Posts Tagged ‘epic’


My twin passions – poetry and history – married in this novel.   I attributed the popularity of poetry in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to the power of the narrative line in much of the poetry that was being written then and particularly in the use of the epic.  Discovery of a way to recapture a general audience for poetry absorbed me. I began to search for that big story of a nation – of its origins and glories – that could provide a frame for a long, book-length poem.  Ancient cultures and western European nations furnished models in such epics as Gilgamesh, the Iliad, the Odyssey, El Cid, The Divine Comedy and Paradise Lost. Next, it occurred to me to look at the great Native-American empires for a theme. I did not want to create in epic poetry what Gary Jennings had already done so well for the Aztec civilization in his novel Aztec. I had been reading Icanchu’s Drum: An Orientation to Meaning in South American Religions – a rather weighty tome but utterly fascinating – which turned my attention to the Inca Empire as a possible subject for my long narrative poem. I began ravenously reading everything I could find on the history and culture of the Incas. Their empire rapidly expanded outwards from Cuzco to stretch from Ecuador to northern Chile. More amazing was Pizarro’s swift conquest of that vast domain.

In 1994 The Land of the Four Quarters: A Poetic History of the Incas was published. My husband, Rod Rogers, suggested I take the characters and weave them into a novel, the premise being a prose work might draw greater interest in the subject.  I took the suggestion and wrote Voice of Stone, which centers on a stonecutter’s family and a silversmith’s family. Their lives intersect with upheavals within the empire. The novel covers the twenty-five years immediately before the Spanish conquest and ends with Pizarro’s advance upon Cuzco. My purpose was to tell the story of the conquest from the viewpoint of the servants of the Inca royalty rather than from the perspective of Incan nobility. In 1998 I fortified my imaginative vision and my extensive reading with a tripto Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador – an itinerary that covered the major locations of the story. The excerpts from the narrative poems set as epigrams for each of the chapters of the novel serve as reminders of the novel’s metamorphosis from the poetry book Land of the Four Quarters. I hope that my novel gives voice to the wonderful artistry and creative genius of this culture, much of which was pillaged and destroyed before the conquerors could comprehend it.  Yet the stones remain.