It is with a frisson of disbelief that Ampersand Press finally announces the publication of the first part of The Epic of Gilgamesh. The road has been long–12 years–and the moments of doubt many, but here is presented the opening 1,500 lines of Gilgamesh. The book is currently available on-line
Readers will be wondering why they shouldn’t wait for the completed edition of the story., which is due spring to fall of next year. The short answer is: a year is a long time to wait, and since it will in all likelihood be about 4,500 lines long, why not order the first third now and savor the writing?
Just a thought (or maybe even a suggestion). Heck, AP even advises its readers to buy the book. This version, available online at Lulu.com (and in 6 weeks, from Amazon and Barnes & Noble (say, by mid-June), reads continuously and includes material that focuses on the Epic’s hidden theme: the struggle between men and women for power (the Goddess Inanna is a character in the story).
After dealing with the likes of Gilgamesh, Ampersand Press is aware of 1) just how much work writing poetry is and 2) just how much *more* work is involved in the long poem (here defined as any narrative poem over 100 lines).
That is probably the reason why we see so little of the modern long poem out on the bookshelves. And yet most of the traditional devices of prosody evolved precisely to help poets telling an extended story. No wonder the turn to shorter forms has been accompanied by an exodus from the burdens of meter, rhyme, and stanza. (Not to mention the risky act of plotting.)
Yet some of the most satisfying poetry has emerged from the longer form–Homer, Shakespeare, The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, and The Highwayman offer an idea of the range of effect that can be achieved in traditional poetic lengths.
So AP will be keeping our eyes peeled for appearances of the longer poem–especially when it begins accepting submissions next year. How about the epic of your home town? Any idea what line 1,252 says?
Drawing: Lucius Encounters the Murderous Wife, illustration from The Golden Ass; author: Jean de Bosschere; WikiCmns; Public Domain.