Country music songwriters know this important fact about writing: you lead your readers to access the universal by bringing to vivid life the particular. The details matter, the small stories resonate, even — maybe especially — in this era of mass media.
Michael Collings’s Taliesin is on its face small-audience literature. This is a collection of sonnets, formal poetry, which already daunts some potential readers. More than that, these are poems that elliptically tell the life of Joseph Smith using Arthurian imagery. Many potential readers will pass on this book upon reading its subtitle.
And that is to their great loss, because these poems are beautiful. The narrator-poet is Taliesin, and he is sometimes convert to Arthur’s task, sometimes witness to triumphs and failures, and sometimes supplicant. He rejoices in the building of Camelot, grieves for its fall, and has visions of its millennial return. He serves with Arthur, he mourns his death, and he fears his own inability to make the earth-shattering sacrifice Arthur demands. These are songs of devotion, faith, crisis, and hope. They pointillistically narrate a psychic saga that is Mormon, Arthurian, American, and ultimately universal.
As it happens, we’re very excited to be hosting Dr. Collings at our house in September for a reading of his poetry. With any luck, we’ll get to hear some of Taliesin.