Monday, July 30, 2012

A Poem—Irish Folklore with Greek Myth

When I traveled to Ireland in 2005, I attended an NEH seminar about W. B. Yeats and went all over the area on the west of Ireland, specifically the Aran Islands. While on the island of Inis Mór (Inishmore), I visited the stone fort, Dún Ducathair, and became inspired to write about ancient Greek figures meshed with ancient Celtic. "The Children of Lir" is a beautiful, haunting story of four children, an evil spell, and the passage of time, and these four children resonate with the four children of Zeus and Leda. Here is my tribute to them.

Leda and the Children of Lir

Serpentine mists over an inland sea,
Swirling and curling, like vapour aware,
Veil of white, embodiments of the Sidhe,
Heralds ethereal.

Majesty divine, argent wingèd forms,
In harmony, slip over silver;
Four swans approach,
The children of Lir,
Dispersing shadows of gossamer.

Fair Fionnula leads her brethren,
Raven-minded Fiachra,
Fiery-bodied Aodh,
And wolf-spirited Conn,
Towards the silken strand.

Sheltered by an oak tree’s form,
An alabaster maiden sleeps,
A bruise on her nape;
Encircled by her arms are,
Two eggs—one, of vermillion hue,
Speckled with silver, a dewy incandescence;
The other, cerulean, adorned with gilded swirls,
Testament to a god’s progeny.

Fiachra summons up a primordial tale,
Told at his father’s knee,
Of Olympæan Zeus, sovereign of sky,
In kindred form, casting feathered glory
Over Tyndareus’ bride, staggering Leda.

The outcome of purloined chastity,
Birthed alone, two jewelled encasements,
Heirs to grandeur and destruction,
A sky god’s legacy
And Fate’s playthings.

An Aeolian whisper through brazen branches,
A cascade of acorns falls—oaken percussion,
Fracturing satin shells.
But wait,
Through cracks of ovate perfection,
Subtle fingers of newborn hands,
Kissed by Helios for the first time.

Cherubic faces yawn, an awakening,
Both of life and prophecy;
Infant voices gurgle, breaking
Leda’s reverie;
She smiles.

A synchronicity—
Leda, aware of swans,
Clutches newborn life,
Fearing Zeus’ greed;
The children of Lir,
In exquisite awe stand,
Expecting cygnets divine,
But see human form.

Fair Fionnula, with reverent care,
Assures Leda of peace.

Once-silent Aodh, speaks of Eire,
Of Lough Derravaragh,
Of accursed Aoife,
A journey over time and time
And time again,
Of Sea of Moyle,
Of Inis Glora,
And a bell, harbinger of a new era—
Freedom, at last.

Soothed of strife, the new mother
Sheds compassionate tears,
Looking down upon her brood,
Upon Polydeuces and Helen,
Now of amaranthine innocence,
Upon Clytemnestra and Castor,
Now of mortal virtue.
New threads for a tapestry of tumult
Woven by the spindle of Fate.

An ephemeral vision,
Of a city destroyed,
Of brotherly love,
Divided by immortality.
A sacrifice, a redemption,
The fall of grandeur.

Four swans, born from a woman’s envy,
Four children, born from a god’s power,
Kindred pawns of destiny.

Sheltered by an oak tree’s form,
An alabaster maiden sleeps,
Encircled in her arms are,
Love and War—children of Zeus;
Nearby, along the strand,
Four feathered forms slumber,
Children of Lir,
Awaiting the daybreak of freedom.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I Love It When a Plan Comes Together

A few weeks ago, while I was traveling to Europe, I received an email from a woman from Banners on the Cheap who had seen my novel online (related to an RPG site, apparently). She told me that, if I wanted to try out a banner, I could use a certain promotional code and get one FREE.


So, I ordered one. For less than $40, I now own a 4' x 8' banner, with grommets for hanging (image below):

Would I use them again? Absolutely! A four foot by eight foot banner, in color, with grommets for less than $40. Wow.

