PHOENIX SAGA: A Modern Epic in Prose is a puzzle box of a collection containing prose, poetry, short dramatic texts, interview transcripts and even a page of binary code. With its unwieldy subtitle, “History: Chronicles of Secrets, Deception, and an Unknowable Future-Past”, and its opening page references to Eminem, Nietzsche, Muhammad and Joan of Arc, it’s clear that this is no ordinary collection. Billed as a “saga in prose”, poet Joshua James Eller presents the book under a pen name that is anagrammatic of his own name with certain letters mirrored. This kind of rearrangement/ reorganization gives hint to the way that he has approached the work.
A section titled “The Business” takes the form of a diagram, reminiscent of a PowerPoint slide, identifying “values” as if they were a sales target before closing on an acrostic for the word “Service” written in close proximity to business-speak. Many of the passages are ascribed to other writers with names like Oculus, 8noWā Ome and Chrysós Drakōn and some of these writers then appear as characters within different texts. Eller layers fictions on top of the metaphysics that seemingly drive the material. Gnomic utterances from sage-like, perhaps otherworldly, entities. Parables presented as mythic, ancient texts. The section “A Plan”, credited to Enēôlnən, reads like the founding doctrine of a cult or perhaps the guidelines for an alien invasion. Indeed, Enēôlnən has earlier been introduced as “Mighty Phoenix, Harbinger of Fire, Ash and Life Anew” in the mythos establishing section titled “A Lone Pilgrim’s Ascent”.
PHOENIX SAGA is the first book in a proposed trilogy. It is already an intriguing, beguiling work. By mixing the language and syntax of sci-fi, philosophy, religion and mysticism, Eller has created a singular work which by turns delights and confounds. In parts it is incomprehensible, in other sections lucid and poetic. Seemingly rooted in an intensely personal world view the unprepared reader will still find much to admire even when they cannot be certain exactly what is going on. Perhaps there is a hint of clarity of intention in this extract from the poem titled “On Ethics and War”: “Poet and Prophet/ Oracle and Hero/ Characters in play/ Guided by Divinity/ A torch to The Way/ Listen and read/ Think and Evolve”. Perhaps, given time, the message will become clearer as the reader thinks (and evolves). Though PHOENIX SAGA demands a lot from its audience and doesn’t give up its secrets easily, there is more than enough to warrant engaging with the work.
Part metaphysical manifesto and part cosmic conundrum, poet amalL era JesuƨɘႱ hO (aka Joshua James Eller) and his cast of alter-egos present a confusing yet enjoyable maze of meaning in PHOENIX SAGA: A Modern Epic in Prose.
~Kent Lane for IndieReader