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“To The House of The Sun is especially appropriate for academic library Literary Studies and Poetry Studies reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists…. To The House Of The Sun is a literary phenomena on a scale with the Iliad or the Odyssey. ” — Midwest Book Review
A book like this is absolutely unprecedented in our time. Like the Iliad, it uses poetry, solemnly and beautifully, to capture the most tragic era in American history, the Civil War. There is an exquisite, terrible and very human beauty woven throughout all its pages. We walk with Orpheus, with Odysseus, with Dante in the Inferno of soul-immolating tragedy, in the immortal search for spiritual meaning in world that often drifts toward nightmare—yet the poetry, the paradoxical seal of immortality redeems us all. This is a redemptive book. Read it thoroughly and well, and your life will be ennobled and enriched. —Stephen Larsen, co-author of A Fire in the Mind: The Life of Joseph Campbell, and director of the Stone Mountain Center
To the House of the Sun ranks among both the most curious and the most ambitious literary products to come out of Pittsburgh this year. The 360-page epic poem set during the Civil War is both strikingly original and, by author Miller’s enthusiastic acknowledgement, grandly derivative.
It’s the story of a young man named Conrad, Irish-born son of a slaveholding Savannah, Ga., clan, who in 1862 strikes out on what becomes a cross-country quest of sorts. As it begins, with the Civil War in full swing around him, he’s nominally in search of his long-gone father, to fulfill a promise he made his recently deceased mother. One complication is that Conrad is bereft at the death of his fiancée, who was killed by that same father.
The narrative is stream-of-consciousness, picaresque, told through Conrad’s eyes as he heads first north, as far as New Jersey, then cuts across the Midwest to California. The language is lush, sometimes metaphysical, in free but incantatory verse. Early sections grapple with destiny, slavery, grief, rage and the lure of the sea….
A key distinction of this fat and fascinating paperback is that its final 260 pages are all appendices and footnotes in which Miller obsessively documents the sources and inspirations he drew upon for ideas, images and phrases in his text, from the epic of Gilgamesh and the Bible to Irish folklore, Civil War diaries and the poetry of Wallace Stevens. Yet while To the House of the Sun is quite accessible, and wholly its own work, it is dense and sophisticated enough to be worthy of its copious source materials. —Pittsburgh City Paper (review also available here)
An “impressive and monumental work.” —Ronald Schuchard, Professor of English Emeritus, Emory University, and General Editor of the Complete Prose of T. S. Eliot
As the product of a union between a minister and an elementary school teacher, my childhood was steeped in ancient literature – everything from Bible stories to European myths and African folk tales. Add to that my teenage fascination with medieval English literature and my resulting foundation in classic texts made it possible for me to appreciate the massive scope of Tim Miller’s research for To the House of the Sun, a novel-in-verse set in America’s Civil War era.
Miller’s book-length poem opens with Conrad mourning the murder of his wife at the hands of his father. The image-rich language flows easily as he decides to walk away from Savannah, all but shaking the dust off his proverbial sandals when he leaves. Miller’s poetics twist around the mind like his character winds around the South, allowing the reader to experience visceral textures of language and perspective…
And just as the Bible opens with straightforward narrative and ends with surreal images too fantastic for the mind to absorb, so does Miller’s tale. As Conrad continues wandering across the whole of the continent, he first encounters the divine, then absorbs it so fully that he radiates it–like the biblical Moses whose face shone in blinding fashion after a mountain-top conversation with God. Once this transformation takes place, Miller’s language transforms as well into a driving expository force…
To the House of the Sun will take you on a journey from the south to the west, from the sea to the sky, all the while peeling flesh off spirit until all that’s left is the echo of one man’s imagination. —Small Press Book Review
ABOUT THE BOOK
To the House of the Sun, a long narrative poem in thirty-three books, culminates with a young man’s experience of illumination in the summer of 1865, ascending into the air above California. It begins a few years earlier, on a beach in Savannah, as he broods over the death of his fiancée and the war just beginning to tear the United States apart.
In between, we journey with him through a panorama of America at war: from Georgia through the Deep South, he meets escaped and freed slaves, families facing hardship, and soldiers from the recent battles. In the North, he befriends a weary Walt Whitman, and together they tend to the wounded in Washington, before he leaves the poet and briefly joins the Union Army. After this, he walks West, shedding any identity he may have once had—as an immigrant Irishman, a Catholic, a Southerner, a son—so that what began as an epic of history has slowly become something like a new sutra or gospel, the hagiography of some strange man who appears in the American West teaching, healing, and even raising the dead.
More than a decade in the writing, To the House of the Sun is consciously dependent upon the sacred literature and poetry our own culture is heir to, and following the poem is a generous selection of notes detailing these borrowings, which itself constitutes an anthology of sacred literature and folklore. Built as it is upon the great inherited tradition of history and religion, in the end the entirety of the poem becomes one of those very stories itself, as well as a song of suffering and love, and finally of empathy.
PRINT DOWNLOADS & EXCERPTS
Download the detailed Table of Contents
Download the Introduction to the Notes
Download .pdfs of the following excerpts:
Part of Book 1: Sun & Sea & Morning Star
Book 6: A High Mountain Apart
Book 10: Woods & River & Food Out of Paradise
Book 11: & This is the South
Book 13: The Far Future
Book 18: In These Woods & Along These Roads
Book 24: Humble & So Humble
Book 28: No Longer See Any Familiar Thing
Book 31: Three Bridges & Underworld
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Miller writes about religion, poetry and history wordandsilence.com. His fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous places–an archive of recent publications is here. He began To the House of the Sun in 2002, while working as a caretaker for the elderly in Northeast Ohio, and since then has lived in Georgia, Southern California, Brooklyn, and elsewhere. Delving for twelve years into the world’s great trove of religious literature, folklore, and history was his Harvard, his MFA.