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Acclaimed Poet’s Latest Work Inspired By 4,000-Year-Old Epic

OSWEGO — A character from one of humankind’s earliest great works of literature has a new life as the hero of an epic poem by Lewis Turco, emeritus professor of English and creative writing at SUNY Oswego.

"The Hero Enkidu"
“The Hero Enkidu”

“The Hero Enkidu: An Epic” was published this summer by Bordighera Press. One reviewer described the 100-page poem, as a 21st century A.D. takeoff on the 21st century B.C. “Gilgamesh,” an epic poem about a king in ancient Mesopotamia.

In “Gilgamesh,” Enkidu plays a supporting role to the hero Gilgamesh.

In his new book, Turco turns the spotlight to Enkidu, a wild man whom the gods created as a rival to Gilgamesh but who later becomes his partner in legendary exploits.

Turco wrote the book-length poem in an Anglo-Saxon meter similar to such Old English epics as “Beowulf.”

“He has taken the oldest story in the world and made it into the newest,” the poet and translator Michael Palma writes in the book’s introduction. “‘The Hero Enkidu’ moves with a swiftness and strength that are wholly appropriate to the adventures it recounts.”

An award-winning poet and a leading proponent of Formalist poetry, Turco was the founding director of both the Cleveland State University Poetry Center and the writing arts program at SUNY Oswego.

The author of 50 books, chapbooks and monographs, he is widely known for “The Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics.”

He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and master’s from the University of Iowa. In 1992 he received a Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Connecticut. In May 2000 he received an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, from Ashland University in Ohio and another in 2009 from the University of Maine at Fort Kent.

Among his many other honors are the John Ciardi Award for lifetime achievement in poetry, sponsored by the periodical Italian Americana and the National Italian American Foundation, and the Robert Fitzgerald Prosody Award from the West Chester University Poetry Conference. His “Visions and Revisions of American Poetry,” published by the University of Arkansas Press, won the Poetry Society of America’s Melville Cane Award for literary criticism.

“The Hero Enkidu” is available from online booksellers.