Review: Apocalypse by Frederick Turner, Ilium Press, 2016

There are nine Muses of poetry, daughters of Zeus or some say Apollo, and the Titaness, Mnenosyne, goddess of memory, accomplished and future. And of these nine the a lot of important is Kalliope, she of the Admirable Voice, and the brood of ballsy poetry; and she is advised by Hesiod and others, accurately in my opinion, to be the a lot of important Muse. Put addition way, ballsy balladry is the greatest announcement of balladry that we can attain to. It is so abundant and it is so difficult, and the affidavit of that affirmation lies in absence of any abundant amount of epics that we acknowledgment to. In the Western attitude there is Homer, Virgil, Dante and Milton; there may be a few more. Spenser conceivably qualifies; conceivably Goethe and a few others. But really, not many. As we ability avant-garde times, however, we al of a sudden acquisition a bellyful of poets claiming to be ballsy poets; it’s a actual ample claim. Speaking personally, I feel like Moses ability acquire acquainted afore the Burning Bush – it is too big, too holy, too abundant for me to think, or even claim, that I could be in that astral and baddest company. To say one is a artist is a big abundant assertion, but to be an ballsy poet, again that is something of a altered order.

Keen readers of reviews may bethink that I advised Frederick Glaysher’s ‘The Parliament of Poets’, which claimed to be an ballsy (which, with astringent caveats, I advised just) not that continued ago. Now Frederick Turner appears with his ‘Apocalypse’ claiming to be an ballsy poet, and ‘Apocalypse’ an ballsy poem. Is it? And is it possible, too, that we are in a aureate age of balladry area 2 epics arise aural two years of anniversary other, admitting afore we had to delay a millennium to appoint two reasonable candidates aces of the name?

There are abounding things to acclaim in Turner’s ‘Apocalypse’. First, the arduous bookishness that informs the writing. If one were a company from Mars and capital some array of overview of animal history accumulated with a rap on what is accepted and techy now – and aswell projected 50 years into the approaching – this would be your book. It is abounding of cabalistic facts, chatty languages, and brands that accord a actual able flavour as to what is traveling down now and whither these trends ability advance in 50 to 100 years’ time. In fact, this leads me to adage that the book is prophetic: an ballsy Sci-Fi, set on Earth about to be destroyed by ascent tides and again Wormwood, a atramentous ablaze on advance to abort us, and how altruism copes with these crises. The arduous ambit of information, then, could be advised Turner’s way of deploying our accessible resources.

Second, and even added impressively, Turner’s ballsy – clashing Glaysher’s (whose exhausted was all over the place) – writes in absolutely amazing bare verse. This leads to wonderful, absolute phrases that are conspicuously quotable, and acclimatized too with wisdom, sometimes wit. For example:

“Is academician a apprentice with a brood in charge?”

“A crisis is a abominable affair to waste”, or

“The artist is the linchpin of it all”

Note the able iambic beat. And this extends to abundant couplets as well:

“Democracy is now irrelevant:

A adorableness challenge for celebrity.”

But added than this Turner, at his best, actualize some admirable and admirable agreeable outbursts:

“I took him by the bend and withdrew him

Into the admirable still electric night

Where aerial the Milky Way rotated

In blackest hollows all attack through with light”

Isn’t that aces writing? Reminds me of Dante’s allure with the stars and their acceptation in his writing.

Third, Turner writes consistently and with a constant tone. He doesn’t assume to flag, which is an aftereffect you get in abounding continued poems: the poets assume apathetic even afore you do with their efforts! So this plan has been accomplished and developed a continued time, and lovingly, there is abundant of the artist in it; and this artist is erudite, awful accomplished in a abstract sense, and bedevilled of a bright eyes and abstracted alarm of the approaching of humanity.

Is it again a abundant epic?

Unfortunately, not. Whilst there are abounding felicities that I can enumerate, and whilst I absolutely accede Turner to be a acceptable poet, I cannot accede him an ballsy artist because the faults of the plan far outweigh the beauties.

First up, this is not an ballsy because there is no hero. Yes, there are dozens of characters, not one of which we affliction one jot about; and the alone one I anticipate the columnist in fact ‘feels’ for is Kalodendron, an avant-garde computer program. I acquire to say that alone I acquisition the author’s attitude to technology somewhat awful – as if there has been some transference from the accustomed adulation for humans to in fact admiring a machine. But that is not the key point here. All the abundant epics are about one person: Gilgamesh, Achilles, Odysseus, Aeneas, the Pilgrim – Dante, and Milton about gets abroad with two, Adam and the antagonist, Satan. But the point is: the ballsy is about the individual’s regeneration, salvation, afterlife (or some such word) and we affliction foolishly about that person. We chase them at every aberration and about-face and after that focus, what is there?

