Longtime readers know this blog took an odd turn in late 2009 when poems about the National Cathedral gargoyles started popping up. To my surprise, a whim—a sonnet about a boar and a dashed-off song about a monster—turned into both a long-term project and a refreshing creative challenge.
Readers tell me they like the gargoyles, but I’ve also fielded enough questions that it’s probably time for a FAQ.
So why did you decide to follow up a moderately successful nonfiction book with a batch of gargoyle poems?
My agent and editor tell me that light, formal verse is the next big trend in publishing. A team of highly paid consultants is working day and night to ensure that I’m branded in the public mind as “the Dan Brown of medievalist gargoyle ekphrasis.”
No, really, what’s the deal?
From 2006 through 2008, I promoted Becoming Charlemagne, an adventure that was wonderful in hindsight but very tiring. Then I spent most of 2009 on long writing projects for other people, to the point of word-weariness and exhaustion. These poems, like most posts on this blog, let me re-associate writing with pleasure without worrying about marketability, editors’ impressions, or other people’s needs.
Are you going to write poems for all of the cathedral’s gargoyles?
Heck no. The cathedral sports 112 gargoyles and more than 1,100 grotesques. I’ll focus only on my favorites, around 50 in all.
Does this project have a name?
I’ve been calling it “Looking Up.”
How can I read all of the gargoyle poems to date?
Easy: just hit the “looking up” link at the bottom of each gargoyle post or under “Categories” in the right-hand column of the page.
If you’re a new reader looking for a sampling, check out the cicada ghazal, the song of a lovelorn monster, the alliterative advice of a bitter mother, the fretful musings of an artsy fawn, the domestic drama of an octopus reappraising her lobster, and the most popular poem so far, a yarn about where dragons come from.
Will you turn these poems into a book when you’re done?
Several readers have told me they want one, so yes.
How long will that take?
I don’t know. I have a full-time job, I teach part-time, and occasionally I do engage in pastimes unrelated to gargoyles. Probably mid-2012.
Do you take requests?
Several of these poems have been inspired by anecdotes from readers, students, and friends. So yes, if you have a favorite vocation, cultural icon, wild animal, or mythical beast, send me a note and tell me a story and I’ll see what I can do.
Do you take the gargoyle photos on this site?
Yes. I’m a crummy photographer who happens to own a point-and-click camera with a decent zoom lens.
Are you affiliated with the National Cathedral?
No. The cathedral just happens to be an easy, one-mile stroll from “Quid Plura?” headquarters. Its grounds and gardens offer a welcome getaway from the rest of D.C. when the city’s at its ephemeral worst.
Are there any guidebooks to the National Cathedral gargoyles?
Wendy True Gasch’s Guide to Gargoyles and Other Grotesques is packed with info-nuggets and photos. It sells new at the gift shop for $12.95. The Stone Carvers: Master Craftsmen of Washington National Cathedral focuses on the lives and work of the Italian masons. The cathedral also offers gargoyle tours.
So have you stopped writing about books and medievalism and Charlemagne and galangal disasters and dumpsters full of hobbits?
Of course not! The gargoyles, for however long they linger, won’t supplant any of that.
You must like Shel Silverstein.
Not really. The only two works of his I know are his ancient Irish drinking song and that book about the codependent tree.
How can I support your gargoylish endeavors?
You can’t, really; it’s not a commercial project. But I won’t complain if you pick up a copy of Becoming Charlemagne (paperback or Kindle) or The Tale of Charlemagne and Ralph the Collier (paperback or Kindle).
Or, heck, just keep reading this blog or subscribing to its feed. I’ll keep writing as long as you keep bringing the eyeballs.