The Epic, in its ancient and oral roots in preliterate societies, is originally associated with poetry of course; a poetry usually sung to music and sometimes later written down when particular societies became literate. Usually the older the epic the more certain it is to be steeped in orature; and the closer it is to contemporary times, the more it becomes the literary epic. Every society started out as preliterate and oral, such that most cultures have these epics. As in the ‘world folk-epic’ – they can sometimes be the informing worldview or Weltanschauung of social contracts, in which case they are similar to what Bakhtin rightly refers to as the ‘national’ epic. There is more to this, but in a moment.
His prodigious talent, irrepressible garrulity, and seemingly affected eccentricity had not endeared him to some very powerful people at the university who made sure that he not only failed to graduate with first class honors, but that life would be miserable for him there as a graduate assistant. His mentor and distant kin, Professor Jas Amankulor, was away in the United States where he sadly met his untimely death through cancer.
Amatoritsero Ede: It is great to be having this conversation with you. Please allow me to go off the beaten track by asking you first: what went through your mind during the recent earthquake in Ontario and part of Quebec, which covered a large swathe up to New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and probably passed through your backyard in Hamilton? I am trying to say that as a creative person who is close to the heart of things and feel the rhythms of life, what did this portend for you, for responsible art, for literature and the environment?
Lawrence Hill: Thank you for inviting me into a conversation with the Maple Tree Literary Supplement. I was writing at home when the recent earthquake shook people in Ontario, Quebec and elsewhere. Naturally, being a Canadian, I thought that this couldn’t possibly be an earthquake. Surely no earthquake would disrupt my quiet day of writing at home in Hamilton, Ontario. I stood up and looked outside to see if someone was drilling through concrete and causing my chair to vibrate. I saw no construction underway so I returned to work, and thought no more of it until an hour later, when I heard that we had just experienced an earthquake. Generally we think natural and social disasters affect other people in other places. I stand as guilty as any other Canadian on that count.
The center of the universe is where my consciousness begins to throb; or where my stomach swallows desire and sated like the sky, exudes sunlight.
I do not sleep much anymore. At my age, the body understands the value of every waking moment. Sleep is the luxury of youth and kings. I am neither, though I serve one—King Agamemnon, who leads the Greek army against Troy.
As he does every afternoon at three, Randall sits looking out from one of the library windows of his house, a Queen Anne Victorian mansion in his family since before the American Civil War. A massive oak, as old as the house, stands robust and defiant in the middle of the lawn. Its lower limbs sweep down towards the ground before curving up again, leaving little possibility for any sprouts under its enveloping shade.
Volunteers for Issue 7
For sub-editing this issue MTLS thanks:
- Lequanne Collins-Bacchus
- Amanda Tripp
- Bianca Spence
- Rosel Kim
MTLS is grateful to Ian Loiselle for his hard work on web management.
PEN Canada Presents: TAXI Stand Jam!"