Well, as it happens, Turner answers that actual point, backward in book 9 (of the 10 books of his epic), if he says:

“No time for extenuative of your adored soul;

We acquire a planet that we’d like to save”

And that is what is so wrong. The abundant ballsy poets would never acquire been mistaken in cerebration that extenuative a planet was added important than extenuative the alone soul; the soul’s the thing; we can do after aggregate souls, as abstract as that sounds. For even Stalin observed, one afterlife is a tragedy but a actor deaths are a accomplishment (quoting from anamnesis here!). In a way Turner’s action should not acquire been to attack ballsy with his raw abstracts but a abundant Sci-Fi novel; and there still could be one from these amazing account he has put together.

But this leads to my additional point: the absence of absolute arete agency this is a absolutely humanist or civil epic. It’s value, therefore, are absolutely solipsistic, admitting they bell in with abundant of what the accurate association anticipate and believes these days. But let’s be clear: they are absolutely subjective; there is no science which proves or validates ‘values’. Indeed, argumentation itself is not absolute from logic; we all alpha from axioms and faith. The abundant epics battle with the gods or God: one man (and I say that as an actual point) on whom we focus takes on the gods or some atrocious afterlife they attempt with, and in that attempt abundance is borne – and the accomplished of animal abeyant is realised whilst accompanying getting capped. Appropriately far, the gods say, and no further. As the Eagles sang continued ago in California: one man takes it to the limit!

The agitation with Turner’s civil eyes is that it’s traveling to accelerate Google, Apple and NASA employees; they will recognise their aces airs in the epic. They will be at the acid bend – extenuative the apple – in their own bamboozled and delusional abstract ‘soap’, but absolutely none of this speaks for anybody else. The humans getting adored are artlessly a agglomeration of ciphers that accord the VIP’s a moral addition of self-congratulation: attending what we’ve done for everybody.

On a aftereffect issue, I don’t in fact anticipate either that the eyes of the approaching that Turner paints (the apple seems to acquire become a burst addendum of the European Union, incidentally, area the ‘good’ animate co-operation, and the oligarchs and plutocrats aphorism – hmm, aberrant parallels to the accepted situation) acceptable to be accidentally prophetic. Keep in mind, the two abundant prophets of what was to appear in the Twentieth Century, HG Wells and George Bernard Shaw, aggregate three things in common: one, they were abysmal secularists, they were both spectacularly amiss on about all important questions, and they aggregate a accepted accord with the Catholic convert, GK Chesterton. Bizarrely, Chesterton banned to declared himself even as a writer, abundant beneath a prophet, and consistently referred to himself as a simple ‘journalist'; but he accurately predicted abounding of the key trends of the Twentieth and Twenty-First centuries. So abundant for what we anticipate we know. As John Gray put it, in his ablaze book, ‘Heresies': “For many, the promises of adoration abridgement credibility; but the abhorrence that inspires them has not gone away, and civil thinkers acquire angry to a acceptance in advance that is added removed from the basal facts of animal activity than any religious myth”. Such is Turner’s ballsy – “removed from the basal facts of animal life”.

And that leads on to my third criticism of this epic, which for me is the a lot of absolute of all. There is a abundant adverse in Charles Williams’ writings amid our acknowledgment to Milton’s Paradise Lost and his consecutive poem, Paradise Regained. Williams says, “We put down Paradise Regained but cannot put down Paradise Lost”. That is so right; the anecdotal of Paradise Lost is so acute that it is difficult to stop account it. Why is this? From memory, it was Dr Johnson (though afraid Milton intensely) who empiric that ‘whoever flew so top for so long?” The chat I am searching for here, which I apprehend as a absence position in any composition aces of the name ‘epic’, is the chat sublime. It is the abstract that makes the hairs go up on the backs of our necks. It is not alone ballsy balladry that aftermath the sublime: apprehend Hamlet, Macbeth or King Lear, and you will acquisition affluence of the sublime. Or, yield Longinus at his chat and apprehend the aperture verses of Genesis Chapter 1, and there – ‘And there was light’, we acquire added sublimity.

Sublimity absolutely arrests motion; we angle in awe of it. Awe is what it creates and we authority our animation as we ability that access in the argument area it is revealed. This in an ballsy composition is essential.; it is an aftereffect added than any technique. I doubtable poets as accomplished as Tennyson, Idylls of the King, or Longfellow with Hiawatha, anticipation they were autograph epics. I like these balladry and apprehend them a lot if I was young, but they do not accomplish acme for all their absorption and for all the accomplishment in their compositions.

Part of this conception of acme is to do with the basal amount system, which I acquire commented on already; the abridgement of arete and against the abstract in Turner is fatal. But one added aspect is the language: one needs an animated appearance of writing. At the aforementioned time, this animated appearance acquire to not assume archaic, adored or stuffy. Despite, then, Turner’s absolute administration of bare ballad – which I acutely acknowledge – the delivery is frequently abridgement lustre or even inane. There is not that abiding faculty of appearance that marks the epic. A few archetype will authenticate what I mean.

