamic and engaging piece of art rather than a dry academic exercise…. “This is a uniquely powerful work that introduces an established and powerful literary tradition to a world that is in desperate need of its essential rhythms and harmonies for spiritual sustenance.” —Spirituality Today, UK
“The Parliament of Poets is, in the truest sense of the word, an epic poem. Whilst not grandiose in its execution it does deal with one of the greatest challenges to face humanity at this moment in its history – namely the desperate need for a spirituality context that serves humanity going forward. The style of the narrative is engaging and flows with colour and descriptive intent whilst not being overly ‘flowery’ in a way that so often befalls many other inspired poets. Indeed the story is grounded in contemporary issues and includes moments of humour and sardonic wit which are enjoyable. The main story is an interesting proposition, that maybe it is poets and philosophers, rather than activists and politicians, who can ultimately help transform this world into something better.” —Mr. P. J. Morris, Amazon UK
“Frederick Glaysher is truly a genius poet! The Parliament of Poets carried me on the journey of Universality and All is One with the melodic rhythm only poetry can bring. Everyone needs to take this visit to the moon and look about the universe and all that it encompasses with the Awe with which it deserves! I wish I had half the talent to express in poetic verse all the many perspectives and beliefs and visions that were incorporated in this book! It is so worth the time for each of us physically, emotionally, psychologically, mentally but even more spiritually to read this magnificent epic that will raise your eyes to the sky and wonder how someone could capture it all so well!Congratulations Frederick Glaysher….it was an honor to read this book!” —Cheryl B. Duttweiler, Fernandina Beach, Florida, Amazon Review
“A book for the upliftment of spirit…and purpose!! If you’re looking for inspiration, for the upliftment of your Spirit, for a meaningful connection with the direction of evolution as divinely guided by Unity Consciousness, for a sense of renewed and heightened purpose, read The Parliament of Poets by Frederick Glaysher. It will make your day, week, month, year…and Life!!” —Mike Schwager, Florida, Amazon Review
“Frederick Glaysher has written a truly epic poem. Over a 30-year period, he crafted a story of history, archetypal energies, famous writers and poets from around the world, spiritual lessons, personal growth, adventure, and beauty. His writing takes you soaring across space and time, and his wealth of knowledge and wisdom shine through on every page. It makes me wish I could study at his feet, or that I could sit at his feet and listen to him weave this tale in person. ‘Look Inside’ and you’ll be hooked – just as I was.” —Lion Goodman, Marin County, California, Amazon Review
“It seems that an epic poem is just about the perfect container for works that provide insight, humor, and speculation about the bigger issues of life, and I’m so glad I found THE PARLIAMENT OF POETS. The poet’s narrator is a seeker, and he has sought to understand both the philosophies that have guided poets and sages, and to understand the Earth from the perspective of a narrator looking down on it from the moon. The narrator makes several trips through outer space and goes back and forth to the moon, as if he were an astronaut. That trope is, indeed, a vital part of this epic poem, a poem that asks us to gather our collective wisdom (as if we were Buzz Aldrins) and apply it to saving the planet and ourselves. The poem is, at times, amusing, serious, philosophical, lyrical, and entertaining. I especially enjoyed Don Quixote’s cameo appearances. Bravo. A fine and enjoyable read.” —Marylee MacDonald, Tempe, Arizona, Amazon Review
“Faced with great suffering and overwhelming obstacles, the journey of the hero is beautifully portrayed in this classic epic poem ‘The Parliament of Poets’ by Frederick Glaysher. Can poets and philosophers be the key to transformation of the world? Discover what happens when the greatest poets and philosophers that ever walked the Earth gather on the moon and create a new vision for humanity.” —Rebekah Rose, Amazon Review
“Glaysher…has shown…that with the right subject matter and the right language, one can create an epic poem even in today’s age. …a beautiful poem that falls off the tongue smoothly. All through this epic poem, the Poet of the Moon is addressing or discussing the Buddhist concept of Itai Doshin or the unity of the mind in the midst of diversity, which is also the concept that underpins theUbuntu philosophy, which translates into ‘I am, because we are’. …In effect the poet wants to see the unity of what he calls ‘false dichotomies’: science and religion, reason and intuition, material and spiritual, white and black, and others. …an excellent piece of poetry.” —Nana Fredua-Agyeman, Accra, Ghana, Africa, ImageNations; Goodreads
“I found this book to be up to the standards set by Homer. …very thought provoking as it brings into question what humanity is doing to the Earth and each other.” —LibraryThing, USA
