Lo! the Spear-Danes’ glory through splendid achievements
The folk-kings’ former fame we have heard of,
How princes displayed then their prowess-in-battle.
I have always been very taken with the meaty verse of the Bible, Walt Whitman, and Norse/Germanic poetry. When I set out to write Bust It Like A Mule, I set out to create an epic American poem more than a novel. I wanted to channel all epic poetry -- Gilgamesh, the Eddas, Beowulf, the Bible, the Iliad, the Divine Comedy, and Native American myth and history (‘Winter Counts’).
At first I wrote the story in a stream of consciousness the way I saw the movie/poem in my head. Then I went back and made sure every single line was in a natural euphonic verse form (the written and the spoken) as much as possible. For example, “He was an ornery mean cuss that was ox box strong and mule kick tough and he didn’t care if he won or lost as long as he was fightin” would be:
“He was an ornery mean cuss (8 syllables-stress/elongation on 'ornery' in Southern American dialect)
That was oxbow strong/ and mule kick tough (9 syllables divided by 5 and 4)
And he didn’t care/ if he won or lost (9 syllables now switched to be divided by 4 and 5)
As long as he was fightin.” (7 syllables stress/elongation on 'long' in Southern American dialect)
(See: Baldrs Draumrs , translated by Henry Adams Bellows
Once were the gods | together met,
And the goddesses came | and council held,
And the far-famed ones | the truth would find,
Why baleful dreams | to Baldr had come.)
Some of it I counted syllable and meter, other lines I left as long as they flowed appropriately, as in Whitman's Biblical style:
Vigil strange I kept on the field one night:
When you, my son and my comrade, dropt at my side that day,
One look I but gave, which your dear eyes return’d, with a look I shall never forget;
One touch of your hand to mine, O boy, reach’d up as you lay on the ground;
This took me quite a while before I felt I had perfected it, but it was worth it, because I viewed Bust it Like A Mule as an epic Edda for America, or a modern American book of the Bible called ‘The Book of Cotton’. Or Beowulf riding Babe the blue ox, at the very least.
Mythic verse storytelling is a primeval fire innate in humanity, and I wanted to capture this in Modern American form, using a definitive generation in America’s history that influenced who I am as a storyteller.
Just as I imagine the quest of Gilgamesh being acted out to eager listeners under a star lit sky in front of a roaring fire, or the story of Old Man creating the first man and woman spoken to a small boy as he walks with his grandfather along the plains, or the furies of Ragnarok shouted to the spume bearded swarthy sailors of olde Scandinavia, I imagined the tale of Cotton Kingfisher ‘like whispered mythologies over late night star fires and in musty hay coal box cars’…
This is My American Edda.
Bust it Like a Mule is now available on Amazon and Kindle. It is also available through order at Libraries, major book sellers, and the author's front porch.