Reviewer Praise for Selected Verse – Heroes and Wonders

James Sale, of the Society of Classical Poets, had this to say about Selected Verse- Heroes and Wonders:

Poetry is a delicate balance of language that is prone to either too much yin or too much yang; or put another way, as the poet steers his or her course like Odysseus towards his true soul, Penelope, waiting at home, he must venture through the double danger of Scylla on the one side and Charybdis on the other. The danger is either writing the yin of non-poetry which we often call free verse—though it is neither free (pure prose with lines) nor verse (since structure-less)—or writing the yang of verse, an over-emphasis on conventional forms, dead tropes, and language reminiscent of past centuries rather than the living vernacular of today.

Some of the most popular poetry revered today veers so dangerously to the yin side that, like Odysseus’s devoured crew, the audience of poetry dwindles as well; people can’t tell if what they are reading is prose or just a cruel joke that academia has played on their seemingly sophomoric intellects. Ben Zwycky’s collection, Selected Verse: Heroes and Wonders, is a daring reversal of direction of the ship’s helm, careening us toward a different monster in a maneuver that is both thrilling and at times unsuccessful.

Heroes and Wonders is, as his title indicates, generally an excellent collection of verse: full of wholesome sentiments, familiar themes of love, honour, resisting evil, and at its best has some pithy aphoristic expressions. Indeed, his best verses are his shortest ones. His final verse, “The Beast,” is some 17 pages long and in my view far too extensive to be readable; but contrast that with “Days,” the second poem in the collection. The opening stanza shows Ben at his best:

 

Days of wonder, days of hope,
Days that help you learn and cope;
Days of refuge, days of peace,
Days that give your heart release.

 

The simple repetition, the pleasing and easy rhymes, all help convey a sense of goodness and strength, and  the anaphora of Days in the quatrains suddenly breaks free of that structure in a final concluding couplet, which gives the poem a nice symmetry:

 

Each new day is heaven-sent,
Make every day a day well spent.

 

The final couplet indeed could become a mantra for the kind of people I meet in my own other specialist field of management consultancy: specifically, time management gurus who will love it!

 

Within this simple goodness and strength, there are also gems that paint, not exquisitely but with the right breadth, the universal longing of the human soul without obtrusive preachiness; for example, these lines from “Beauty’s Message”:

 

All flowing from the source of all, who we’ll see face to face,
Where holiness is merged with love as justice is with grace.
There is our true purpose, there is our true home;
That is why down here on earth our hearts will always roam.

 

But in all this there is a sense of predictability, both in the subject matter, the approach to the subject matter, and the forms themselves. Whilst I am a great advocate of the importance of rhyme in and for poetry, the poet must always master rhyme and not be subjected by it.

 

Unfortunately, in some of Ben’s verse the rhyme has clearly taken control of the meaning rather than the other way round. So, in his poem “The Wise Men” we get:

 

This all our fathers saw and knew,
Most honoured gospel scribe Matthew.
We know their tale is one small part
Of a greater work of art.

 

We have here two issues: in the first couplet the oblique (oblique here meaning the rhyming of a stressed with an unstressed syllable) rhyming of knew/Matthew, which seems strained, and the effect of such an oblique rhyme being comic rather than serious; and in the second couplet the sheer conventionality of the two masculine rhymes so close together.

 

But that aside, if you like verse with simple diction, pleasing rhymes, heroic and moral themes, then this book could well be for you.

http://classicalpoets.org/poetry-review-heroes-and-wonders-by-ben-zwycky-2015

My response (which I have posted there) is as follows:

Thank you for the kind words, James.

It is indeed my goal, as a member of the superversive literary movement to create entertaining work that encourages virtue, courage and a sense of beauty and value, to fight against nihilistic drudgery and build up the foundations of civilization.

I am a flawed writer with almost no formal training in poetry, there are no doubt a few instances of my sacrificing content too much to fit a rhythm or rhyme. However I find it interesting that you pick out that stanza from “Wise Men”, since the situation there is actually the other way around. The structure was sacrificed at this point because of the content and historical context, they are the key to the purpose of my writing the whole piece.

