Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thinking High Thoughts About Literature

About a year ago, after taking a class on literary criticism, I created my own literary theory.

A couple of my instructors had pointed out that heroes in epic literature tend to be ‘a representative hero,’ a character who somehow embodies his society’s basic types and tendencies. I noticed another trend in these heroes, though, and decided to write a poem about it.

Rules for a Representative Hero

Amid the metaphors
And sweeping action,
All the epic heroes are farm boys.
See them climb to greatness
By way of their pitchforks.

Odysseus was plowing
Before he was drafted,
And Telemachus only wanted
To protect his herds.
(Penelope could spin her own webs—
He just cared about his pigs.)

Before St. George won the white horse
And the fairy lady,
He was a plowboy, breaking sod.

To those who say the villain
Was Milton’s hero—
Satan never grew anything.
It was Christ who planted the garden.

Then there’s Westley, if you please,
And Luke and Sam were heroes too—

Yes, Luke Skywalker,
Fixing droids for fieldwork,
And a gardener’s nothing if not a farm boy.

Displaced, unrecognized, perhaps,
But a dirt-loving, dirt-moving,
And altogether unnoticed, unheroic, epic farm boy.


Of course, the poem now has a different connection. May I remind you that I spent the last two months working at The Farm Lodge? At the lodge, we heard the radios squawk half-a-dozen times a day: “Farm guys, do you copy?”, “Farm girls, you have a fuel customer.”

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