Over the years I've had a relatively small number of responses to the work. They range from positive to negative and from articulate to vague. More importantly for this blog, some were spoken, others hard-copy-written, and still others emailed. Though I may someday key in some of the printed comments, but that seems unnecessary.
In December 2005 I got two responses in the same week. The first was from George, a friend of my friend Eric. George lives in NC, where Eric is from. Eric had said that George should absolutely see some of the work, that he'd love it and have lots to say. Didn't work out that way.
.... I just can't seem to really connect emotionally with it. It's certainly well-wrought and pentameterifically well-measured. And the flow of the words is pleasing. But the combination of not knowing what the f--k it's about combined with the obvious great length and lack of much that I could personally relate to makes it very hard for me, personally, to say much more about it. Please tell Dave not to take my lack of enjoyment as a crushing blow. Tell him that I hardly read or enjoy ANY modern poetry, so I'm really not the one to ask. Maybe he should post bits of it at www.everypoet.org They're more than eager to do detailed critiques of shit that I can't even read. And Bobbie only comes up here to the library once every month or so. I'm sure that Dave's a fascinating guy and I would love to talk to him in a less specialized context. Sorry I can't be any more helpful.
The second response was from Keith, whom I'd found online by virtue of a literary journal he'd edited. I remember being impressed with the journal, though I wasn't sure I'd understood all of the entries. Upon receiving my email Keith said he'd be quite willing to look at some of my stuff, and this is part of his feedback:
I think it is an effective mix of language, form, story and character. To me, the key to writing a modern epic is finding the right mix of these elements, and if you don’t have the right mix of all, your effort is doomed. The epic is, by definition, an elevated style. I think a lot of people have erred by trying to force a modern drawing room drama into an epic style (to give one example). I’ve made that mistake in my verse dramas.
With just the excerpts I got a sense of the story, but I’m obviously missing many of the details. The poem, however, has a fascinating thematic mix of ecology, evolution, apocalypse, fantasy and religion. And the animal perspective gives it a fable quality.
The language is very expressive, the style elevated. Personally, I like a more elevated style. Poetry, I believe, should sound a little odd. It shouldn’t sound like prose. It’s not supposed to be colloquial. The only problem I’ve run into myself is occasionally slipping into a colloquial style which can undercut the overall tone of the work.
The excerpts seem to focus on a world of people and animals – is there a single character presented in depth? Or is it striving to show a whole social spectrum?
Keith's feedback has been on my mind a good deal; that, plus the fact that despite my sincere appreciation of his work on behalf of what I'd sent him, I'd never thanked him. For some reason it's been only recently that I've gotten better at thanking people for what they've done for me. Yeah, I know; pretty inexcusable.
I'm going to thank Keith, even though it's been a really long time since we were in touch. Whether or not he'll be willing to look at any more of the epic will be another matter. I'll keep you updated.