It was inspired by the intriguing possibility (with some scholarly support) that the source of the Matthean birth narrative is the Magi themselves, and that Matthew obtained this knowledge by meeting with their sons. The poem is then something of a dramatization of what that encounter could have looked like, with the sons recounting the oral tradition they received from their fathers, and then asking what it all meant.

In those days oral traditions were often crafted into verse, or used puns, thematic patterns, vivid imagery and other linguistic tricks to aid their memorisation. For the original Magi, this very unusual adventure would have raised a large number of questions: all the intrigue, the signs in the sky, the further signs they no doubt heard about from talking with Joseph, all for a baby born in a pauper’s stall? They knew that something of major significance was going to come from all of this, and the great adventure they had been part of was only the beginning, one small component of a divine masterwork.

Decades had passed since any news of the supposed king of the Jews had been heard, the original Magi had almost certainly passed on by the time Matthew came along to gather additional material for his biography.

The sons would have joyfully repeated the flowing, artfully sculpted and polished oral tradition they were taught and then, with trembling lips at the prospect of their great questions being answered (perhaps compounded by only sharing a second or third language with the former tax collector, since they lived a long way from each other), slightly stumble over their words as they summarise “That is what our fathers told us, we know that there is much more to this than what we have heard. We have helped you, now please tell us the fuller story that you have, so that we can know what our fathers longed to understand all these years.”

The whole poem is building up to that life-changing moment for them.

Perhaps I could have conveyed this more clearly in the work itself, but that is what I was attempting to do.

If you’d like to take a look at the full collection, click the image below:

Selected Verse - Heroes and Wonders

Meeting up with the Mountain Who Writes!

bookswapI had the privilege of meeting up with Larry Correia on the last stop of his European book signing tour. He seemed pretty excited to receive a signed copy of Beyond the Mist from me, as I got him to sign my copy of his excellent fantasy novel Son of the Black Sword (John C. Wright’s foreword in my book was a big selling point for him).

He was already well aware of Sci Phi Journal and SuperversiveSF.com, and I took a few messages from the rest of the SuperversiveSF crew, so he was happy to see me and I had a nice chat with him and his good lady about Prague, their experiences on their tour, family life, writing and a little about this year’s Sad Puppies campaign. It was a fun time and I look forward to hearing what Larry thinks of my little book, since many of us know how much weight a recommendation from him can carry.

DSCN0287

In other news, The 2016 Journal of the Society of Classical Poets came out this week, featuring one of my poems.

They will also be posting a review of my latest poetry book Selected Verse – Heroes and Wonders in mid-May, so I look forward to reading what they think of that collection.

First Author Consignment of Heroes and Wonders Arrives!

My first consignment of Selected Verse – Heroes and Wonders arrived this morning, and despite the overcast day, I managed to get a decent snapshot of the paperback in (almost) all of its glory:

HaW_promo_shot_01

As you should be able to tell from the above image, the text-free spine looks very nice indeed.

The price of the kindle ebook version has been reduced to $1.99 (with all other territories reduced accordingly) and the same will be done for my other poetry collection once the system allows it (30 days after the end of the kindle countdown deal).

Selected Verse – Heroes and Wonders is Now on Sale!

Heroes and Wonders concept003

A collection of poems dealing with heroes and wonders of the grand type we see depicted in our favourite epics as well as inspiring everyday examples that only a few ever notice. Beauty to enjoy, courage to inspire, wisdom and folly to admire and avoid.

Highlights include a heartfelt celebration of a life well lived, the story of a survivor of China’s brutal one child policy, an uplifting appreciation of nature’s cycles, and a grand tale of a beast that haunts the hearts of men.

Awake the hero within you, and stand in awe of wonders that never cease.

Now available in kindle ebook form in the following Amazon territories:

A paperback version should become available soon from various outlets, and when it does, the same discount code for my other books will get you a modest discount on this volume from the createspace estore, and when purchasing the paperback from amazon, the kindle version will be free via the matchbook program.

The createspace estore page for the paperback is now live and can be found here

Like my first collection, this book contains poems that have been posted at this blog, although this time there are a couple of additional short works that haven’t at the time of publication.

