myth and poetry


Muse: The Poetic Impulse
Sing to me, Muse. I will answer with my song -Mesomedes

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", presents a composite picture of what others have said about the poetic impulse and how it functions in art, literature and life...

muse...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 jackassonance.
                                           —Louis Untermeyer, author
                                           from Bygones
Communications & the Arts
Literature: Poets

  -this compilation of quotes collected and arranged by
                                                      -Stephanie Pope

...on poetry and  ballgames...
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,”
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 taste.

                                   —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 Illustration.”

...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 documents.

                                —Barbara Tuchman (1912–1989),
                                U.S. historian
                                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
                                        —Sir Philip Sidney (1554–1586)
                                        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 expression.

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.

Related Essay

The Muse Pt.1: A Planting Song

The Muse Pt.2: Fountain of Youth

The Muse Pt.3: A Font of Birds

The Muse Pt. 4: Poetic Experience (to publish Friday, August 31st, 2007)

Singing Water

Jouissance and Mythopoeic Movement

Zero & The Fool Archtype

Seed Mythos: The Poor Feel & the Poor Fool

Related Poetry

When Old Man Whistles

The Patio Maidens/firt published to /website no longer on line

A Good Myth In A Long Poem

When Light Fed 'Here'

To An Artistic Child


What Kastalia Saw
mythopoetics mythopoesis
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