Overview: The Parliament of Poets by Frederick Glaysher, Earthrise Press, 2012

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Frederick Glaysher claims to be an epic poet, and moreover to have written an epic poem, The Parliament of Poets. This can be a enormous declare and an astonishing ambition. Is he? Has he? Earlier than responding to those two vital questions by reviewing his e book, let me define why I believe that is such an enormous deal. The phrase epic is used very loosely, however usefully, these days. We’d say that the movie, Ben Hur, was an epic, or that some extremely harmful expedition throughout Antartica was epic, and that is helpful as a result of the phrase conveys a way of scale and significance; however that isn’t what we imply once we speak of an epic poem.

To place this in context, for my part the final full and true epic poem within the English Language was Paradise Misplaced written by John Milton within the C17th, and other than that poem there are solely two others: the nameless Beowulf from outdated English, and the unfinished Faerie Queen by Edmund Spenser from the C16th. Don Juan, by Byron, is probably a real mock epic and other than that the one poet since Milton who has come remotely near writing within the epic type is Keats together with his two chic, however unfinished and possibly unfinishable (even had he lived), Hyperion fragments. Yeats was an epic poet by nature and impulse, however didn’t write an precise epic. This brings us to the C20th and all of the phoney poets (Brits and People alike) claiming to write down epics, ‘trendy epics’, however doing no such factor. Essentially the most egregious instance of this might be Ezra Pound and his Cantos: unreadable and undecipherable tosh masquerading as a piece of genius within the method we’re these days too accustomed to in conceptual artwork and music. Certainly, solely two sorts of folks ever learn the Cantos: college professors who make a profession out of untangling it; and wannabe poets who write similar to that (besides in fact utterly in a different way – solipsism smears the pane in its personal manner: there is a brown smudge, however here is a inexperienced stain) and naturally vote for fashions justifying their very own inanities. (As for contemporary epics of the ‘human thoughts’ – starting Wordsworth, Whitman et al – these, regardless of their odd purple patches, appear prolonged and tedious types of narcissism).

It might take me too removed from this evaluation to outline epic poetry, but when it means something the clue to its essence is within the phrase ‘type’: there’s an elevation of favor, the chic is rarely distant regardless of all of man’s in humanity to man, some worth system that’s profoundly vital to us as folks informs the epic poem’s journey; epic poems by no means trash what it means to be human – they increase us up. That’s the reason Pound’s Cantos should not epic (and even poetry): they’re a type of Gnosticism, and so they indicate the next studying that plebs can not entry, solely these ‘within the know’. Briefly, The Cantos are anti-democratic, simply as Pound was. The true epics delight all clever peoples all through the ages as a result of they communicate to them in a language they’ll perceive even when that language is ‘elevated’.

So Glaysher has structured his epic in twelve books, like Milton, however the precise mannequin for a way the work progresses is The Divine Comedy of Dante. As Dante is guided via the three ranges of existence of his Catholic mannequin, so now Glaysher in a wonderful conceit imagines – or envisions – himself on the Moon and being led by an assortment of poets and writers (not simply Virgil) from each continent, nation and clime again to the Earth some 4 instances with a view to be taught classes that put together him to grow to be an epic poet and truly write the poem. Certainly the poem ends like Dante’s poem does; he leaves us with the ‘love that strikes the solar and stars’; evaluate with Glaysher who ends his supernal imaginative and prescient with ‘dancing/throughout an countless discipline of area and stars’. The poem is at the very least 9000 strains lengthy, and in true epic simulation has a ‘prefatory ode’ and, imitating Milton, a word on the versification; there’s a declare on this that the verse approximates to clean verse, however I can not agree that it does, though that isn’t essentially a criticism.

What’s extraordinary, nonetheless, is the language, and so the type. There’s a curious combination of archaicisms, peculiar language, inversions, and trendy colloquial slang. A stunning variety of strains truly finish with both the indefinite or particular article, which I discover tough to fathom why. However the opening tackle in Guide 1, Homeric or Miltonic in scope, offers a flavour of the archaic:

“O Muse, O Maid of Heaven, O Circling Moon,

O lunar glory of the midnight sky,

I name upon thee to bless they servant’s tongue,

descend upon thy pillar of sunshine,

moonbeam blessings, that from my mouth

could pour at the very least a fraction of the love

I maintain for thee, candy blessings, for service

to God’s creation, and His Artistic Phrase,

the Bible’s thundering verses, Brahma

of the Upanishads, Allah, the Compassionate,

Bhudda’s meditative thriller,

Confucius and the Dao. O Nice Spirit”

However truly, that is actually good writing, transferring even, and the stunning factor is: Glaysher sustains the momentum of the poem for all Twelve Books! So though I don’t suppose the versification is common or recurrent even in any metrical sense, he has one way or the other formed a line which efficiently drives the narrative ahead. Additional, as a result of his vocabulary is gigantic, and since he does swap so regularly from one type to a different, one is rarely bored – the poetry stimulates. In reality is sort of whacky! For instance in Guide three we get a discourse on the Greek heroes from “Bob” (Robert Hayden, Glaysher’s mentor), which is fairly classical, however adopted by Glaysher’s persona reflecting:

“I assumed who wants warp drive after I’ve acquired Queen Mab”.

It is a unusual collocation (warp drive/Queen Mab), nevertheless it works; and there are actually a whole bunch of those intersections between then and now, and phrases that carry them into focus and juxtaposition.

Thus, though Glaysher appears archaic in locations, as a result of the poetry is about such present points that concern us – specifically, the destiny of planet Earth and humanity extra particularly – and since the linguistics are so various and skilful, we realise that it is a poet working for deliberate results, and never one who has solely learn poetry from 300 years in the past. One fabulous high quality of this poem is its readability and luminous high quality. I like the truth that regardless of the vast ranging topographical and lexical references this poem is simple to grasp and observe: it’s a poet writing for folks, not one attempting to be intelligent, and never one concealing their lack of poetry in obfuscation.

