Every soul-making seeks out a nameless name for what it is and for what will lead it back toward that primitive mneme of divine origin that is its home. Called simply, "The Muse", mythopoetry.com presents a composite picture of what others have said about the poetic impulse and how it functions in art, literature and life...
...on Imagination, Ear and Eye...
Rhyme and meter force gaps in meaning so
the muse can enter.
—Mason Cooley (b. 1927)
U.S. aphorist. City Aphorisms,
Twelfth Selection, New York (1993).
...on the muse, the poem and the pun...
Every poet knows the pun is Pierian,
that it springs from the same soil as the Muse…. a
matching and shifting of vowels and consonants, an
adroit assonance sometimes derided as
—Louis Untermeyer, author
& the Arts
under Literature: Poets
of quotes collected and arranged by
...on poetry and
The language of the game is interesting.
You can think of the pauses as caesuras, breaks
between the lines. As a poem the game is composed
of a number of short lines representing the
pitches. The number of lines per batter form a
stanza. Then there is a space. Sometimes the
stanzas become breathless, rushing full paragraphs
that build rapidly on each other until the
poem-inning explodes. The poem lives for this
sudden blossoming out of prosodic regularity.
Should someone make a computer analysis of
baseball prosody, I believe that they would come
up with something close to the prosody of some
great American lyrical epic, Whitman’s Leaves of
Grass, let’s say, or Doc Williams’s Patterson....
The game is definitely an epic ... formed of many
lyrical moments dependent on silences for their
effectiveness. An unfolding story punctuated by
brief emotional swellings.
—Andrei Codrescu, radio commentator
“A Kind of Love,”
from The Muse Is Always Half-Dressed
in New Orleans, St. Martin’s (1993).
...on popular art & folk art:
when something less than what 'a Muse meant' is
working, then something we call the entertainment industry works on behalf
of our amusement instead...
The folk artist is usually satisfied with somewhat
more anonymity; he is less concerned with
aesthetic context, and less with specifically
aesthetic purpose, though he wants to satisfy his
audience, as does the popular artist. His art,
however, tends to be thematically simple and
technically uncomplicated, its production—the folk
song, the duck decoy, the tavern sign, the circus
act—not so strongly influenced by technological
factors. Popular art is folk art aimed at a wider
audience, in a somewhat more self-conscious
attempt to fill that audience’s expectations, an
art more aware of the need for selling the
product, more consciously adjusted to the median
—Russel B. Nye (1913–1993)
U.S. social historian, educator.
The Unembarrassed Muse, Dial (1970).
...on the muse as the
genius of a self...
My self ... is a dramatic ensemble. Here a
prophetic ancestor makes his appearance. Here a
brutal hero shouts. Here an alcoholic bon vivant
argues with a learned professor. Here a lyric
muse, chronically love-struck, raises her eyes to
heaven. Her papa steps forward, uttering pedantic
protests. Here the indulgent uncle intercedes.
Here the aunt babbles gossip. Here the maid
giggles lasciviously. And I look upon it all with
amazement, the sharpened pen in my left hand.
—Paul Klee (1879–1940), Swiss artist
from The Diaries of Paul Klee 1898-1918
(1957, trans. 1965).
Jan. 1963 entry, no. 638.
...regarding the feminine as
patron of the Arts under the patronage of Muse...
Each of the Arts whose office is to refine,
purify, adorn, embellish and grace life is under
the patronage of a Muse, no god being found worthy
to preside over them.
—Eliza Farnham (1815–1864)
U.S. writer, feminist
Woman and Her Era, pt. 2, ch. 1 (1864)
...regarding Homer's view on
the origin of everything, even the gods, as a
springing from water. According to Homeric ways,
water imagines being. Since the image of water
does this, water itself
invokes the landscape of the muse; water
images invoke imaginally our ancestral soul. Being
our home, our paradise, the muse sings to us/
through us/ as is in us that experience of
our soul-coming, our homecoming or what the
Greeks meant by nostoi...
... forgotten signs
all bringing the soul’s travels to a place
of origin, a well
under the lake where the Muse moves
—Denise Levertov, poet
from the poem, “The
...on libraries as muse...
To a historian libraries are food, shelter, and
even muse. They are of two kinds: the library of
published material, books, pamphlets, periodicals,
and the archive of unpublished papers and
—Barbara Tuchman (1912–1989),
from “The Houses of Research,”
Practising History (1981).
...what is a or the muse?
What I mean by the Muse is that unimpeded
clearness of the intuitive powers, which a
perfectly truthful adherence to every admonition
of the higher instincts would bring to a finely
organized human being.... Should these faculties
have free play, I believe they will open new,
deeper and purer sources of joyous inspiration
than have yet refreshed the earth.
—Margaret Fuller (1810–1850)
U.S. author, literary critic, journalist
from Woman in the Nineteenth Century
Essays on American Life and Letters, p. 162,
ed. Joel Myerson, New Haven, CT (1978)
Fool! said my
muse to me, look in thy heart, and write
Astrophel and Stella
Look, then, into thine heart and write.
—Henry W. Longfellow
Voices of the Night. Prelude
It seems that I must bid the Muse to pack,
Choose Plato and Plotinus for a friend
Until imagination, ear and eye,
Can be content with argument and deal
In abstract things; or be derided by
A sort of battered kettle at the heel.
—William Butler Yeats (1865–1939)
The Tower (l. 11–16).
The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats
Richard J. Finneran, ed. (1989)
It has taken the first fifty
years of my life to discover that I see, hear, and
think primarily in images. Most of that fifty
years I've spent reading books. I read mostly
nonfiction. Like the poet above, I've been less
content with the loss of content of images cut off
from ideas and likewise less content with the
content of arguments of explanation if they are
cut off from the roots of a soul-full thought
Such to me are arguments weighted with bodiless
causality as merely abstraction as well as symbols
repeating without meaning anything more than what
can be quantified, qualified and classified,
alphabetized, boiled, embroiled and skewered.
These seem to not take into account the thinking
body in which a feeling thought has lived. The
historical past stays alive in those presences of
thoughts passed yet called back into being through
meditation and memory and the artist's craft.
A Muse haunts these gaps that open between an
event and its explanation and what else the
storied words can yet mean. When a felt sense has
stayed alive and has found its way through the
glittering surfaces of formless, nameless skins
whose ear and eye each ring with ten thousand
fragments a certain, rushing subjectivity of
expression, then in that yield the ghostly,
shapeless shape of that subjectivity, if
fortunate, suddenly knows in an eye-blink its
own root name.
The eye and the ear. The sensible and the
senseless. Psyche's genius contains the Muse that
leads us each into our own timeless journey where
we seek again that rare glimpse of our true faces.
Every soul-making seeks out that
nameless name for what it is. No more. No less. A poem is a
sort of battered kettle kicked by its own steps.
Step now into Steph's stepping and into the essay Singing Water, and into other essay and poetry in this section as part of this bottomless water-realm
where psyche makes the very face, eye and ear of
its own psycho-logic.