At the peak of my pubescence, I almost kill my father who lost his soul in the Siberian Gulag. I plunge a fork into his vodka-soaked thigh and run away from home. I get lost in the woods and can’t find my way back, roaming around in circles on the edge of panic in my clownish shoes. I remember the rule of three from my Eagle Scout training: I’ll die in three hours in the cold, three days without water, and three weeks without food. At night, I can see the Big Dipper and follow the stars in the bowl to the North Star, sure of direction when I find moss on the north side of a tree. I slog through marshes, searching for a rivulet, running past clusters of chanterelles I’d gathered in the past, when I discover the brackish water of an estuary that lead to the open sea. I swim out to a mooring, help myself to a sailboat, and sail away.
Evan Mantyk is the president and co-founder of the Society of Classical Poets. He teaches courses in literature and history at Fei Tian Academy of the Arts, in upstate New York. He previously worked as a news editor and reporter in New York City.
Please describe your website and your duties as editor/writer.
The Society of Classical Poets is dedicated to the proliferation of classical poetry. What does that mean? It means poetry usually with rhyme and/or meter. It also means poetry of good character that puts the reader first, not the poet. The government’s “Survey on National Participation in the Arts,” found, over the last twenty years or so, a sharp decline in the number of people who had read or listened to a poem within the last 12 months while other literary forms stayed static. This is not puzzling or surprising to me; these figures are the natural outcome of an artistic form that has lost its way and is dying. When ordinary non-poets and non-academics can’t recognize that the free verse in front of them is a poem and can’t make heads or tails of the meaning or why it’s worth caring about, then something is wrong.…
Thirty-four minutes late & what I want this to be is another breakdown & my imagination burying you while you are singing & gentle to my shoulders. I want to be crazy & for you to be alive forever & if I can manage to change my beliefs before you come home that might just happen.
Thirty-five minutes late & I have confirmed the existence of fire & I have taken small, heroic bites of my own flaming flesh. If I can be wolf enough to remove a limb without removing a limb, then I can sell you on the idea that you being late doesn’t ruin the whole pack of my mind. If I can sit here until the blue car enters the driveway, then nothing overly-human will happen.
Thirty-six minutes late & I have finished cooking dinner twice already. I am lapping the kitchen. I have started oatmeal for your breakfast tomorrow & thrown out that oatmeal, because if you’re already dead, then I don’t want to explain to the children why there is a bowl of oatmeal waiting for you at the table. I want to transition you to their version of Heaven as quickly as possible & mothers in heaven don’t have oatmeal slowly cooling for them in Columbus, Ohio.…
Now that we have the Internet it is very easy to get at lists of the greatest things – movies, books, records, kings, criminals, snacks. Of course, we had such lists before, but now we have them in abundance and naturally enough they reflect the changing times. For example, while old lists of the greatest movies always included popular or Hollywood films alongside what we would call art house films – Gone with the Wind and The Godfather, E.T. and Star Wars, alongside Bergman and Fellini, Goddard and Truffaut – lists of the greatest novels did not, that is, did not include popular novels – no Gone with the Wind and The Godfather alongside Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, Kafka and Mann. Now they often do, and even the Harry Potter books. It is understandable why such a democratization of literature should have occurred in an age of declining standards where anyone can log on and say whatever comes into his head to a pretty big audience. But when things were different and a list was still a list, it did occur to me to ask myself why the movie lists were such a mixed bag while the book lists were pure gold.…