“Certainly wowed the crowd at the library with the performance and the words themselves.” —Albany Poets News, New York
“Most of the contemporary poets and critics claim that epic is not suitable for our modern age. But Frederick Glaysher has proven them wrong… ‘The Parliament of Poets’ has all the grandeur, all the loftiness and qualities which make an ‘effort for an epic’ a ‘true epic.’ In essence, ‘The Parliament of Poets’ is a song of unity, an audacious declaration that unity does not mean conformity, it means being in harmony. The poet himself is the main character of this epic poem, who travels to the moon, meets a large number of great poets and writers of the world, comes back to earth to have some glimpses of bygone times. Throughout the entire journey, many poets, writers, sages guide the poet and share their invaluable knowledge and insights.” —Ratul Pal, Rajshahi, Bangladesh, Goodreads
“AWESOME BOOK!! This was ordered as a gift and I have to admit I had a hard time letting it go! Highly recommend both the book and the seller!” —Stanleys Mom, Amazon Review
“The poets that are identified in this fascinating book see a universal brotherhood….” —Amazon Review
NEW Radio Interview > 01/11/2015 Epic poet/visionary Frederick Glaysher… “Frederick Glaysher, he is the epic poet and visionary, and the author of two extraordinary books, The Myth of the Enlightenment and The Parliament of Poets. I recommend both.” —Mike Schwager, The Enrichment Hour, POETRY, PEACE, ENLIGHTENMENT… Interview WSRadio 23 minutes.
August 5, 2014, by Miriam Knight and Julie Clayton, for the New Consciousness Review radio. Portland, Oregon. 27 minutes.
“You know how on space probes they have these little goodie bags full of things. It is my feeling that they should include a copy of The Parliament of Poets, because you give this overview, this panorama of the best of human civilization, the voice of her poets, the voice of her dreamers and thinkers, and done it with great honor to each of them, and so I do want to commend your book to our listeners.Don’t be intimidated by an epic poem. It’s really, coming back to that image of the storyteller sitting around the campfires of the world, dipping into and weaving the story of humanity, in the most beautiful, mellifluous language. So kudos to you, sir! Thirty years were not wasted. If anybody listening has contacts to NASA…” —Miriam Knight
“I was so impressed with The Parliament of Poets. …I love the vision of Apollo calling all poets and wise people to the moon to debate the meaning of modernity. I mean it’s such a contemporary question and it’s so deliciously wrapped in history and culture, and the poet, the persona character, he travels many journeys to find the answers to the meaning of modernity. …so the vision, essentially, is one of a global vision. …an amazing, wonderful book.” —Julie Clayton
“FREDERICK GLAYSHER in conversation about his great epic poem of startling originality and universal significance, THE PARLIAMENT OF POETS, which is ingeniously enriching the canon of ‘literary epics’ while in every way partaking of the nature of world literature. …a truly universal epic.”—Dr. Hans-George Ruprecht, CKCU Literary News, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. June 2013. Includes two excerpts from The Parliament of Poets: An Epic Poem. 26 minutes (Skip BBC). Here
“With his new book, THE PARLIAMENT OF POETS, Frederick GLAYSHER is in a creative dialog with the greatest epic poets of all time. He is bringing together in beautiful verse form, tending, as he writes ‘to the iambic pentameter, depending on thought and need’, diverse visions of humanity from all over the world. Frederick Glaysher’s poetic imagination is frequently casting them in the form of spatial and cosmic imagery. That is very exalting to the reader’s spirit. What is more, in reading his new book one is not only compassing, beyond the horizon of empirical facts, a borderless world, but one is also beholding the ‘oneness’ of humankind in a different light. • ‘The Parliament of Poets’ (Earthrise Press, 2012) by Frederick Glaysher is a pure joy; embodied in a literary work of fine verbal art, it is contemporary ‘world literature’ at its best.” —Dr. Hans-George Ruprecht, CKCU Literary News, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. August 6, 2013. — a Radio CKCU/Literary News ‘encore’ 26 minutes (Skip BBC). https://cod.ckcufm.com/programs/414/13077.html
London > Epic Poetry Reading. Colourful Radio, with Lester Holloway (London morning drive time). February 5, 2014. Reading a short excerpt set in London, outside Westminster Abbey, a British Parliament of Poets! 5 minutes
“My Odyssey as an Epic Poet: Interview with Frederick Glaysher.”Poets’ Quarterly / Spring 2015 (April 6, 2015), w/ Arthur McMaster, PQ Contributing Editor. [Reprinted here slightly revised. A few brief paragraphs added, starting, “For many years I couldn’t figure out how to start writing…”]
Author of: The Myth of the Enlightenment: Essays. September, 2014. Hardcover ISBN: 9780982677834. Earthrise Press, 230 pages;
and The Parliament of Poets: An Epic Poem. Hardcover ISBN: 9780982677889. Earthrise Press, November, 2012. 294 pages.