Take a look, see if you think it will be worth the money, and please spread the word!

The ‘Selected Verse’ page linked to in the menu bar at the top of this page has been updated to cover both this book and the previous Selected Verse collection.

The Beast – Parts 11 and 12

Part 1

Part 10

 

Daric looks in horror as she shifts into a form
That shows faint hints of her old self, but still it makes him squirm.
He runs the fallen minion through, then charges at the beast,
She blocks his path and views him like a predator its feast.

He shows the flat of his great sword, its strange glow gives her pause;
Her feral eyes reflect it as she growls and bares her claws.
“Beatrice, please, don’t heed his lies; I’m Daric, your true friend;
Love and sacrifice are things he cannot comprehend.”

She trembles at his gentle words, but the beast is stronger still,
She snaps back to her vicious state as he exerts his will.
“Your ignorance will bring you down, all power is mine to give;
It’s only for the sport of it that we still let you live.”

The two beasts circle round him, looking for a chance
To pounce and rip his throat out in this deadly evil dance.
He backs against the cabin wall to cut their angles down.
“This coward is no threat to us, let’s go and raid the town.”

They turn and head towards the woods, he quickly scrambles after,
The beast jags left and back around, and roars with mocking laughter
“We have you trapped in open ground, no barriers to hide you,
Your guard will drop eventually, and then we will divide you.”

His vision’s width is limited by his visor’s plate;
He blinks blood from his eyes and spots the movement just too late.
The beast pounces onto his back, sinks a fang into his neck;
He throws the beast off, tearing through trapezius muscle wrecked.

With one last force of will, he plunges down with his blessed blade
Into the prone beast’s midriff, but as contact’s to be made,
She pounces forward, knocks him down and pins him to the ground;
His helmet pops off, they lock eyes, then turn to the vile sound

Of wailing shrieks and sizzling flesh, the blade’s pinned through its leg
Into the earth so it can’t move, just pitifully beg
As flames and smoke pour from the wound, creating a great cloud;
It writhes and shrivels into dust, with a thunderclap so loud

It knocks her off him several yards, the cloud then comes alive,
Swirling like a great tornado, then it starts to dive.
He presses on his neck and slowly climbs to his weak knees,
Grasps the sword and waves it as if swatting angry bees.

The cloud backs out of his sword’s reach, then rushes into her.
She springs up to her feet and then gives out a joyful purr.
She snarls at him, then falters as she sees his holy blade;
One last hope occurs as his vision starts to fade.

“Beatrice,” he slurs, and stabs the sword into the earth.
“I gladly give my life for yours, whatever that is worth.
This makeshift cross can take your curse, grasp it and be free;
If I die before you live, then please remember me.”

With that he falls and lies quite still; she smells his salty blood,
His tender flesh so succulent, and hunger like a flood
Washes over her and draws her to his fallen form,
And yet a small voice whispers in the middle of that storm

That there is more to life than feasting, victory and war,
That this pile of meat is a good man that she adored,
And so she reaches fearfully for that repugnant steel;
It burns with purest agony, but she clings on with zeal.

The evil cloud is funnelled through the sword to the abyss;
Its final scream of terror fades into the faintest hiss.
Near-exhausted, Beatrice pulls the sword out from the ground,
She looks around the battlefield and whistles for her hounds.

When they come running from the trees, she’s not angry they fled
From the terrifying beast, she’s glad that they’re not dead.
She moves to Daric’s fallen form and listens for his breath;
It’s shallow, short and weakening, he’s very near to death.

“My Daric, you have honoured me as if I were a queen;
No matter what you thought you were, you were a knight to me.
For what it’s worth, I dub you with the sword that set me free.”
She puts the sword face on his wound, it hisses, glows brightly.

“Arise, Sir Daric, Knight of all I am and have to give,
Know that you have won my heart, but most of all, please live.”
Her dogs lick all the gore away, she drags him back inside
Lays him in her own soft bed, keeps herself occupied

With cooking, washing, nursing him with all she can provide;
She sends a dog to bring some help while she stays by his side.
Days later Daric slowly wakes, is welcomed with her smile;
She kisses him and tells him he still needs to rest a while.

