- Hardcover: 294 pages
- Publisher: Earthrise Press (1 November 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 098267788X
- ISBN-13: 978-0982677889
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.1 x 22.9 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 499 g
- Customer Reviews: 17 customer ratings
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The Parliament of Poets: An Epic Poem Hardcover – 1 November 2012
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"Certainly wowed the crowd at the library with the performance and the words themselves." --Albany Poets News, New York
"A great epic poem of startling originality and universal significance, in every way partaking of the nature of world literature." --Hans Ruprecht, CKCU Literary News Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, author on Goethe, Borges, etc.
"A remarkable poem by a uniquely inspired poet, taking us out of time into a new and unspoken consciousness..." --Kevin McGrath, Lowell House, South Asian Studies, Harvard University, author on the Mahabharata
"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. 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 truly a major accomplishment and contribution to American Letters. Once you enter, you will not stop until the end. A landmark achievement. Bravo! --ML Liebler, Poet, Department of English, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan
"And a fine major work it is." --Arthur McMaster, Department of English, Converse College, in Poets' Quarterly
"Very readable and intriguingly enjoyable. A masterpiece that will stand the test of time." --Poetry Cornwall, No. 36, England, UK
"Bravo to the Poet for this toilsome but brilliant endeavour." --Transnational Literature Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia
"Glaysher is really an epic poet and this is an epic poem! Glaysher has written a masterpiece..." --The Society of Classical Poets
"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, and what is more, with a profound spiritual message for humanity." --Alan Jacobs, Poet Writer Author, London, UK
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The poem is described as epic suggestive of ambition. Mention epic poetry and chances are most would think of the likes of Homer, or Virgil or the Ramayana from which the Bhagavad Gita comes. In many ways it goes against the way many twentieth century poets have written, though there have been longer poems that have epic qualities, for example Odysseus Elytis's The Axion Esti, or Derek Walcott's Omeros by Walcott, Derek ( Author ) ON Jan-03-1998, Paperback. But possibly even the ambition of these is dwarfed by what is attempted here.
The writer of Parliament of Poets, Frederick Glaysher is obviously aware of this as he states in his introduction to his long poem. He names his poetic models as Farid Attar's and Chaucer, themselves mighty predecessors. Attar's poem The Conference of the Birds (Classics) is a spiritual odyssey, while the Chaucer poem is unknown to me, but I will be seeking it out after reading this. This is part of Glasher's plan because 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 a 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.
To create this in the narrative of the poem there is a gathering on the site of the first moon landing of huge number of poets under the auspices of the god Apollo, who was a patron of poetry. The Persona, who is the narrator, and perhaps the writer's alter to go on a journey of self discovery, learning to discover about himself and his poetic mission. The term poet is used more broadly than as is usual in English (in some languages for example "writer" includes both prose and verse authors). We therefore meet Miguel de Cervantes who was strictly a prose writer, as well a Jane Austin, similarly Black Elk to my knowledge did not to my knowledge write poetry. There are also mythic figures and visionaries, and through the poem we meet them, some of them now endowed with magical powers, for example the Mexican poet Octavio Paz now has shape-shifting powers.
Knowing who some of these figures are, though they are explained in the text may be the biggest problem some readers have here. But this need not be too big a difficulty, because for all the erudition on show here, Glasher is a lucid writer and the narrative is by and large direct rather than hermetic and allusive which puts some readers off modern poetry. The poem takes the reader on a journey through the world, from east to west. The choice of poets as guide is intriguing, especially the one that is perhaps most personal to him, namely Robert Haydn who appears to have been one of Glasher's poetic mentors. But this personalising of the quest itself gives this epic a personal aspect, grounding it in his experience. For those poets I haven't read, I will be looking them up.
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. How far Glasher succeeds in his ambition, I will leave to readers. My one problem was reading this in a Kindle version, which plays a little with the lines, and makes it less easy to flip between pages and cross reference. I will be getting a book version of this work. There is much to ponder on here as well as to relish.
Yet, as Kimon Friar puts it so beautifully in the introduction to his translation of Kazantzakis' "Odyssey", true epic poetry tells us, readers, a Tall Tale. So does Homer; so does Valmiki in the Ramayana; so do Vergil, Dante, Keats with his Hyperion, Kazantzakis.
