Writing Your Own Epic Poem: A Character Sketch of a Hero Mike Levinson’s English Class 1. 2. Hero/Challenge Brainstorm Sheets Due: Thursday/Friday, 1/23 & 1/25 Final Draft Due: Thursday/Friday, 2/6 & 2/7 DIRECTIONS: Since you are reading Homer’s The Odyssey, it is your turn to try your hand at writing your own epic poem. Write a narrative poem that provides a character sketch and tells a story about a hero of your generation, borrowing elements from Homer’s style to recreate the experience for your reader. The poem should be an imaginative and artistic written creation of a hero who struggles with, meets, or overcomes a challenge of your generation. You must include the most vivid, engaging, and meaningful aspects and elements of a hero in the poem. The character sketch needs to reflect specific challenges that are posed to your generation. Within the heroic challenge context of your poem, you must also be selective about which heroic traits to emphasize. Most likely you will focus on developing one, for instance "loyalty." Choose a trait that is either lacking in your generation or is necessary for your generation to emulate. You must earnestly feel that the trait is valuable for you and your peers. Follow the steps below to write your poem. It must be typed and a minimum of 500 words. a. b. c. d. First, identify some elements of an epic poem. See the notes with this handout that describe the elements. Consider all of the following: The challenge that the hero is facing is clearly described and is a true challenge of your generation. Heroic traits are emphasized in detail. The poem demonstrates those traits clearly. There is enough description so that the reader can see and feel the experiences of the hero and the situation he or she faces. There are Epithets, imagery, similes, and metaphors used throughout the poem. The writer uses aesthetic/artistic vocabulary throughout the poem. Do some pre-writing. Use brief notes to outline the hero and challenges of your generation. Write your epic poem in the third-person, as if Homer is narrating your experience. Abbreviated Sample of a previous students’ Epic Poetry Andrew, courageous rider of the invisible horse, Pursued his journey head strong into The wicked mist that Zeus laid upon him. Eric, his valiant companion, assisted me on my long Journey to the far off castle of the Name that must not be said. Only the bravest warriors throughout the land barely have Enough courage say the name of the castle that must not be said. Andrew, the bravest of the brace, And Andrew’s companion ride out from their glorious home full Of speed to the castle that must not be named. Andrew, sensed danger all around him, lurking in the gloomy Mist, like a shark ready to attack an unsuspecting Fish. He went on, fearless of death, he knew nothing Could kill the greatest warrior in all the land. Athena, grey-eyed goddess, protected him Where ever he went. The trotting of the coconuts Was the only sound that filled the air. The crackling of the leaves on the side of cobblestone road sent a dark vibe. It was too late to turn back, and the castle was in sight. The red and green neon sign of “7-11” burst through The mist and became clear. Epic Poetry Notes Epic. An extended narrative poem recounting actions, travels, adventures, and heroic episodes and written in a high style (with ennobled diction, for example). An epic hero is usually a person of great strength, wit or skill, whose adventures usually contribute to the development of a particular race or nation. Characteristics of the classical epic include these: The main character or protagonist is heroically larger than life, often the source and subject of legend or a national hero The deeds of the hero are presented without favoritism, revealing his failings as well as his virtues The action, often in battle, reveals the more-than-human strength of the heroes as they engage in acts of heroism and courage The setting covers several nations, the whole world, or even the universe The episodes, even though they may be fictional, provide an explanation for some of the circumstances or events in the history of a nation or people The gods and lesser divinities play an active role in the outcome of actions All of the various adventures form an organic whole, where each event relates in some way to the central theme Typical in epics is a set of conventions (or epic machinery). Among them are these: Poem begins with a statement of the theme ("Arms and the man I sing") Invocation to the muse or other deity ("Sing, goddess, of the wrath of Achilles") Story begins in medias res (in the middle of things) Catalogs (of participants on each side, ships, sacrifices) Histories and descriptions of significant items (who made a sword or shield, how it was decorated, who owned it from generation to generation) Simile and Metaphor Epic simile (a long simile where the image becomes an object of art in its own right as well as serving to clarify the subject). Frequent use of epithets ("Aeneas the true"; "rosy-fingered Dawn"; "tall-masted ship") Use of patronymics (calling son by father's name): "Anchises' son" Long, formal speeches by important characters Journey to the underworld Use of the number three (attempts are made three times, etc.) Previous episodes in the story are later recounted Possibilities to Consider in Writing an Epic Poem Write a brief statement of the poem's purpose before you begin recounting the story - say, to detail your dog Champ's heroic crusade against backyard birds - followed by an invocation of the Muse. Give a short, general outline of the action of the poem in the statement of the poem's purpose. Invoke the Muse next by first praising her, then by asking her to aid you in the writing of your poem. The Muse of epic poetry was Calliope, but you can also invoke Thalia (Muse of comedy) or Melpomene (Muse of tragedy). Choose a particularly heroic event in the hero's life at which to start. This will be the main action of your poem. Begin the narrative by employing "in medias res" or "framework" narrative. Literally meaning "into the midst of things," this is a poetic convention in which the narrative begins in the middle of the main action and earlier events are retold through flashbacks. The past actions thus form a framework centering around the main action. Confront your hero with dangerous monsters and other incredible adventures. Include vivid and explicit descriptions of warfare (particularly weapons and combat). Use the supernatural to get your protagonist out of tough situations. If your hero or heroine is in a no-win situation, simply send in a god or goddess to help out at the last moment. When I assess your work, I will ask the following questions: 1. What is the challenge that the hero is facing? Is it a true challenge of your generation? What suggestions do you have? 2. Who is the hero and what heroic traits are emphasized? Loyalty, bravery, honesty, etc… How could the writer demonstrate those traits more clearly? 3. How is the hero and situation described? Is there enough descriptive language so that the reader can see and feel the experience? What suggestions do you have? 4. Where could the writer use Epithets? This is a short phrase applied repeatedly to a person or thing in The Odyssey. “bright-eyed Athene” or “sandy Pylos” or “wise Odysseus” or “brave Antinous”. 5. Where could the writer use more imagery, similes, or metaphors? Simile example: “then he advanced like a mountain lion. Metaphor example: The event was clouded over by protests. 6. Where could the writer use more aesthetic/artistic vocabulary? 7. What other elements of epic poetry could the writer incorporate into their poem?