The Kingdom 14: Epic?

Here we go again. Welcome to the blog blast of the section that I call The Kingdom from the book Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep. The Kingdom is an explanation of the work itself. You can’t understand any writer unless you know their work. So Friday we began at 6 p.m. and I will release one blog every two hours and fifteen minutes. That means we’ll finish the story of my work and its future, my work and its past, at 7:30 on Sunday evening. There are some crazy things in here. Some setbacks we never could have made it past without the people who care about me. There are some crazy things in here. Plans that I have and things that I’m doing that, simply put, are impossible. But everything’s impossible until it’s finished, until it’s been done or accomplished. There are some crazy things in here. Dreams so wild and so immense that to think they’re within reach you have to be a little unhinged. And while reading this small collection of blog posts, you’ll hear the rantings of the Lunatic of Fantasy. You’ll find in these posts the past, present, and future of the writing of Jesse Teller.

There is a form of art that has always inspired me. When I think of the amount of effort that would be put into such a piece, it humbles me. This form is the epic poem, or epic ballad.

The form demands a few features. First, it is written in verse. Often there is a rhyme pattern with a meter but not always. It is sizable in length. No epic poem is ten pages long. An epic is usually long enough to demand a few reading sessions at least. It possesses a heroic figure, a man or woman on a mission. He or she makes a journey of sorts that is fraught with struggles and setbacks. And an epic poem is of elevated subject matter.

It’s these last two we need to focus on for a moment. Let me back up a bit.

I wrote a poem called The Goats of Breastion. It is a feasting song and it tells the story of a tribe celebrating the life of their chief. The feast takes place after his funeral when his wife is cooking the goats he loved so much in life. The tribe hated the goats, and they are delighting in devouring them.

My poem has 65 verses and two choruses. Most of the verses describe a goat’s personality and how he or she is prepared for eating. It is a big project and it was an endurance trial. As I entered the final stages of the piece, I was forced to look back at what I was working on and weigh exactly what it is.

The Goats of Breastion is not an epic ballad, no matter how much I want it to be. I had originally said it was, in my glee at finally doing something similar to the art form I love so much. To join the ranks of greats like Edmund Spenser, John Milton, and Lord Byron had me drunk. However, I traveled a distance to sit before Mrs. Learmann, an expert on the form, who spent her entire career teaching and reading epic poetry, and I found out I was wrong. The form demands certain things that my Goats just do not have.

First of all it does not have a hero. Now, within the song are bridges. These are built differently than the rest of the verses, with a similar rhyme pattern but with a different meter. These bridges tell why Breastion loved goats so much and depict four times in his life when these goats were a boon to him. Although this does present as a protagonist, it does not define him as a hero as he is not on any sort of journey.

Finally, there is the elevated subject matter. This element is simply not present. This element is simply not present. In my barbarian goat drinking song, sadly, this element will simply never be present. We are not talking about the salvation of a tribe or nation as you find in Beowulf with overtones of Christianity and the presentation of a hero’s journey. This is not the telling of the fall of man as you find in Milton’s Paradise Lost. This is the humorous telling of a feast where we eat a bunch of goats.

Although it is very entertaining and impossible to walk away from, it is by no stretch of the imagination elevated. Nor does it possess a strong hero. So I must confess my “Epic Ballad” does not fit the definition, and therefore is simply a ballad.

This does not bother me at all.

If given the chance, I would not change a word of my song to try to shove, heave, and shoulder my way into an epic ballad. It is exactly what I set out to do. It is a humorous snapshot into the life of what has been depicted as a very serious and intense culture. It proves they were not always at war, as my books depict, and that their culture is often times fun and funny. It humanizes these people in a way that none of the other work can.

So let’s talk about the future. I have a notion that epic poetry is not a form I want to turn away from. It has been, for a very long time, a high form of art I never believed I could ever attain.

But maybe.

This ballad, no matter how silly, has proven to me I have the tools to make it work.

I have chosen an elevated subject matter. I have crafted a hero for task. I have in mind every aspect I want in my piece and I have the time in my day to make this dream a reality. An epic poem is in my future.

It will be a project I work on for a very long time. I will take it slow and get it exactly how I want it. I will not be giving updates, as this is not a piece that will progress very fast at all. This will be a pet project I guard covetously. And it will likely be published late in my career. Very late.

