National Poetry Writing Month
Happy NaPoWriMo everyone! It’s been at least 5 years since I’ve participated in NaPoWriMo, so I am due to return to the side of my muse and rekindle the bonds of friendship between us. She has taken her love to more attentive mortal humans, but I am sure that I will win back her affections as I take time to spend in nature and still my voice and thoughts. I am all ears for listening to her whispers. I have my notebook ready to write down the inspirations she will bless me with.
One of my favorite legendary muses is Calliope. She is the the oldest among sisters and is the mother of Orpheus and Linus. Calliope is the chief among muses. She played the lyre like her son Orpheus, and enjoyed writing poetry. She is usually portrayed with a quill and scroll in her hands.
Some of my favorite examples of epic poetry are Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Odyssey by Homer, and Beowulf. I am also intrigued by the Kyrgyz epics around the hero Manas, who unites Kyrgyzstan against their enemies. I must confess that I have not read an epic poem written by a woman, so I will close that gap by April 30th, beginning with Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh.
For many years, one of my dreams has been to write an epic poem. I have decided to take this month to write one. On April 30th I will publish a companion post to share with you the results of my efforts. I will write a stanza each day for the next 28 days. I have written two shorter poems so far, but I am now ready take the plunge into the world of storytelling with a long chain of lyrical verses.
There is a classic structure to writing an epic poem. Among the elements to include are:
- Opens in the midst of dramatic action taking place in the world.
- Setting is vast, including many countries or planets.
- Invokes the aid of a muse, one of the 9 daughters of Zeus.
- States the theme, or cause of the story’s action.
- Uses descriptive epithets for characters, e.g. Alexander the Great, Achilles the Brave, Hercules the Strong, etc.
- Employs long lists of objects, places or people, e.g. the list of demons in Paradise Lost, by John Milton, the genealogy of the featured hero.
- Weaves in long formal speeches.
- Divine intervention in human affairs is prevalent.
- Tragic hero descends into the Underworld, or hell.
- Use of repetition, such as stock phrases, such as “rosy-fingered dawn.”
- Heroes embody the values of the civilization where the epic originated.
The Hero’s Journey
The hero of the story embarks upon a journey or quest in which s/he is besieged by adversaries who want to detain her and cause her to fail in completing her quest. She returns home transformed when she succeeds. She exemplifies virtues valued by the people where the story is set and performs mighty deeds.
How many of you will try to write an epic poem with me? Let me know how you fare in your endeavor.