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Joined: 03 Jan 2003
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Fri Jan 03, 2003 5:01 am    Post subject: inspiration Reply with quote

About half way through the white goddess - would like to ask those who have read the work, how do female poets find their muse?
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Joined: 07 Oct 2002
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 03, 2003 6:48 am    Post subject: i am not a woman; thus it is dangerous ground Reply with quote

That's a very good question.

Many long nights I discussed with the only two women artists I ever knew this notion of a woman's muse (many have claimed to be artists, but alas, like most men, they were not). The conclusions we drew were vague, for men and women are very different. I walked away with the suspicion that true female-artists are very rare, and when they are great, they surpass every man around. I believe they are so great primarily because they have no muse, nor do they need one.

Men know very little about women. We like to pretend, and much of our art is little more than futile venturings into that land where few answers lie: it is our uncertainty which makes us seek: the lack of answers makes us continue searching. But women know how women work, and it is not so much that they hide their workings from us, but that those workings are very simple, and hence, very subtle (and simplicity is anathema to most men). Those women who are truly artists make the best artists because of their very nature: they intrinsically know, and their searches are for something entirely different than the searches of men.

Men have needs that women do not have. This proves true for those whose profession is Artist. Wherever a lack is perceived, that lack becomes a need. Men lack much in the area of woman. Women lack little in the area of man. Sounds cliché, but most cliché began in truth. Its antiquity does not bely its validity.

Graves speaks of the muse from the viewpoint of one who believes that the highest a woman can reach is goddess, and an active goddess at that. The muses I have known have ocassionally tired of that role, because in today's society the muse is very passive. They speak derisively of the artist and the muse; from that moment they lose something. Other women loathe the idea of muse as patriarchal and anti-feminist, but they're not being practical: their ideologies become their Cause, and they cease to make much difference in society, with their clanging bells and tinkling cymbals, their words laced with intent and demand and exemplae. I say the same of artists who take up causes, who become political in their works, for they have lost the focus of art. Alas for the muse today, she is not loved, except perhaps on this website. Alas for the artist today, with the many varied distractions from the muse. And alas for we who champion them both; we are pariah.
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Tami Whitehead

Joined: 28 Sep 2002
Posts: 41
Location: Southeast Texas

PostPosted: Thu Jan 09, 2003 8:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Greetings Fell and Hawthorne!

Thank you for joining us Hawthorne, and for posing such an interesting query...

Fell, I think you have hit it on the head. Most women are indeed a bit resentful and mistrustful of the role of muse, in their lives or in others. Perhaps you are right, it is a feminist thing, and any goddess who doesn't consume her consort in a more obvious manner than 'musing' is some sort of sell-out.

Well, I will add my own vague, subtle and strangely worded observations of my own poeting and musing, being a woman and a half-assed poet, if I do say so myself. Cool

(I have never been asked this before, so please excuse me if I think outloud a bit, and remember)

In general, I have been my most productive poetically when in the midst of some challenge, usually emotional, or confusion or despair. Prose does not suit those energies for me, and fall short of the texture and scent that envelopes one when reading good poetry. Particularly when I was younger, I would write things that absolutely had the ring of truth, a fluid rightness, and well, to state it bluntly, a sense of validity...they came out of my hand, my pen, yet when I looked at them I would be amazed, and had the sensation I was reading someone else's work. The lines were so perfectly metered, the rhyme unforced yet intact, each word built the rythm of the verse so completely, and the poem was, well, perfect. How did I do it? Where did it come from? Did I write that?

Now, that is different than sitting down and generating a series of rhyming lines that come together to tell a little story. I may sit down to exercise the poet, crank out a nice line, and sit and stare at it for several days because nothing else comes, or it reads rather hack...Then others, I will crank out a line, think I will do this or that with it, and the pen begins to move, and I look up to find a different thing than what I thought would come.

Well, if my Muse is within myself, that would explain so much. As Graves points out, women approach the Goddess through prophecy, and men through poetry...there is a sybilline flavor to much of my work, not in a predictive way necessarilly, but in that it is sometimes the voice of the Goddess herself in my work, and not mine at all, sorta. Does that make sense?

For example, I have a little poem, just a small ditty really, and I blush to share it here, yet it is relevant, so here goes...


I wish I could go back
To the darkness
And the wild splendour
And the soft sweet vapours
And move like wind through

I wish I could remember
The songs I sang
And the cool silk fear
And poet's ink and ashes
And the oracle said

To me, the work is relevant in that it shows my own murky and indistinct knowledge and gnosis of the Goddess, and the other place where she and I are her, and yet, and yet, she cannot be forced, coerced or even summoned to those who are sworn to her...She goes and comes when and how she will, or not at all.

Inspiration is a fickle thing
Makes poets dumb, and dullards sing
It dooms young starlings on the wing
And made the girl refuse her king
Inspiration, like a fever
Burns both cynic and believer
Then moves on, like any river
(But may return, but not as giver)

Anyhow, that's how it is for me. Very Happy

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Joined: 25 Oct 2003
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Location: Australia

PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2003 6:25 am    Post subject: The Lives of the Muses Reply with quote

I have just read a book which addresses this topic, and which plainly owes a debt to Graves for its theme. Called The Lives of the Muses by Francine Prose, it analyses the relationships of nine women and the artists/poets they inspired. Included are the poet Rilke and the painter Rossetti. I found the book compelling reading, though I wished to debate the author on many points, including her take on the Dali/Gala relationship. Another quibble was the omission of the Graves/Riding pair, which was surprising as Graves was referred to extrensively in the introduction and main text.
Something new in the book: the serial muse, who inspires a succession of great men. We already knew about the artists/poets with a succession of models/muses...
T'is death to love a poet
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Joined: 25 May 2002
Posts: 63
Location: Bristol, England

PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2004 11:04 am    Post subject: The Lives of the Muses Reply with quote

One recent book that deals with the role of Riding as Graves's muse, amongst other such literary relationships, is Literary Seductions by Frances Wilson (London: Faber & Faber, 1999, pbk., ISBN: 0571192882).

There is also Relations with Riding, by Harry Kemp, who, according to Richard Perceval Graves's second volume of biography of his uncle, Robert Graves: The Years with Laura Riding, (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1990 and 1995, ISBN: 0297816306 ((pbk., 1995))) was one of Robert and Laura's closest associates from 1936-39. Harry Kemp's book was also published in 1999 (Crediton, Devon, England: Cervisian, ISBN: 0952829010).

Several chapters of the second volume (above) of Richard Perceval Graves's biography also deal with Robert's poetry during his years with Laura Riding, but this is of course more from his (Robert's) point of view rather than hers.

Copies of all of the three publications above are currently available via www.abebooks.com, or from libraries, or check the search boxes at the top of the home page at www.robertgraves.org to see if any of the books are still in print and available from www.amazon.com or www.amazon.co.uk. Alternatively, check the ISBNs at www.addall.com to find the availability and cheapest price for these books in your country or state.
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