G. M. Palmer – Renew, Dear Spring, the Beaten Path of Verse

G. M. Palmer

How well I remember the awe and exhilaration that possessed me upon first reading Shelley’s Ozymandias or Tennyson’s Ulysses, some thirty years ago. With the guidance of a good English professor, I witnessed the impermanence of power in Shelley’s vision of a toppled statue in the sand; my spirit soared with the irresistible quest for adventure of Tennyson’s Ulysses.

How quickly the gods of antiquity gave way to angel-headed hipsters and 20th Century everyman. And while these modern and postmodern incarnations are natural and inevitable, and very much my forte, I recently read a book that makes an excellent case for turning back to the classic forms.

Reading G. M. Palmer’s book of original poems, With Rough Gods, is like utilizing a precision slide rule or a pocket-sized handbook of knowledge. Palmer’s concise, confident verse is enhanced by the glossary of Greek mythology in the back of the book. For example, Before reading the selection on page 16, called “Apollo and Daphne,” I turn to the glossary and learn that Apollo is “the archer god of the arts and the sun” and, among other things, “his seductions of Amalthea, Coronis, and Daphne went poorly,” and that Daphne was “a nymph; when Apollo mocked Eros’ archery skills, Eros swore revenge. He shot Apollo with an arrow of love and Daphne with an arrow of hate…Daphne was pitied by Gaia who turned her into a baby laurel. Still infatuated, Apollo then made the laurel his sacred tree.” Now I understand more fully the lines in Palmer’s poem as, “My broken words return / in splintered shards of sound” and “With branches snapped and rough / Impossible to please”. It’s a fun way to read verse!

With so many modern poets eschewing rhyme and rhyme schemes (ABAB, ABBA, etc.), it’s refreshing to read verse that adheres to a specific structure. What makes it refreshing is that Palmer does it so well. I attended a reading by G. M. Palmer a couple of years ago. I remember him saying that poems were meant to be understood. David Yezzi, Executive Editor of The New Criterion, says, “In With Rough Gods, not only are the ancient dramas kept very much alive; they are made young again.”

The title of this blog entry is taken from the introductory poem to With Rough Gods by G. M. Palmer

Eyes Over Romania: Dracula Survives

Clockwise from top left: Map of Romania; Claudia Moscovici; Bran Castle; Vlad Tepes; Helen Chandler and Bela Lugosi in Dracula (1931)

Claudia Moscovici, via Literary Kicks, says, “As a native Romanian who is also a novelist, I’m very intrigued and, frankly, somewhat baffled by America’s obsession with vampires and the Dracula legend.”

Read the entire article here, including Claudia’s list of five possible reasons we are fascinated by vampires, followed by some discussion.

Mark Teppo’s Unifying Theory of Urban Fantasy and Aleister Crowley’s Bad Rap

“Aleister Crowley gets a bad rap,” says Mark Teppo,  guest-blogging on Jeff VanderMeer’s Ecstaic Days. “As a fabulist,” continues Mark, “(Crowley has) a boundless imagination that is like quicksilver and lightning in a bottle. Yeah, I know, that verges on nonsensical, but whatever it is, it must be in constant motion, right? Violating all sorts of scientific principles of time and space. His writings on magick are the same way: mercurial, playful, serious, and completely incomprehensible to those who don’t devoted a good portion of their lives to deciphering them. Is he insane, or is he laughing at us? That’s a good question, and one that taunts me a great deal.
“Crowley is a nocturnal satyr who crouches on the end of your bed-not the footboard, the actual bed, so that you feel this odd weight on the mattress with you-and what wakes you up is this insistent tapping against the heel of your foot with his long fingernail. When you’re good and awake, he leaps off the bed, rips out all the plastic eyeballs from your childhood stuffed animals, grinds them into powder, snorts this line of your fractured childhood, defecates on the torn corpses, and then leaps out the window. ‘Follow me, Darling!’ he cries, warbling like a night bird. ‘Follow me!’ “
From November 24 through 29, Teppo logged fun and insightful dispatches from the world of urban fantasy. I recommend reading them all, but here’s a good excerpt from the day on which Mark unveiled his Unifying Theory of Urban Fantasy:
“Urban fantasy is about power, and how that power is manifested and manipulated (i.e., “magic”). It is about how the world is really different than we think it is. When we sleep at night, that which slumbers during the day awakens, and that includes our own secret selves. Joseph Campbell, in The Hero With a Thousand Faces, his landmark examination of the structure of myth, argues that the protagonist, having been selected to be the hero, must leave the normal world and travel into the world of myth in order to pursue his quest.”