I take the view, subsequently, and surprisingly to myself, that Glaysher is absolutely an epic poet and that is an epic poem! One can hardly congratulate him sufficient, then, on this achievement, because it has been so lengthy awaited. Of particular curiosity to members of The Society of Classical Poets is Guide 6. Bear in mind, the journey of the poet from Earth to Moon and again once more entails visiting all of the continents on Earth and interesting in dialogue with all of the poets throughout all time. Guide 6 covers China and far of its sentiments will ring a really nice word with supporters and followers of Falun Gong: there’s a fabulous expose of political corruption in China, with strains like:

“The Marxists have proved the worst in all

of human historical past. Insatiable lust for blood.

Solely college professors in my nation

proceed to worship at their sanguine shrines.

They at all times declare it is ‘for the folks’.

however by no means get round to asking them

what they need. Obligation and heaven forgotten.”

Please word too the arch humour in opposition to the US college professors who nonetheless argue for Marxism; there’s truly loads of humour within the poem. Thematically, too, it’s epic: it’s concerning the survival of the human race, regardless of – Dantean-like – going through the total horrors of human historical past. It may very well be argued that in locations the language is clich├ęd, however given the size of the poem the concept each line and picture may very well be ‘recent’ and concrete is as absurd as FR Leavis, the well-known English critic, seventy years in the past slating Milton as a result of his language wasn’t ‘concrete’ like John Donne’s; in different phrases, Leavis utterly missed the purpose of epic and methods to write one: if each line needed to be imaginatively engaged with, then we would by no means get past Guide 1. Homer knew the daybreak was rosy, so no want for a recent metaphor each time the daybreak was launched.

Lastly, then, having accorded Glaysher what I conceive to be the best honour in poetry (to be an epic poet), I must level out what I understand to be two shortcomings on this superb work. One is aesthetic and one is theological.

First, aesthetically, while the work stored my curiosity from starting to finish, and is filled with curious and ingenious conditions, I believe it does undergo from a scarcity of dramatic pressure. Though the poet suffers (certainly is mutilated at the very least twice: dropping his head at one level, and having his coronary heart ripped out by Octavio Paz at one other!), there’s by no means a way that he can truly die or lose all the pieces, other than the laurel of being a poet. It’s one dialogue after one other – fascinating sure, however not likely dramatic in the best way that Homer, Virgil and Milton are dramatic. In fact, as Dante is the mannequin, then maybe that isn’t stunning: even Dante can hardly sustain the strain in his countless dialogues as he ascends. I personally have but to fulfill anybody who thinks the Purgatory and the Paradise superior to the Inferno; and naturally Dante’s poem advantages from the tighter topography of three imaginary areas. There’s a acquire but additionally a dilution in having the Glaysher’s persona go to all of the continents – a type of dissipation of impact.

Extra significantly, maybe, as a weak spot of the poem is my theological objection to it. In Guide eight he says:

“Milton shall information you from right here in your

pilgrimage via historic and trendy instances,

many peoples, revealing their creeds as One.”

Tennyson then challenges him with:

“What are you doing for the Federation

of the World?”

So what we’ve got is the issue of the world’s sufferings to be solved through federation (nice within the USA however attempt the European Union for starters!) and thru what the persona clearly believes is the ‘oneness’ of all non secular beliefs. There are in fact no sensible options as to how this could be achieved, however on this fervent hope there’s a unusual paradox: principally, Glaysher presents a sweeping critique of modernism and the fashionable world, which I largely agree with. Additional, I like the truth that he invokes and even believes within the Muse – how antiquated are you able to get? However on the similar time he appears to swallow certainly one of their most pernicious falsehoods, one so pricey to so many liberals and bleeding hearts: specifically, that each one religions are one and educate the identical factor whenever you get right down to it. Syncretism in different phrases. Sure, there’s a sense during which one can monitor related moral and ethical rules throughout some religions, however any deeper acquaintance actually produces the alternative impression. And customary sense tells us that one would not grow to be a Bhuddist as a result of one thinks it is the identical as being a Catholic; one turns into a Bhuddist (or any non secular sort) as a result of one believes it to be a superior path or option to the reality of actuality, else why would one convert in any respect?

Given this superficial understanding of faith, I believe there’s a failure to handle the deep philosophical points that derive from them and drive human behaviour for good or unwell. To say two particular areas which might be glossed over throughout the poem, however are core dramatic factors, say, in Milton: can human beings save themselves (there appears to be an underlying assumption that they’ll in Glaysher’s poem) or is salvation (or to make use of one other faith’s time period for this: nirvana, for instance) bestowed as an act of grace? Religions, certainly sects, actually do differ on this query and it’s elementary to how we behave. Or take one other one: predestination and free will. These questions are actually superficially lined in Glaysher’s poem, however in Milton the entire energy of the narrative comes from understanding the liberty of Adam’s (and Eve’s) will and exploring each avenue of what freedom of the need means; there’s that great prelude in hell the place even the devils are debating the difficulty – fruitlessly!

Thus, Glaysher has written a masterpiece, however a flawed one. He ought to take coronary heart, nonetheless, as most critics appear to suppose Paradise Misplaced is a flawed masterpiece. You simply cannot please everybody. I strongly advocate Frederick Glaysher’s poem and hope he’ll discover a bigger readership for it. It’s actual poetry and we have to help actual poets wherever we discover them. I solely want he may very well be English – however there you go – he is an American, and he is written the brand new epic. Congratulations, Frederick Glaysher. I stay up for studying extra of his work.

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