This will work out well for my appearances at conventions and such. They also do signs and magnets. Definitely check them out.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

To the Victims of Aurora, CO, July 2012

I read this poem today at the AP Conference, and it reminded me of the senseless deaths of the Aurora, CO shooting victims, people who did nothing to antagonize or threaten James Eagan Holmes. Those bullets had a purpose, one that can never be undone:

For Mohammed Zeid of Gaza, Age 15

There is no stray bullet, sirs.
No bullet like a worried cat
crouching under a bush,
no half-hairless puppy bullet
dodging midnight streets.
The bullet could not be a pecan
plunking the tin roof,
not hardly, no fluff of pollen
on October's breath,
no humble pebble at our feet.

So don't gentle it, please.

We live among stray thoughts,
tasks abandoned midstream.
Our fickle hearts are fat
with stray devotions, we feel at home
among bits and pieces,
all the wandering ways of words.

But this bullet had no innocence, did not
wish anyone well, you can't tell us otherwise
by naming it mildly, this bullet was never the friend
of life, should not be granted immunity
by soft saying—friendly fire, straying death-eye,
why have we given the wrong weight to what we do?

Mohammed, Mohammed, deserves the truth.
This bullet had no secret happy hopes,
it was not singing to itself with eyes closed
under the bridge.

Naomi Shihab Nye

Monday, July 16, 2012

Shades of Difference Matter—Elemental Ideas

When I teach the novel, Ceremony, by Leslie Marmon Silko, I usually teach about the Mother Goddess and the Hero’s Journey. Actually, it just gives me an excuse to talk about mythology, something I could do all day. Going over this, though, shows my students that every single heroic story follows the same skeletal structure (I could go on about the Hero’s Journey in more detail, but that would take up way too much room). The basics, though, involve the journey of the hero on his or her road of trials to accomplish a task, the people who show up along the way to help our hinder that journey, and more than likely a visit to some form of the underworld. If you go to Google and look it up, you’ll basically see the plot outline of every movie. Star Wars = Harry Potter = The Odyssey, etc. Obviously, differences exist, but the premise is the same. We read books and watch movies all the time, basically watching the same story (different people, places, and things).

I bring this up because I’m working on the sequel of Task Force: Gaea—Finding Balance, Memory’s Curse, and I have a character who comes close to another pre-existing character from another story: Korra, the Avatar (The Legend of Korra). Just go here to read more about Korra—it’ll be much easier. Then, come back here and continue reading. :)

I’ve been interested in the mystical side of the world ever since I fell in love with Greek myths back in junior high, so it wasn’t really a surprise that I’d create a character who has a connection to the four elements (earth, fire, air, and water). Sarah Jacobs (aka Aether) is a Wiccan who has tremendous respect and understanding of the natural world. A potter by trade, she knows how each of these elements plays a significant role on forming the pottery that she creates. Possessing a ring of ancient origin that allows her to manipulate each of these elements, she herself houses the fifth element (named aether, after the primordial entity), and it grounds her, allowing her to maintain her connection. Despite the fact that she can manipulate these elements, she cannot create them, and her connection is stronger to Earth and Air (for reasons explained in the sequel). Her character, a modern young woman, has ties to the ancient past, although she herself is mortal. In addition to that, she is one-fourth of Task Force: Gaea, and an integral member of the team.
Aside from the elemental qualities she has, Sarah is also aware of the darker, more chthonic connections she has with her teammates. Chthonic has to do with the underworld, in this case, in Greek mythology. The natural world doesn’t take sides, and its power is not to be disregarded. All of the Greek cosmos begins with Khaos, a vast and complex entity who brought other Protogenoi (pronounced proto-YEH-noy) or primordials into existence. These early gods, Ancient Ones, had little to no recognizable forms and were vast in their size. A connection among Dan, Aleta, Brandon, and Sarah is the earth and all it contains, and that includes Hades, and the even darker Tartaros. Gaea’s presence permeates Sarah, and she is not just a vessel for the power of Aether; she is a part of the earth itself.
That is the significant difference between her and Korra. So, I feel better getting that out now.
It’s bound to happen that ideas cross one another in the grand scheme of the world, and it’s important that writers find ways to use some of the same ideas, but with their own spin.
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