Glaysher doesn't. Apart from the protagonist's quite surprising first visit to the poets' assembly on the moon, the story is flat, and hardly saved by verbal or linguistic gems. "Flat", in the sense that the entire epic consists of a series of visits to high places, witnesses on planet Earth, to religion and human creativity. A cheese soufflé that sags as soon as it as taken out of the oven.
All of this vain babbling is not worth even a couple of lines of the prologue to Kazantzakis's Odyssey, or a single Homeric comparison in the Odyssey, or a single shloka of Valmiki.
The poets that are identified in this fascinating book see a universal brotherhood, as to why they are full of love for our planet. The eternal and universal creative process is in every man, women and child.
As I re-peruse it, I realize a slower, deeper reading than my initial one is likely to be more rewarding. That's my fault: Don't read this book for plot! Just to read a modern book written in un-rhymed mostly iambic pentameter, with occasional forays into "the feminine ending, an extra half foot of measure...." (I borrow here of course from his scholarship, in his prefatory remarks on the verse structure he - very effectively to my ear - employs throughout.)
But despite all these dazzlements and genuine delights, on first reading I was a bit disappointed, for many reason, One was simply given the context of that hope of coming close to Cervantes. So far, no - but check back in 400 or so years....
Also, somewhere in the verbiage surrounding this book is mention of Mr. Glaysher having read deeply in modern physics - all that great stuff that seems to turn causation upside down, and everything else with it. I imagine he has, with probably more comprehension most of us literature types feel lucky to achieve. But there's - as far as I can recall - nothing in any detail in this poem about those "facts." I continue to wait for a writer who can weave into our reality the notion, for example, that a universe exists for every possible outcome of every possible choice. (Or did I read that wrong?) (Even the biochemistry of guilt and sin would be an interesting place for a well-informed thinker to start....)
The other main area of disappointment was how Mr. Glaysher - shall we say - approaches the female problem. That's an OK way to put it here, as he doesn't get much beyond that. Goddess bless him, it's not for lack of trying or lack of respect, and those two things matter.
The book is a long poem that involves our hero, the writer, in encounters with great thinkers and writers of the ages. This, not incidentally, is where I found the book most satisfying - Mr. Glaysher's depth of knowledge - unless he's making it all up, and I doubt that - is wonderful. He seems to know everyone's name, everyone's era to a T, everyone's geography and history. The man knows more proper nouns than I thought existed.
Just to reel off names would be fun (and yes, I have the book right here; it's been close to hand the whole year since I bought it): "I gazed,/standing with Ta Chak..." "On this, Dostoyevsky and I could agree [says Tolstoy].... "That's about when Lord Tennyson/and Robert Browning strolled around the corner..." "Fazi ended, stepping lightly back, giving way/to a companion by his side, Kabir, met/also once more. 'Oh master, what a blessing,'/I thought, 'to see you again and hear your/words of wisdom...."
By the way, though these examples don't show it, Glaysher seems too to do a lovely job imitating writers' various voices, at least I can say that for the ones (far from the majority!) whose voices I know.
And OK, I was a little wrong in the point I'm trying to get to, the "problem of the female." He does do more than stand in awe of the Universal Feminine (barely). The book opens with a calling upon to the Muse, "O Maid of Heaven, O Circling Moon...." Good. Then a bunch of men, and I'm actually back in about 1975, and I'm wondering, after reading the albeit fascinating names of about 50 men, when do we get to the women?
Queen Mab is the first lady, if my count is right, to stand in person before us the reader/audience: "Together, Merlin and Queen Mab stood/before the crowd, he holding out his staff,/she clothed in Nature's bountiful plenty,/catching the eye of many poets and seers." OK. I can live with that, though I'm starting to long for Sappho (she does show up a few pages later), Jane Austen, and while you're at it, how about a few I've never heard of, since that seems to be your forte?
To his credit - tho if he hadn't I wouldn't be writing this, nor have finished reading the book - he does get to "them." All too often though instead of writers and thinkers (OK, History is the villain) he invokes goddesses and muses, e.g. Calliope, as in the following scene, where Cervantes ends his challenge to our Poet and glances towards the Muse, "all eyes following, her beauty, ever/youthful, in her wisdom, inspiring vision in her small band of devoted ones...."
