Crystal Nights in the New World

When the world turns weird           though the sky stays sapphire

Fear finds its F-stop              capturing crashing crystal.

Glass crunches underfoot                sanctuaries no longer safe.

These are the times that try                        weary women’s souls.

Now every nation, even ours,          shall tremble, tremble,

Awaiting wickedness, war    and all the caustic casualties

Of hatred let off its long leash         while we, the warrior women,

In mud up to our ears and angry   struggle to stand up, shoulder to shoulder,

And face the fray—fearful   but determined and diligent—

Knowing this is the uncommon hour         our pasts have prepared us for.

How to Epic the Language

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So, as I continue to attempt to write about the Xenaverse, I keep coming across the problem of the different languages I need to show the things I think are happening across the episodes, from the mundane to the comic to the tragic, from the narrative of a story to the voice/character I choose to tell a story or part of it, to finding someway to convey just how epic all of this is. Thinking of such things, I let my fingers do the walking and I found two pretty disparate examples of language that is doing the sort of thing I want, the first from Tennyson (naturally) and the second from the fantasy world of Dragonlance.

Steep is the mountain, but you, you will

help me overcome it,

And stand with my head in the zenith, and

roll my voice from the summit.

Sounding for ever and ever thro’ Earth

and her listening nations,

And mixt with the great sphere-music of

stars and of constellations.

(Tennyson)

Return this man to Huma’s breast.
Beyond the wild, impartial skies.
Grant to him a warrior’s rest.
And set the last spark of his eyes.
Free from the smothering clouds of wars.
Upon the torches of the stars.


Let the last surge of his breath.
Take refuge in the cradling air.
Above the dreams of ravens where.
Only the hawk remembers death.
Then let his shade to Huma rise.
Beyond the wild, impartial skies.

(Funeral song for a Solamnic Knight by Michael Williams; Weiss & Hickman)

Now I just have to figure out how these two samples are doing what they are doing so that I can find a way to do it too. Thoughts?

Tennyson, Alfred Lord. “Parnassus.” The Poetical Works of Tennyson. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974.

Weis, Margaret, and Tracy Hickman. Dragons of Winter Night. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1985.

Epigrams, War, and Madness

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You know how in wintertime, your hands grow rough, so that, when you go to pick something up, a sweater, say, it snags and forces you to look at it more closely? That is I think the usefulness of an epigraph, a phrase or sentence you come across in one place that then serves as a springboard for you, the writer, to go off in another direction with it. I have written before about how the poet Simon Perchik has frequently provided me with springboard lines of this sort, such as “or perhaps your shadow spilling over again,” which blows my mind every time I read it.

And while not all my epigraphs are about or lead me to write about mental health problems, the quote on the file card I came across this morning (thank you, Musashi, for walking across my dresser at 5 a.m.) is by Kaye Redfield Jamison, from her memoir about being a psychologist with bipolar disorder, An Unquiet Mind. (Yes, Amy Carleton, go read it. You will thank me.) I think her line will be my own Trojan Horse, a way into the set of poems about Troy that I have been contemplating writing.

The line comes from the end of a chapter about Jamison’s work at Bellevue Hospital’s psychological emergency room. Previously we have read about what happened when Jamison went off her meds and had to be hospitalized so she is humbly aware of the mirroring she feels when a bipolar patient in the grips of the manic state is wheeled in, fighting against the straps that cuff her to the gurney. As Jamison says, “We all move uneasily in our own restraints.” I can think of no better way to springboard into a series of small poems subverting an epic poem about a ten year long siege.

Mu with String

Siberine, Jack. Musashi with String. 2014.

More Damn Muses, But These are the BEST

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So all this talk about Xena has made me realize that I know damn little about ancient Greece, and given that one of my friends actually teaches high school Latin and Greek (in 2015. I know.), I figure I should fix this grave lacuna in my knowledge. So I started messing about online, figuring that the interwebs would point me in the right direction. After getting sidetracked by a statue of Aphrodite having a bad hair day, I got down to business and found a translation of the The Theogony of Hesiod (Greek, ~700 BCE) translated by Hugh G. Evelyn White in 1914. And who do you think he starts out talking about?

(ll. 26-28) `Shepherds of the wilderness, wretched things of shame, mere bellies, we know how to speak many false things as though they were true; but we know, when we will, to utter true things.’

(ll. 29-35) So said the ready-voiced daughters of great Zeus, and they plucked and gave me a rod, a shoot of sturdy laurel, a marvellous thing, and breathed into me a divine voice to celebrate things that shall be and things there were aforetime; and they bade me sing of the race of the blessed gods that are eternally, but ever to sing of themselves both first and last. But why all this about oak or stone? (2)

(ll. 36-52) Come thou, let us begin with the Muses who gladden the great spirit of their father Zeus in Olympus with their songs, telling of things that are and that shall be and that were aforetime with consenting voice. Unwearying flows the sweet sound from their lips, and the house of their father Zeus the loud-thunderer is glad at the lily-like voice of the goddesses as it spread abroad, and the peaks of snowy Olympus resound, and the homes of the immortals. And they uttering their immortal voice, celebrate in song first of all the reverend race of the gods from the beginning, those whom Earth and wide Heaven begot, and the gods sprung of these, givers of good things. Then, next, the goddesses sing of Zeus, the father of gods and men, as they begin and end their strain, how much he is the most excellent among the gods and supreme in power. And again, they chant the race of men and strong giants, and gladden the heart of Zeus within Olympus, — the Olympian Muses, daughters of Zeus the aegis-holder.

Now aside from the fact that this is just awful darn pretty, it is still making out poets to be mouthpieces who just channel the Muses while the girls do the work. This old hat formula has, as I have asserted before, had a negative affect on wanna be poets who don’t get that writing is work.

Although, now that I think of it, this is the first hat…

“The Dance of the Muses at Mount Helicon” by Bertel Thorvaldsen (1807).