Author’s website: fglaysher.com
Arthur McMaster: You published two books, within two years of each other, books that I find want to be read together. Your essays The Myth of the Enlightenment lays out the conditions for your fine epic poem The Parliament of Poets. Can you please tell us about how you came to take on such out-sized challenges?
Frederick Glaysher: Sure, I’d be happy to. Thank you, Arthur, for giving me the chance to speak with you and your readers, to put on record my odyssey as an epic poet.
Frederick Glaysher, March 1, 2015
Largely leaving aside my whole history of growing up an omnivorous reader, by the end of high school, I was already thinking of myself as a poet and regularly keeping a journal. I was especially already drawn to Robert Frost, including his prose, and other writers whose lives were marked by an independence of spirit, shall we say. When it came time to think about college, my intuition spoke emphatically that I had to take the road less traveled by or I’d end up like everybody else. It wasn’t rational, rather deeply intuitive—a gut feeling that I couldn’t fully articulate. But already I understood that the best writers were not made by universities. So while all my friends goose-stepped off to college, I chose to go off to an old farm in Oakland Township, Michigan, adjacent to where I grew up in Rochester. I spent a couple of years there reading and writing, trying to find my own voice. It was where I really read deeply into Walt Whitman and Emerson, and other poets that have remained essential to me throughout my life. Eventually, I felt I was ready to hold my own in a university, felt ready for it, needed it, and began my more conventional education, but I really became a poet on that farm.
Looking back now from over sixty years old, the writing of my epic poem finally behind me, I think another major threshold occurred in 1977 in a theater class that I took in Interpretative Reading. It was there I learned that the Greek rhapsodes would travel throughout Greece reciting Homer. I was thrilled by the idea, and it set me thinking. My experience in that class of performing a passage from William Wordsworth’s “Michael” clinched it for me. Though overwhelmed and intimidated by the prospect, I began to consider writing an epic poem and then traveling around the world to recite it, reviving the ancient art of the rhapsodes and Homer. By 1982 I had written my first draft of a plot outline.
AM: And a fine major work it is, Frederick. I want to come back to the core idea, however, which challenges conventional thinking about man’s “intellectual evolution,” where spirituality is clearly a prime mover, but just now I would like to ask you to go back several years to your poetry influences. I know that you studied with Robert Hayden. What did his work mean to you, as a younger man?
FG: Without repeating too much what I say about Robert Hayden in the three essays that I have already written about him, in my books The Grove of the Eumenides and The Myth of the Enlightenment, I would say, yes, studying with Hayden was transformational, all the more for me since Hayden himself, when he was a young poet in the 1940s, had studied with W. H. Auden at the University of Michigan. I was very much taken then with T. S. Eliot and W. H. Auden, and that personal connection to the Tradition, if you will, has always meant a lot to me. Still does. On the other hand, I have found that people often want to read my biography too much in terms of Robert Hayden. I had been thinking of myself as a poet and studying and writing for at least eight years before I had ever met Hayden. So while I am the first one to say I owe him a lot, I don’t owe him everything. In fact there were many things about my biography and intellectual interests that he never understood, couldn’t understand, even wrongly advised me about, yet such things proved exactly what enabled me to write my epic poem. Again, the strength of my independence and self-reliance saved me.
AM: Let’s go to your more recent work, The Myth of the Enlightenment, and I love the implications from that title, what part of that research and writing are you most proud of?