Her door’s been fixed, her house is warm and festively spruced up;
She brings him fresh stream water in a simple wooden cup.
Her smile drops, “Now that you know about my heinous crime,
Do you still wish to stay with me, through pain and toil and grime?”

“My love,” he says, “a day with you is worth a thousand more
Without your beauty and your grace, whatever lies in store.
It was the beast who acted through your captive hands and eyes.”
“I remember clearly now, he used my wounded pride.

“It felt just like an awful dream, I could not but comply.”
“Perhaps those are false memories; he served the Prince of lies.
But even if it was your fault, all that and more besides,
I can’t condemn, since there but for the grace of God go I.

“Please be my wife, that we may be and work this farm as one;
‘Twould be my crowning moment, my greatest treasure won.”
The priest arrives, but not alone, the news has spread far and wide
Of the great battle that took place, and that the beast has died.

The king and all his pageantry arrive in state to bless
And honour Daric’s courage, to publicly express
His gratitude for this great feat, give gold and tracts of land,
And approve the ceremony that joins them hand in hand.

“What God and king have joined as one, let man not separate;
This marriage is a victory over rage and reckless hate.
May the ballad of their love be sung and oft retold,
Until it is a treasured myth of ‘that grand age of old.’ ”


This poem in its entirety is the finale to my second poetry collection, Selected Verse – Heroes and Wonders, now available on Kindle, which looks at heroes and wonders of the grand type we see depicted in our favourite epics as well as inspiring everyday examples that only a few ever notice. Beauty to enjoy, courage to inspire, wisdom and folly to admire and avoid:

(click the image below to take a look)
Heroes and Wonders concept003

Not Forgotten

Not long ago, Sir Nicholas George Winton passed away. Since the heroics for which he is most famous took place less than 20km from where I live, I thought it appropriate that I write a poem about him:

 

Not Forgotten

The accolade of hero is oftentimes bestowed
Quite carelessly and flippantly, and not where it is owed;
The above cannot be said of those who chose to praise
A certain late Sir Nicholas, who did in bygone days
Observe the signs of his own times, the shadows that unfurled
Of an evil threatening to swallow up the world.

Primarily he saw a throng of innocents no doubt
Marked for extermination, and all with no way out.
All they could do was send their treasured children far away,
In the hope that they might live to see a better day.
But who would take them in, and would the Nazis let them go?
They’d need official invitations to present and show.

For unsuspecting thousands, time was growing short,
With no-one there to help them flee, for fear of getting caught.
That quiet English stockbroker then went where others quailed,
To save so many lives that would have ended had he failed.
Mountainous bureaucracy had to be waded through,
In London and in Prague he built himself a loyal crew.

Together they worked day and night to free all those they could.
Funds were raised, papers obtained, they were doing good;
But war loomed ever closer, and papers came too slow.
Some documents they had to forge and hope it wouldn’t show.
Train after train departed, and many lives were spared
In all six hundred and sixty nine with families were paired

And yet two hundred and fifty more sat waiting on a train,
But war broke out, the borders closed, their hopes were all in vain.
Mr. Winton travelled home and did not tell a soul
Of all he’d done to rescue many from a deadly hole.
Not even his beloved wife; he clearly sought no praise
For all of his heroics back in those disastrous days.

It was by chance that in their attic his wife found a book
In which were written all he’d done and all the work it took.
She shared his secret with the world, and honours poured on in
Admiration well deserved, not just from next of kin
For the six hundred and sixty nine he’d saved at great expense
Had grown to fifteen thousand in the generations hence.

Great accolades and titles, and medals he received;
When heaven’s final call came for him, many millions grieved.
Six years past a whole century he had graced this earth,
Now we remember his great heart and life so full of worth.
Let his example inspire crowds to choose the higher way
To heal and help and rescue from the evils of today.

 

This and other poems on heroism, beauty, wisdom and folly can be found in Selected Verse, Heroes and Wonders, available on kindle and in paperback.

Selected Verse - Heroes and Wonders

Click on this image to preview the book at amazon