Thursday, May 09, 2013

The house in Thaliad--

Lakelands, the model for the home 
that the wandering children choose as home in Thaliad.
It is especially lovely on a summer's day when the front door
is open and one can glimpse the lake and sky through
the rear door of the center hall.

Lakelands, set on Otsego Lake, originally the home
of Congressman John Myer Bowers and Margaretta Wilson Bowers
and their eight children, built circa 1804.
Here's a little snip from Thaliad (Phoenicia Publishing, 2012)--a passage from the labors of Emma the Bard, who was charged with the high work of telling the epic adventure of a group of children trying to rebuild their world--here they choose a home. It's a lull in a tumultuous tale, full of action and event. 
The most striking Classical reference is, of course, in the book’s name. Using the titular suffix ‘-iad’ would have been an act of pure hubris in the hands of less able writers, and initially I was sceptical, expecting Thaliad to be open to accusations of self-aggrandising pomposity and stylistic misappropriation; after all, calling your book ‘Thaliad’ and hence inviting comparison with Homer could be mistaken as a very cocky move indeed.  Happily, there’s a fantastic inter-textual rationale behind this book’s title and its neo-classical form.  The narrator (and supposed writer) of Thaliad, Emma, is speaking 60 years after the events she describes, and learnt her trade as a poet-historian by salvaging what books she could (presumably the Classics) from the ruined world’s libraries.  SoThaliad, then, fictionalises the story of its own creation; the book itself is supposedly a piece of history, written as a record of the first years following ‘The Fire’. --
But what persuaded Thalia was not
A porch or craggy trees or flowered lawn:
The wide-flung door through which she saw the lake, 

As if the house were sited in two worlds,
The one more commonplace, though tainted now, 

The other stirring with odd glisterings,
A sea-gray, restless, moody atmosphere—
The door of glimmering suggested peace
And joys that wake beyond apocalypse
To hopeful Thalia, a happy end
As sometimes in a half-forgotten play
Unearthed and acted on a village green,
Where actors in a troop join hands to sing
And scenes of tragedy rehearse their close
In measures that turn tragi-comedy.

The breezes from the lake came murmuring 
Through open windows in that night of calm, 
And children slept, their bodies drifting free 
Of journey’s toil, anxiety, and fear
As if they floated in the water’s depths,
Made weightless in a buoyant, chasmal jade.
At dawn they awoke with a dreamy sense
Of something set loose from the bounds of land, 

The house a spacious boat that sat between
The earth and sky, the water and the town,
A wanderer that yet might sail away
To other worlds and navigate by stars
Unseen by human eyes until an hour

When six remaining children glimpse a sky
Where unfamiliar constellations rule
A dazzling zodiac—the Nine-tailed Cat,
The Throne of Fire, the Fount of Anguishing, 
Un-mercy’s Seat. I might go cruelly on,
But I have brooded for too long on fall
And desolation, hidden history
Of world’s end, thing unwritten in the books, 
Its causes and its powers scribed on air
And seen out of a corner of the eye
Or not at all. Better to dream and say
That sparkling zodiac shows sympathy
For trial and weariness, presenting Hope
In Silver Feathers, Gabriel in Light,
The Mother’s Arms, the Father’s Sailing Boat, 
The Seven Triumphant Against the Waste. 

Site long known as The Indian Mound, in park
lands across the street from Lakelands.
Although I did not think of it while writing, I suppose
the mound may have suggested Tumulus Ran-Samuel
built by the house in Thaliad.
Lakelands visible behind Indian mound
Lakelands from behind the left side of the Iroquois mound 
Park across from the house on Main St.

Park across the street from the house


  1. I am constantly struck by how the writing in Thaliad captures the spirit of Virgil while also being entirely unlike Virgil. It's something to do with the way your language seems amazed by itself, amazed by the power inherent within language, which is possibly Emma's awe before the task set before her. I don't know, quite. I don't want to analyze it too much and reduce it down to just one particular misunderstanding, you know? I want to have available a lot of possible misunderstandings. In other words, Wow, Magic! Also, thanks for the photos.

  2. It's wonderful to see these photos, Marly, and glimpse the real places that inspired you. I never knew about the Indian Mound!

  3. Scott,

    Thank you! I take that response as a compliment. And I also like the idea of multiple (mis)understandings. I never like for mystery to be drained from a work.


    It has a plaque about the white man taking away the land and returning only enough for a grave... Next time you come through Cooperstown, we can ramble down there.

  4. It's probably a weird compliment, but I do mean it as a compliment. I like your book a lot, but I don't have a way to talk about it as poetry.

  5. I suppose it's a great rarity in our era, really, and so I'm grateful that you like it!

  6. Wow, an actual place that inspired the home in Thaliad! So beautiful, thanks for showing the photos. Upon another reading on another day, I will surely have these more 'real' images in mind.

  7. Lakelands looked somewhat different when I moved to Cooperstown because we lost many very old trees to storms... But otherwise I did have this house in my mind--and partly my own house, which is a center-hall federal house.

    I wonder how it changes the image in your head!

  8. I'm sure I've written about this passage, about the constellations: one of my very favorites in all your work.

    The house is more formal and impressive than the one I pictured!

  9. The one you pictured may well be more accurate to the poem! But the business of seeing the water through the front door really meant something to me--it always gives me great pleasure to walk by and see that sight.

    Oh, thanks--I had no idea what piece to take, and just grabbed that one to excerpt. It's hard to figure what to use, since so many passages have major spoilers.

  10. Like Dale I pictured a less formal house. (I think yours was the one in my mind.) But the beauty of your writing is that world conjured allows for many interpretations, which is why I followed your lead and deflected my gaze from too literal a 'picturing'.

  11. I also imagined a somewhat less grandiose house, but these photos are a delight nonetheless. Grounding the poem in real places certainly added to its air of plausibility.

  12. Clive,

    No doubt my house is a good part of my imaginings, as my center-hall house is the only interior of that era that I spend any considerable time in--and no created house is quite like its inspirations. And even if exactly this house, it would have been a weedy, less beautiful place!


    I'm afraid that I'm not particularly grandiose in my own desires, but I am strongly drawn to the magical and mythic embedded in the mundane, and a house that appears to be on solid ground and yet shows a lake out its back door when the front stands open--well, that sort of thing is irresistible!

  13. P. S. Jeff, in my usual messy fashion, carrying books here and there (and stuffing them into bags and forgetting), I have lost your book (several times) and now have found it again so shall be back in gargoyle-dom!


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.