FG: The Myth of the Enlightenment draws from a very long undercurrent of study in my first book of essays The Grove of the Eumenides. I’m really building on and extending from that first book of prose, bringing many themes to fruition. So, to my mind, The Myth represents my arduous struggle to bring into unity and coherence the diverse strands of my life-long intellectual and spiritual psychomachia, with East and West, represented, say, by Tolstoy, Milton, Tagore, and Saul Bellow, among others. Part of all that is the struggle of traditional conceptions of life and religion with modernity, ranging over the last five hundred years, and longer, with what Czeslaw Milosz insightfully called “the fad of nihilism,” and Bellow scathingly referred to as “knee-jerk nihilism,” my opponent throughout all my books. In The Parliament of Poets and The Myth of the Enlightenment, I believe I have slain that Beast, and hope, in time, word will spread, and my books will find more readers who can recognize and understand the importance of that victory. The historical record demonstrates that all recorded civilizations have been capable of major transformation in the past when essential to save themselves. Those that were incapable of such epochal shifts destroyed themselves and passed into oblivion. World civilization now stands in the balance.
AM: And now for the piece de resistance. Your epic poem The Parliament of Poets runs to some 290 pages—one poem. Epic indeed. And it is a striking volume. I would like to see more of this kind of serious work. We find mythology and folklore, such as Merlin, worked with so cleverly, but also biblical antecedents and other, related, creation myths—I mention Baal—moving elegantly to such literary figures as Chaucer and Tolstoy. Throughout we find, pardon the cliché, man’s inhumanity to man—the Russian Gulag… Help our PQ readers understand how you put it all together. The planning for this must have been daunting.
FG: Yes, it was daunting. Right from the beginning. In all honesty I was overwhelmed by the notion, taking on such a challenge, but, unbidden, the shaman call kept coming, the undeniable demand, that I, as Emerson wrote, which I once quoted to Robert Hayden, visibly shocking him, “Say, ‘it is in me, and shall out.’” Looking back, I believe it was the independence of those years of solitary study that helped give me the necessary tenacity of spirit, as well as the intuitive sense to recognize that there was no other literary form in which I could fully express what I felt about life. Early on I realized that I had to go directly to the great epics and poets to learn how to write it. Although I had read by the mid Eighties several academic books on epic poetry, for the most part, they weren’t helpful. I left them dissatisfied, except for E. M. W. Tillyard’s book on epic poetry and one of his articles. That period of study culminated in my long essay “Epopee” in The Grove of the Eumenides, the last one in the book, looking to the future. I talk more about Tillyard in an Epic Poetry Workshop I gave at the Austin International Poetry Festival, in 2012, in a YouTube video.
AM: I suspect that few of our readers will recognize the name Tillyard. Can you help? Please go on.
FG: Unlike the New Criticism and other fads in criticism since, Tillyard was a real scholar worthy of the name, not a theorist or sophist, still largely in the old historical, humanistic, practical, useful mode of criticism. His scholarship was of crucial importance to me, for it helped me understand, at a fairly young age, what I was up against and how to proceed, go about actually studying for and writing an epic poem. I consider Tillyard an example of the role scholars have in building civilization, not tearing it down. There was no comparable help I ever found elsewhere. I was largely on my own and had to figure out almost everything for myself. In fact, I soon realized almost all of the prevailing scholarship and fads in culture and poetry would lead me astray from my chosen task, if I allowed it. By the early to mid Eighties I became aware that I was training my mind to the task of writing an epic poem. As Virgil had written three books, I paced myself from there on, deciding I would follow his example, writing a book of lyric poems and dramatic monologues, then a book-length narrative poem telling a longer story, working up to and leading to my ability to write an epic poem, with many personae. Similarly thinking of developing my narrative ability, I wrote my master’s thesis on the narrative poems of Edwin Arlington Robinson.
AM: Can you tell us more about other influences?
FG: All of this, of course, was aside from the necessity of finding and achieving a Vision of our historical, global moment. Some of the great historians and scholars of religion and myth proved to be the most helpful, such as Arnold Toynbee’s many works, most of which I’ve read, especially Mankind and Mother Earth and his Gifford Lecture on religion. Most of the books by Huston Smith, too, beginning even in the early Seventies, were very important, as was Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung. Instead of the linear approach of Virgil and Milton in the in medias res, I felt my recognition of Jung’s formidable understanding of dreams and modern psychology required a more dream-like phantasmagoria, slightly “smudging” it, like a painter, with his thumb, toward the logic of dreams. And I, of course, read all the great epic poems, East and West, revising my notes and plot outline, again and again, over decades of study and reflection.
For many years I couldn’t figure out how to start writing, wasn’t ready. So I just kept reading and studying, following and trusting my desultory intuition to take me where needed, making notes, jotting down details and choice tidbits. Into my fifties, during the winter preceding my actually beginning to write in the early spring of 2008, I had a few key realizations that began to open the doors for me. I read somewhere that Virgil had first written out the Aeneid in prose and then polished it into verse. However apocryphal that may be, it made me realize I could do the same, coupled with the rhetorical strategy of outlining an essay or piece of oratory, epic plot in this case.
