My Muse has been good to me this month. She has given me lots of inspiration for poems to share. I am still working on finishing my epic poem, mentioned in my April blog post. In the meantime, I wrote a few spring haiku and have taken some pictures to share.
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.
On May 2, 2016, my family and I attended the 45th anniversary of Stone Soup Poetry at the Out of the Blue art gallery in Cambridge, MA. This poetry open mic was founded in 1971 by the late Jack Powers. who encouraged writers to share their work in a supportive atmosphere.
We are grateful for all or our poet friends and were happy we could enjoy the transformational power of poetry as expressed in the spirit of community. The last time we were there was in July of 2009. Our daughter was small. She is now a little older and was given the chance to stand up and read 2 of her papa’s poems.
Below is the reflection I have written about my time in the company of fellow poets at last Monday’s poetry open mic.
Lyrical words washed over me this evening, as gentle waves lap a sun-toasted shoreline.
Sirens screamed above hums of acknowledgement and the clapping hands of appreciation.
The chalice of my heart filled up, my soul was nourished.
Moments of beauty tumbled after each other as poets read the works of their hearts, written with pens and other tools. They gifted me with fresh ideas to feast upon. Their words lighted the lamp of my imagination.
My brain floated through the night sky filled with stars and moons that were painted on the podium they stood behind.
From the Alaskan tundra to an urban laundromat, from navy yards to salty shorelines, I traveled.
Kissing, welding, flying, falling, I have done, thinking about tossing together a bowl full of words to throw into the soup of my life.
Porcupines, cats, fluffy puppies and sing-along songs saluted the memory of Jack Powers, the founder of Stone Soup Poetry.
We were all dreamers of a world we love that night, healers of broken-hearts with words that let them know we are there to walk their journey with them.
The balm of understanding we applied to fellow wayfarers near and far, giving our own voices to the concerns of creatures whose voices are seldom heeded. Our sharing brought us closer to the possibilities in all of us.