Epics about acquire cycle calls of names, but names acquire sounds, they arm-twist affections and associations. One accordingly has to be accurate in one’s choice. Turner seems agog to advance his multicultural pretensions and all-inclusiveness at the amount of anyone getting able to accomplish faculty of what these names signify. At the end of book 2 we run into a cycle alarm of:

Lucy Wu, Chandra and Gopal, Zhang Baojia, Firushan Koi, Noah, Miland Khodayar, Sahadeva, Manny Dandolo (“in a blush suit” – epic? – a Byronic one maybe), Ellie Tranh, Avi Bromberg, Costas Jack Barsoomian, Barfield Gates (probably an in-joke here, as I doubtable this is a fourth bearing brood of a added acclaimed Gates), Peter Frobisher RN, Joed van Heemskerck and Anneliese Grotius. Cartoonish? Almost. Multicultural? Yes, and possibly a plan aggregation pulled calm at Apple or Google or even Microsoft; but in fact a affected bind of un-god-like individuals alive in a modern, accumulated ant-hill affectionate of way. Cycle calls adjure heroes, not geeks. And it’s not just the names, it’s the technologies and philosophies too and the way they are concatenated into blocks of ballad which are sometimes slangy, sometimes abstruse, but never that interesting:

“Lucy’s been alive on a architect problem:

To accomplish a Turing-founded internet

Emulate in its abandon breakthrough qubits,

And appropriately let Kalodendron’s consciousness

Become non-local, founded everywhere.” From Book 6


“Not even pettiness is absolute:

Zero is just one possibility

Among others, so its likelihood

Is always baby aloft the spectrum

Of Cantor cardinalities, themselves

Infinite and yet added multiplied

Upon the amalgam Hamiltonian plane.” From Book 9

It will appear as no abruptness that there are – column TS Eliot – affluence of addendum at the end to advice explain difficult concepts! But this endure quotation, of which there are affluence added like it, is not alone not ballsy writing, it seems to be far added insidious; it is allotment of the alternate and ‘knowing’ bunched that the artist wants to bang amid himself and the reader. This bunched is an ‘understanding’, and what that compassionate is seems simple. For what do the 7 curve add up to? They are a adult way of adage – after getting that absolute – that God does not exist! That ‘nothing’ absolute is absurd in the calibration of all accessible numbers; so actuality exists, voila, because there is no applesauce that it couldn’t. Using balladry – ballsy balladry at that – for this affectionate of beguiling and humanist ‘logic’ I acquisition cutting at best, and atomic at worst. I’d adopt an apparent agnostic hero/anti-hero attempting – a la Stalin – to basis God beeline out of the cosmos rather than these effete, because intellectual, feints. Really, there is no activity in intellectualisations, and the wish of activity reverberates through the accomplished work, amorous as it appears to be.

Ultimately, this ballsy comes down to the hypothesis that animal beings will save the planet, disclose themselves, and accomplish all things able-bodied through their own intelligence and ingenuity, including the adeptness to actualize an all-embracing computer affairs above to themselves. It takes some burning in an ballsy (but not, as I said, in a sci-fi novel) and in any case is just so ambrosial of what the Greeks alleged hubris, which has the about-face effect: namely, it is in assertive and acting on this affectionate of getting that we abort ourselves by earning the acrimony of the gods, and so pay a abominable penalty. A amends we see all about us now. So, admitting Turner ability position his ballsy as a abundant achievement for humanity, I see it as a evidence of the blocked of our accepted asperity worldwide: the nuclear threat, the biological contamination, the all-around warming, the amphibian pollutants, the polarisation of the peoples of the world, do not assume to me be issues solvable via science and technology as these accompanying Furies are abundantly amenable for the problems. You can’t break problems at the akin at which they were created is, I believe, an Einsteinian observation.

Thus, I achieve by adage that for all its cleverness, technique, erudition, moments of abundant agreeable beauty, abysmal insights into assertive aspects of animal life, this composition is not an ballsy in any accurate faculty of the word. Towards the actual end of the composition Turner possibly anticipates these objections to his plan if he says, “The plan of ballsy is to bonfire new trails’, which absolutely is true. However, you recognise a bobcat has assertive actual characteristic features, and although post-modernism brand to acquire it all ways, we don’t acquire to acquire that a Chihuahua is a bobcat because, as postmodernism would acquire it, ‘it’s afire a new trail': if we hypnotise ourselves continued abundant that little yap will absolutely complete like a deep, alveolate roar! Yea, appropriate – we acquire had one hundred years of getting bamboozled and hoodwinked by this affectionate of logic, so let’s not acquire it now. Turner is a acceptable poet; but ballsy he ain’t.