Instead of being shot out of a cannon or ascending to the moon tied to vials of hot air, as in Cyrano de Bergerac, and so forth, my life-long fascination with fairy tales, Mother Goose, and children’s literature came to mind, along with Robert Hayden, solving the major problem that I struggled with for decades of how the Persona would get to the moon.
Another major insight came about when I read of a 19th Century American writer who wrote his best book when he made his own personal struggle to write it part of the story itself. I have always considered myself a fairly private person, solitary and loath to share much of my most personal life with strangers, so it was not easy to confront the possibility of sharing my inner-most self with the reader. I can’t emphasize this enough. Though very painful for me, I think allowing the reader into my inner struggle to create an epic poem deepened it on many levels of meaning and nuance, and makes it hopefully much more engaging for the reader, for the Persona becomes archetypal, beyond my small self. I had to grow within to do that and my characters too had to grow, even, I’d like to think, in the vignettes, into the deepest psychic levels where I am truly trying to resolve the conundrums that I have brooded on all my life. I think and hope readers can feel that, for they also have that sacred place of consciousness.
Analogous to the importance of Virgil to me, Dante not only led to my realizing that I could meld his canto within the twelve-book form of Virgil and Milton, but also that his “deep structure,” as I think of it, given near the end of Canto XVII of the Paradiso, “if it all be penned,” would dovetail almost perfectly with my own more universal spiritual experience and outlook and struggle to affirm the universal, transcendent sovereignty of God, which came together with the Rose Image of Mother Earth. I watched Joseph Campbell’s conversations with Bill Moyers when they were first broadcast, and many times thereafter, helping me to begin to understand the Image of Earthrise.
AM: Jung is so often at play in these highly intellectual inquiries. Can you speak to your sense of the spiritual?
FG: All sanctimony aside, with all humility, as the descendant of Christians from several of the 60,000+ denominations, I have always been moved by and savored, from my first reading it in high school, the counsel of Christ to “pray to your Father” (Matt 6.6), and by, in the various great religions, similar guidance to pray and meditate. As a very young person, I found myself drawn to daily prayer and meditation, usually morning and evening, already when I was in my early twenties, often back then for an hour or two a day, though the more sober “householder” stage of life necessarily shortened that. As usual, I prayed daily throughout the years of writing my epic, often turning to God, asking for help and guidance, meditating on how to proceed, resolving many literary problems through prayer. Prayer and meditation have been and are still important parts of my life as a man and a poet. There is a Mystery in consciousness, and in prayer we can experience it. I believe prayer is essential to develop the deepest levels in ourselves of what it means to be a human being, our deepest levels of consciousness. Naturally, all this is reflected in my epic poem. I hope this conveys somewhat how I grappled with actually writing my epic.
AM: Thank you. I want to take you to a question that should let you vent a bit about American poetry today and your observations on current themes in that poetry. You sir are not a conventional poet. I know that you have taught poetry, but I sense that you see yourself as somewhat of an outrider. Is that fair? Will you comment?
FG: Yes, from my earliest years, I’ve always thought of myself in opposition to much of what has become the prevailing, conventional modes of literary and cultural thinking and writing, academic and otherwise, without even trying, to my mind, and very much beyond postmodernism and all its clichés and assumptions. Part of it stems from my early interest in world religions and in the United Nations, my life-long study of history, East and West, all of which began in high school. I’ve gone deeper and deeper into both ever since, in terms of literature, history, spiritual outlook, evermore what I think of as universality, while I fear much of the culture, around the world, has become more insular, parochial, closed off, superficial, and self-obsessed with backward, retrograde flights into imaginary pasts, which plague us, or has sunk into nihilistic and secular modes of thinking and utopias. Nihilism is an extremely dangerous, dehumanizing reduction of the fullness of life, of the 200,000 years of Homo sapiens on this planet. I consider it more of a threat than even fanatical Islam. We must not fail to understand and remember that dis-eased, nihilistic rationalism, along with its companion materialism, has produced the most oppressive, bloodiest episodes of the last hundred years.
AM: Good point. How has the work been received?
