Earthsleep (Magill's Literary Annual 1981)
Earthsleep is the concluding volume of the tetralogy Midquest, a single long poem of approximately five thousand lines which the author calls “something like a verse novel.”
The opening line of Earthsleep completes the last sentence of Wind Mountain, the third volume of the tetralogy. Yet, each volume—River, 1975, Bloodfire, 1978, Wind Mountain, 1979—and each poem stands separately while all participate in a larger structure whose pattern is now clear. Each book covers the same twenty-four-hour period of the speaker’s life, his thirty-fifth birthday, May 28, 1971. As the titles indicate, each volume is organized around one of the four classical elements. Each volume contains eleven poems, making the tetralogy four by four, or forty-four, which is “the world twice, interior and exterior.” With the exception of Wind Mountain, each book is organized in such a way that the first poem mirrors the eleventh, the second the tenth, and so on, with the sixth and center poem in each volume, about a mountain man named Virgil Campbell, being companionless.
Within this unity of structure, there is astonishing variety: each volume is dominated by a different classical element, and by a different element of the family (River by grandparents, Bloodfire by the father, Earthsleep by a kind of family reunion, while Wind Mountain is something...
(The entire section is 1573 words.)
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