And while I'm at it, I do have to remark - perhaps a bit nastily but I'm not the one who put this on the page - the "diaphanous gown" she's wearing in this scene is probably one of maybe 20 such that various ladies are said to wear herein.... I'm wondering at least tell me what color those gowns are, and maybe the cut, and how about shoes...?
Yes, I'm in the same construct - born and raised in the American Midwest 1950s - I can't be Donna Reed, so I'll settle for ever-youthful beauty in a diaphanous gown impressing lots of "devoted ones...." I just was disappointed he couldn't get further beyond that sooner. As I don't have that ever-youthful beauty either, I've been trying to find something else for lots of years now, and I wish he could have helped. How about an ugly woman, for a start? (Never mind, if she was "beautiful inside" as we used to say, he'd find her beautiful.)
So upon re-reading, searching through the various diaphanous gowns - I realize, in answer to "what's your problem, reader?" - my problem is his audience seems to be men, not men and women. And thus he's writing to himself and other men about (among other things) women. It's that simple, thus not really offensive at all, just ... I thought we'd ... never mind.
And in the end - his vision tries to encompass what many of us perhaps even more ineptly sense, the impending ascension of a feminine (how limited a word!) vision for our next stage in being...? I can see where one owes Glaysher credit for getting beyond at least that level of thought: he wants to follow the admonition he records/transcribes, the vision he finds, to "hear the voices of guiding elders/grandmothers and mothers/daughters and sisters/ wives and babies/hear the fathers of village traditions/hear their one voice...."
That by the way is the voice of "Sogdolon, King Sundiata's mother, the good sorceress of ancient Mali, from the griot tradition." Or, rather, Mr. Glaysher's hearing of it. But that's a lot, a huge gift. Very nice to make your acquaintance, Madame Sogdolon, the more I think about this the more I feel honored to meet you, and humbled." And thank you, Mr. Glaysher, for effecting the introduction - one of perhaps thousands such (though, OK, mostly to men) he accomplishes in these 290 or so pages. No small gift.
One more tiny cavil - Mr. Glaysher does have a hobby-horse - "the nihilism of Deconstruction..." which he ties, if I understand aright, to origins in the European "Enlightenment" of the 18th century. Really? I thought Voltaire was cool, and as for Deconstruction, it makes me feel lucky, rather than deprived, to sense one learns about that only in graduate college English departments, from which I've been spared ....
So my comment about "Enlightenment" is "Voltaire was cool" - here's where I value and admire Glaysher - he would have a whole lot more to say, and in more detail, and much more precise and intellectually rigorous than anything I could come up with. I hope I'd have the sense to chill on the anti-academia chit-chat and listen.
And yet in his oft-repeated humbleness - which I think is genuine - he is charming too. And I don't think he's been riding the ever-slowing gravy train that was American academia. It feels like he has paid and keeps paying his dues.
Which reminds me of what I felt at the - wait for it - or don't - glorious ending (? well, given the build-up, I dunno...) of this poem: I really look forward to reading the next volume, Mr. Glaysher. There's more to say and I think you are probably already busy finding the words. I shelled out $25 or so for this book, which I almost never do - hurrah for public libraries though they don't have everything - and I don't regret it. As I take up this book again after many months, I realize I'm still thinking about it. And as I page through I find again lots and lots of loveliness.
I think I'll put it by my bed as something to read bits of as I go to sleep, or when I wake up. Can't imagine better book-bound company.
Except. Apparently I AM a target audience member. Almost every time I search for a book of poetry at Amazon I get a recommendation for this book, along with a glowing review. Is this a paid placement?!
This book is simply awful. It is full of cliches, unoriginal images and amateurish writing. My Introductory writing classes produced better work than this. This is, I suppose. "light verse" written for an audience looking for such stuff. But the glowing reviewers must, at least in part, be friends of the author or paid reviewers. It is a victory of marketing and product placement that I bought this book.
So, if you are like me, looking for well written poetry and drawn to the epic form may I suggest Derek Walcott's mediation on colonialism, "Omeros", James Merrill's avant-garde "Changing Light at Sandover", or Emily Wilson's new and fabulously modern translation of the Odyssey. "The Parliament of Poets" is to these works as a greeting card is to Emily Dickinson. If that's what you like, fine. But don't be fooled by a relentless marketing scheme. .