Friday, March 25, 2011

Snow Ghosts

echoes throw
sounds round
canyon expanse as
blades are raised, then
boom, doom for
snow flowing in
gutters under
newer flurries

they hazard the blizzard,
drivers of the night,
mettle on the metal
clanking, cranking
snow rowers
here, we heard -
saw, we naught
but lights - tonight

the snow ghosts
so fast, they pass
booming, looming
then flashers slashing
windows kindled against
freezing, teasing
crystals distant only
by windows kindled

racing, erasing
winter's hints
so fast, they passed
we see
flashers, dancing
reflected, projected
distracting our catching
the actual, factual
2-ton machines -
but the snow, it goes
proving the moving
done by ...

snow ghosts

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mythological Dimensions of Neil Gaiman

So there was a call for papers, and a friend and I answered the call. But we were too late, by a few hours (damn that time zone confusion). Here's a copy of our proposed abstract for a paper on the mythological dimensions of Neil Gaiman. While it most likely won't go any further than this blog, I hope you enjoy this foray into literary realms!


Perhaps it’s the human condition, built somehow into our DNA: the eternal, mythical Quest. From The Odyssey (Homer, classic, ancient Greece) to American Gods (Gaiman, classic, modern Earth), we respond deeply to the quest and all of the mythological elements that go into it. The stakes are always high, the mission unique, and, in Gaiman’s (and our? modern? American?) world, magic is always nigh.

In response to the call for abstract submissions on “Mythological Aspects in Gaiman’s Work,” this exploration assumes the Talisman as a mythological aspect, and explores the nuances of what makes a talisman, what makes a Gaiman talisman, and what this has to do with the modern world.

Seeing and Not Seeing: Talismans in the Mythological Modernism of Neil Gaiman

With every quest comes a Hero; with every hero, a Talisman, conferring on its bearer “supernatural powers or protection” (

Gaiman takes this iconic element of ancient myth and shapes it for a modern mind. Everyday objects suddenly becoming magical is a gift for the masses. Giving that magic a purpose, in the hands of a questing hero who probably is just a regular modern human, makes every one of us that much closer to the archetypal possibilities inherent in such a journey. Facing our demons, going for the gold, finding the key—these are “everyday” quests, and Gaiman gives us this bit of magic that opens our eyes to the powers of the imagination in creatively seeing our way to the end. Talismans, including magical mirrors, keys, and boxes, are all around us. The modern mythological aspects are so complete, in fact, that one might call his genre “myth” as much as Science Fiction, for he truly employs the powers of myth profusely and consistently.

In Gaiman’s world, magic is everywhere. A talisman could be a stone, a carving, a letter: common, everyday items, uniquely powerful. Sometimes objects of power will work for anyone, but a talisman is special in that it often “works” for Only One: one hero at a time.

The talisman is often mentioned or noticed early in Gaiman’s stories. Its acquisition by the hero marks the beginning of a quest. Its loss may mean death for the hero. Its return—or bequeathing to another, for her own adventure, if the talisman will allow—often marks the end of the quest. And when you think the quest is done, but you still have the talisman, WATCH OUT, because there are still things to be learned, forces to be met, and fate to be had. You may only get one chance to step through the Door, help the Invalid, or meet the Teacher to which the talisman has led you.

Gaiman’s talismans are also unique in that they often are used as not only markers of the quest, but also for “Seeing and Not Seeing.” Talismans are used to See the Path, or the Universe, or the Real fabric of the world each hero is in. Witness Coraline and her hollow stone, labyrinth talismans in Neverwhere, or the Monk in Dream Hunters and his glowing slip of paper.

And just like that … we are drawn in. Gaiman lures us into classic, carefully crafted stories as easily as if he were telling a “regular” story. The merge is seamless. This is part of Gaiman’s genius. He takes “heavy” mythological journeys into the modern world, to merge not just east and west, but above, below, old and new. The Warrior, the Trickster, and the Monk are all around us, if only we look through new eyes.

Gaiman’s talismans can help us do just that.