So wish me luck. You will not hear of this again. This will be a long, arduous journey I must make in near solitude. Much like Alighieri, and Virgil.

A climb of epic proportions, stairs carved in the living rock. Sometimes a pick pulling you up and a second to get you to the next foothold, and maybe a leap to a grip. My epic poem of elevated subject matter and heroic figure is at the top.

As I struggle for decades to get there, I picture myself coming over a rise, over the side of a cliff, to green grass and a well. I’ll dip for the water. Two buckets. And on staff, I’ll climb hundreds of stairs to get to the monastery of the epic poem. I’ll walk into a temple and there will sit Mrs. Learmann, who taught me Paradise Lost, William Burling, who taught me of the Red Cross Knight and The Tempest, and on the third end, sitting in its chair, where I set the water down, high up, cold on the mountain, will be a thing whipping, curling, gasping, growling, and sobbing. And I’ll take it water, because I’ll know it’s me. There I will stand on the mountain of the epic poem. And in its temple, I’ll drop to my knees and before these three, this trinity of literature, I will recite.

Back to my goats, about 15 verses in, I got the idea that I wanted to hear it sung. As I continued to craft one verse a day, two verses on Saturday, I created a Facebook group, inviting everybody to what I called The Festival of Goats.

I had yet to write the description of what The Festival of Goats was before my friend Knot jumped on, “Yes! I’m there! Whatever it is, I’m in! I need to know everything.” And this did not go away. This was not just my crazy friend Knot and his love of an idea of a festival based around goats.

As more and more people checked their Facebook notifications, I had more and more people lining up for my festival.

Kraken wrote the music. He knows his way around a guitar and he put together some chords and came up with a great song. Tiger is a drummer. He vowed to be there, and he brought a huge conga.

All in all, at The Festival of Goats, we had 14 people. We had a keg of beer, goat meat chili, goat cheese, and even goat milk soap for the bathroom. We took a drink after every chorus, and everybody sang. By the fifteenth chorus, nobody cared how well they sang. And we all yelled to the rafters about the feast of Breastion’s goats. The moment the song ended, Tiger turned to me and said, “So this is an annual thing, right?”

We had three. In 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, I got my wife and my boys in my office and we sang the entire song with just the bass that I had begun to play again, Willow on his electric drums, and Bekah on the tambourine. Rayph rang a bell at the end of every chorus.

We had a fourth one the next year. Bell came with a rhythm guitar. I played my bass (Benny played my bass). It was exactly what we expected it to be. They keep getting bigger. We added a mug contest. Because I don’t know if you know this or not, I don’t know how many Barbarian Goat Drinking Parties you’ve been to, but when you go to one of these events, you have to bring your own mug.

But chaos ensued when Teddy walked into my life. See after we released Normal Street, we sent out a series of postcards and one of them ended up in the mailbox of Teddy. Let’s try to remember him. He came to me one day, somewhere trapped in the hallways of Teardrop, he came to me. He was leaving. He said something like, “You’re a genius. Fuck anybody that tells you different.” Teddy was nothing but a positive influence and I have a video conference set up to see him tomorrow because that postcard landed in Teddy’s mailbox. He read Teardrop and he read Normal. And he had to come. For his birthday, he had to travel, though it was a long distance, and he had to come to my home. To use his words, he needed to see me face to face, he needed to press the flesh.

Two weeks’ notice. I’m telling you, we had two weeks’ notice. But we threw together a Goats, a goat singing epic barbarian ballad drinking party. My wife likes to say the Goats never fail. And so many people came on two weeks’ notice. I could spend two pages talking about the random glory of God and this particular drinking party. But one of Willow’s friend’s parents ended up there. And a new aspect was created, a male chorus.

The Goats never fail. I don’t care. It’s possible that fraternities around the country will grab my Goats and run. Or it’s possible that in my basement, Benny on bass, Kraken on guitar, Tiger will pound it, we’ll get lucky and there’ll be in the corner a ringing Bell. And it will be small for the rest of my life. Maybe it’ll just be this group. Maybe only my basement will hold The Goats of Breastion. But let me ask you a question. I’m not gonna ask you a question, an attendee at That Geeky Con this year will ask you. It’s the question he said as I talked to him and he bought my books. You might find yourself whispering this question in your mind right now.

“How do I get an invite to that party?” he said.

This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep, available on Amazon.

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