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CALL ME ISHMAEL'S APPRENTICE
Poetic Reflections on MOBY-DICK
by Eileen Valentino Flaxman
'Oh, Horrible vultureism of earth!'*
No one mourns this whale
Remember a life
Once mighty and free
Sing his praises now he’s dead
A melancholy song inside my head
He ruled the seas
* from the text
About Herman Melville's incomperable novel, renowned literary critic Harold Bloom said it best:
"Moby-Dick is not a novel... It is a giant Shakespearean prose poem."
All I've added here are my reactions, feelings and musings inspired by this spectacular narrative - a story that still resonates in our 21st century lives.
That which moves us becomes part of us. Here was my way of maximizing this:
~ Read a chapter
~ Close the book
~ Think about it
~ Write a poem
What a rich way to plumb the depths of such a stellar work! But I've barely scratched the surface, for Melville writes about far more than whaling and a demented captain. True, the parts detailing how exactly to stab, kill and carve a giant carcass were not my favorites. But in the most surprising places, the author meditates upon life’s endlessly contemplatable conundrums – always worth the read.
This site is divided into sections:
~ HOME (where you are now)
~ ABOUT THE POET
The poems are also organized into sections:
A QUICK LOOK
I get it: you're not really into poetry. How about just a few.
POEMS IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER
Grab a copy of the novel and let this collection accompany you.
POEMS ABOUT ~
ISHMAEL and QUEEQUEG
THE PEQUOD CREW
THE OPEN SEA
IN DEFENSE OF THE WHALE
PLEASE NOTE: Direct quotes from the text are in italics.
A well-meaning friend once offered this quote:
Publishing a volume of verse
is like tossing a feather
into the Grand Canyon
and waiting for the echo.
Perhaps. Though it’s hardly a flimsy thing I’m offering. Words have weight.
In the very writing lies immense satisfaction, if not reverberations. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the very thought of you, dear visitor, finding meaning herein, brings me joy. And that’s enough.
For your information: MOBY-DICK was not received enthusiastically when first published. Critics called it a “rhapsody run mad” and “an intellectual chowder of romance, philosophy, natural history, fine writing, good feeling, bad sayings …” You get the idea.
Over time, the critics eventually came around and MOBY-DICK tops every list of brilliant and memorable literary works. But other than being assigned in school, what place does it hold in popular American culture other than serving as a symbol of an impossible task: “Something I mean to read someday. Really.”
You don’t know what you’re missing. My advice: DIVE IN!
** My inspiration for this project is a gentleman by the name of PATRICK SHEA, whose first reading of Melville's masterpiece led him to write – and record – a song for each and every chapter. Wow, I thought, I could never do that. But done it I have, in my own way. However, only in my dreams can I hold a candle to what Patrick has created. Listen to his fine songs and read his thought-provoking essays at https://callmeishmael.org .
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