Kwame Dawes and John Kinsella’s “Tangling with the Epic” is probably, above all, ‘clever’. It is a dialogue between the two comprised entirely of Spenserian stanzas, batted backwards and forwards across a literary net. It is clever in the sense of its formulaic execution, of sticking to the brief.
But for me it is also arid. It feels as it sticking to the brief is what really matters, and somehow the poetic – or any ‘meaning’ behind the poetry – lacks true passion as a result. Obviously there are flashes of exceptional phrasing here and there, but by-and-large I found the whole thing dull and, ultimately, impossible to see through. To pick up the metaphor from above, it’s a baseline rally which feels never-ending.
Years ago I was involved in a similar poetic dialogue using Haiku and running to a couple or three pages – not 110. No matter the quality of that amateurish endeavour, I’m certain it was punchier than the fare on offer in “Tangling”…
So this is one, probably, for the purists. If you like any variety and some unmanufactured emotion, then I would suggest “Tangling” is not for you.