Well, here’s some interesting news: My series of short poems “The King Becomes a Star or Pharaoh Unas’ Journey through the Night Sky” will be published by Strange Horizons magazine next year. And I am elated.
Now, I would like to take this opportunity to make a personal admission, a confession, if you will. Over the years, yours truly has spent a good amount of time poking (more or less good-natured) fun at poets. And I feel very personally and keenly that this is the Universe trying to get back at me for some deep, past wrong.
In my head, this is the scene:
ME: Poets. They’re so droll and emotional. So dramatic in their cravats and pince-nez! Lol!
UNIVERSE: [As if casting a spell or incantation]: BINK! Now you are one! A poet. Behold!
ME: Wait. Wha–
UNIVERSE: Behold, All! The poet and his poemy poems!
ME: That doesn’t even…Wait. There must be some–.
UNIVERSE [aside, to ME]: Too late! Deal with it! [To all]: Behold, the poet Darius…
ME: [Gazing despondently at audience/camera] …
In all seriousness, I am very excited about this and Strange Horizons is a great place to have my poems appear. I will give more details once the poems are published. For now here are the basic details in FAQ form:
What’s the poem about?
I thought “What if the ancient Egyptian priests charged with resurrecting the pharaoh had advanced technology–more advanced than ours–and were tasked with heading up a sort of Manhattan Project for resurrecting him? How would they go about it?” At least, that was the way I thought about organizing the work after I got a few of the first poems down.
The first poems came to me, rather spontaneously, during working hours. (They were inspired by my binocular stargazing the last couple of years). I dropped everything I was doing, opened a blank page in Word and got them down.
How long is it? Is it one long poem or several?
It’s a series of 24 interlinked haiku. In total, it’s about 300 words. All of them will be published together as one piece.
When/Where will it be published?
It will be published in Strange Horizons in March 2022. It will be a bit of a wait, but it will be worth it…for me.
What influenced this piece?
The Japanese haiku poet Basho (‘everything flows,’ Buddy). Ancient Egyptian writings, especially the Pyramid Texts (saw them in person in Saqqara some time ago, by the way). Backyard binocular astronomy. And, of course, astrophysics and the “new” sciences of relativity and quantum mechanics.
How does one go about writing a poem?
I have no idea.
Is it easy?
No. Writing poetry is probably the hardest type of writing I have ever attempted. You have to keep sound and rhyme working, build on a foundation of deeply personal emotion/experience, and robe it in a strict intellectual framework. Also, it would be nice if it had a plot of some sort. Not easy!
My hats off to all the poets! I repent.
Come. You must have some idea?
OK…Emotion: First, second and last. You must have some violent (almost overpowering) emotion and then get it down, raw, on paper as fast as you can. Don’t worry about what it initially sounds or looks like. Then, get ready for lots of polishing.
Did this poem get rejected much?
No. Not this specific poem. The first market I sent it to accepted it. (So always start with your toughest, most aspirational market first, like they say!) But…
Behind that easy acceptance stand, by my estimation, almost one million words of fiction (some good, some bad; some accepted as stories, some rejected). In addition, to date, I have had 119 literary rejections. That should become 120 sometime next week. So….dear Writer, persist.
Who are your favorite poets?
There are very few poets I like. I tend to have no middle ground with poets: I either really like them or don’t care for them.
That being said, for me Pushkin is the ultimate. I speak some Russian and reading him in the original (which admittedly, I do poorly), was a revelation for someone who doesn’t speak Russian natively. Russian is what I would say is a ‘strong’ tongue. Everything in it is stronger, more powerful, more tart. I remember living in Moscow and when someone on TV from the Central Asian republics, a Turkic-speaker, came to an especially emotional or dramatic point, they would, quite naturally it seemed, switch to Russian. I understand that. I do it, too sometimes when speaking English with Russian friends. Russian curse words are also unbelievably potent and Russians (not known to be a Puritanical lot) have urged me to stop when I have employed even relatively mild combinations of the same. I have also heard, anecdotally, that Russian makes some higher-level math and physics “easier.” (Russian lacks strict syntax and I have wondered if that is related?)
Russian is also…Well, it has gender for all objects. It also has reflexive verbs which require a person/self to be performed and yet all beings can perform these actions. All beings are in a sense *closer* to humans. Also, even storms, snow and rain “walk.” Man is grouped with the animals again as animate, with all others are deemed “inanimate.” In other words, it is full of anthropomorphisms. It also has great onomatopoeia: words often sound like they should: “Baraban” is the word for drum, “Skreepka” is the word for violin. Time is also somewhat circular or repetitive: actions (verbs) can be either complete, one time and discrete (perfective) or regular, habitual, and partial (imperfective). You could say the language blends Western and Eastern ways of thinking, just like the country.
So, the effect of this language in the hands of a master like Pushkin is both mesmerizing and overpowering at the same time. He is by turns: somber, reflective, sarcastic, sexy, reverent, sincere and daring. Some say that reading Pushkin is reward enough for learning Russian. I don’t know if I would go that far–it’s a tough one to master! But it certainly is one of its very finest compensations.
Well, that’s about it for now.
Before I go, I wanted to thank all who contributed to these poems by encouraging me and serving as Beta readers. I had three Beta readers for this particular group of poems. So, thank you very much! Your feedback was of great value for polishing and honing these pieces! I couldn’t have done it without you.
I also want to thank my writer colleagues at the Northern Virginia Writers Club for encouraging my writing, providing networking opportunities, sharing their experiences, and providing some peer feedback for this and other pieces.
Alright! Hope you’ll tune in in March for the poems. Until then,
Keep reading, keep writing.