The author delves into the mysteries of the endeavor before him. Indeed, the work is an auspicious beginning to a worthwhile and fascinating project. I found the passage describing the courtship between Qadmus and Harmonia particularly moving. The audio book is excellent as well.
Of Letters and a Man by Mark Will is an epic poem of the most epic sense. On the personal level, it is about questions of identity and all the contradictions and variations that can be contained inside one, about the internal vs. the external, and the amalgams of paradoxes within the whole. The other, and the self. It is about the compulsion to write, with declarations of an "Anti-Poet" and talk of an "absurd obsession to create." The never-ending search for self-identity...
It is also very much a tale of humanity's mythology, organized initially by the Phoenician alphabet and full of references to all things Biblical, Egyptian, Nordic, medieval occultic, and so on. With almost an overload of religious symbolism, the author spares no expense at utilizing maximum literary power with each line.
The narration in the audiobook by Guy Bethal is read with the proper intensity, perfect for this ultimate meditation on identity. To be all things, noble and awful, it is ambitious and perhaps cannot always reach the loftiest of heights that are striven for, but it's certainly read well with full confidence. All the way to the end, with the last line that sums up all these concepts as good as anyone could: "From A to Zed, I am the book I write."
I have never been a fan of poetry, and yet there were many parts of this epic poem/canto that resonated with me. I found myself highlighting and rereading at times, and at other times marveling over the author's masterful word usage and understanding of history.
To me, the first part of Of Letters and a Man: A is about what it's like to give yourself up to the art of writing, and in spite of your innate human-ness, doing your best to capture, or simultaneously be, all of time and humanity. Any writer knows this is a bold and overwhelming task, yet he must persist in order to leave something for posterity. "(The Hero who writes) carves his story on the temple walls/ In bold defiance of oblivion."
The next section is a deep and beautifully executed exploration of pronouns ("I is the quest for idiosyncrasy/ The individuation without which/ The unity that is diversity/ May not be reconciled or recognized"), and it then shifts to a historical journey highlighting Cadmus and his gift of letters which has been given to the writing world.
Just thinking about the time and thought the author put into some of these lines/stanzas gives me a headache. He is extremely well-versed in epic poetry, literature, history, and his writing skill is apparent in Of Letters and a Man: A. There were some historical references in here which were beyond my knowledge, but that did not detract from this extremely well-written epic poem. I'm interested in seeing what Mark Will brings to the table in B through Z.
P.S. the audiobook has a narrator in Guy Bethell whose eloquent British accent is apropos for the material. I would recommend reading the book first and then listening to the audiobook.
"Of Letters and a Man" is a poetic story rich with references to the ancient Greek and medieval Italian epic poems. It delivers an amazing amount of details that show a lot of respect for the genre. As a canto, or a poem to be sung, I found myself wanting to sing the lines like a monk singing a Gregorian chant of this intro to a mythological tale.
If you, like me, find yourself reading the same stories again and again, try ‘Of Letters and a Man’. This mini opus is a must for anyone who write, has written or wants to write. Using a canto format, its layout and graphics allow the dense and layered meaning within the text to be both immediately accessible on one level while open to be appreciated on many more. True, I personally needed Google to understand many of the references, but this merely enriched the experience. It is clearly the rich work of a craftsman who understands his chosen medium and it is a fulfilling read.
This is a a bold piece of writing. A book of great ambition, scope and craftsmanship, which, once begun demands the reader see it through. Its examination of the self as writer, as written, is compelling. It is, in a way, a very indulgent work. But to stop there as if to criticize would be a mistake. Its indulgence is also its greatness, as it was for Whitman, Joyce and Blake. Will's mastery of language shines through in his ability to weave so much of our shared histories and varied mythologies together into this highly personal and yet transmutable text. Truly the work of an alchemist.
Mark Will revives the art of epic poetry with this literary project of epic proportions. Of Letters and a Man: A is a writer's declaration, an artists manifesto, and a wonderful beginning to the 26 works in the series. It is an exploration of the paradoxical self, with a play of dichotomous ideas and imageries: the poet/anti-poet, the Hero/Zero; and it is also a tale of mythology of Cadmus the Phoenician. The mood evoked is gloriously affirming, and the language used magnificent. This writer possesses a skill and talent worthy of praise and envy.