FG: I’m grateful that a fair number of people have read and reviewed my epic around the world and have responded very favorably. I have at times been surprised to find that some readers respond only to one chapter or another of my epic and its respective worldview, respond only to the exclusivism which they already hold or value, while not perhaps hearing the full symphony, what I’d like to think is a song of the fullness of human existence itself. I suppose that stands to reason, so to speak, and indicates somewhat where and how we human beings still need to grow and evolve, are evolving. In our age of extreme, even ridiculous specialization, many know little outside their box, cutting them off from the plenitude and complexity of life, substituting narrow, dehumanizing ideologies. In this way nihilism has us in a stranglehold.
So, in an age of Balkanization and fragmentation, I have always sought unity, what might bring the disparate parts together, harmonize what divides and threatens humanity, through the Supreme Power of the Imagination, our most distinctively human capacity. I still cling to my life-long hope that a global, universal epic tale might help heal the wounds of modernity sufficiently to make the difference, before it is too late. In our corrosively cynical, fragmented state, it can seem most fail to have the imagination to appreciate the possibility. I continue to hope that a point will be reached at which that will begin to change. The Power of Art to reach and touch the souls of humankind must not be neglected and dismissed. Art is the magical Power and language of the gods.
As to my experience with Academia, I’ve repeatedly left the university, found it unconducive to my intellectual and spiritual development and growth, which has always been very painstakingly slow and hard won. Because I understood early on that the university doesn’t own or represent the Tradition, I’ve always been able to walk away from it when necessary, what I consider five times, last in 1996. I’ve always felt that much of the university has lost and betrayed the Tradition.
AM: I cannot let you go without asking this next one, in my assumption that you are a deeply contemplative poet: what are you working on now?
FG: For a long time, and especially the last two or three months, I’ve been thinking again about writing an essay tentatively titled “Quantum Physics and Poetry.” I feel there’s a need perhaps to spell out in prose some of what I’m writing about in my epic poem, to help the reader, as Whitman said. I first read about Quantum Physics in about 1973 in a book by George Leonard, called The Transformation, and then went on to Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, reading many other works through the years. In my epic, of course, I wasn’t writing a science textbook, but, I’d like to think, absorbed and synthesized some of the implications of Quantum Physics, at very deep metaphorical and metaphysical levels, to reach into the human psyche.
I believe Quantum Physics changes the nature and meaning of all of the traditional religious and spiritual terms, which is very difficult to convey to people. I fear it may take another five hundred years and sheer hell for humanity fully to understand. Modernity has left people often exceedingly distraught over religion when such needs not be the case. Minds on all sides tend to be indoctrinated and snap shut before understanding can even begin to take place, as Allan Bloom understood. I do address Quantum Physics in my epic, in what I think is the best way, in the language and epistemology of poetry, though also in The Myth of the Enlightenment. I’ve been thinking, too, for quite a while now of writing an essay on Dante and Cervantes, in terms of their own engagement with Islam.
To my surprise in late 2013, I had the startling thought of writing another epic poem, which had never occurred to me before, so intent was I on The Parliament, though more of a dramatic narrative, perhaps somewhat like John Milton’s Samson Agonistes. Having spent over thirty years on The Parliament of Poets, I doubt I have enough time left for another full-scale epic (laughing).
And then on a shorter time-scale, I still hope to live out that rhapsode dream, at least a little, maybe for a few years, if I’m lucky, somehow, though in this world, at my age, I know many dreams never come true, but serve to inspire us toward our better angels. No matter what happens, I’m grateful that I have been allowed to finish my epic. I feel fulfilled as a man that that dream has come true.
An Epic Poetry Workshop, presented by Frederick Glaysher, at the Austin International Poetry Festival, AIPF, September 29, 2012.
“Frederick Glaysher presents a workshop designed to revive the genre of epic poetry. He researched this genre and developed two worksheets with collections of quotations and reflections on epic poetry which helped him develop his own thinking and practice. From the perspective of having now finished the 8th draft of his own epic poem, he finds much more in them and looks forward to talking with people about the genre. Having taught college courses in the past in non-Western literature, the great Asian epics are very important to him, too, and he will explore some aspects of Chinese and Indian epic as well. The workshop combines reading, discussion, thought-provoking questions, and writing practice.” — From the 20th Anniversary Celebration Program for AIPF.
ANN ARBOR—On September 22, 29, and October 6, the theatre company, Apollo’s Troupe, will stage the theater adaptation of the poem, The Parliament of Poets, written by Michigan poet Frederick Glaysher and published in 2012 by Earthrise Press. Continue reading →