CALL ME ISHMAEL'S APPRENTICE



Poetic Reflections on MOBY-DICK

by Eileen Valentino Flaxman

 

'Oh, Horrible vultureism of earth!'*

No one mourns this whale

Let me

Remember a life

Once mighty and free

Let me

Sing his praises now he’s dead

A melancholy song inside my head

Never forgetting 

He ruled the seas

Let me

Let me

Let me

* 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)

            ~ POEMS

            ~ 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

   NANTUCKET

   THE PEQUOD CREW

   AHAB'S OBSESSION

   THE OPEN SEA

   SONGS

   IN DEFENSE OF THE WHALE

   THE CHASE

   RUMINATIONS

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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