Monday, April 27, 2009

Poets and Muses

Several days ago I attended a workshop where we were asked to consider the "inner poet." Most of the attendeees interpreted the term as the inspirational force that assisted them in "creating" their poetry. Often they referred to this as their "muse."
The original muses, nine in number, were minor goddesses in the Greek pantheon. They were the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, Memory. At first they were not differentiated but considered as all of one mind, dedicated to dispelling sorrow and grief and bringing joy and delight. In later times they became specialized, each to her own field. Four of the nine dealt with aspects of poetry.

The interesting question is how did these divine aspects that existed outside of men become to be identified with internal urges and feelings. All those at the workshop who claimed the knowledge and inspiration of a muse were clear that his/her muse was personal rather than dedicated to a type of poetry. Such a muse would not work with or for another poet. The question then naturally arose whether such a muse was a separate personality within the poet as some seemed to affirm. Was this then a sign of what could, in some circumstances be considered schitzophrenia, incipient mental illness, a personality disorder. This wasn't explored, but no poet backed away from claiming a muse's inspiration.
Personally, I have problems with personifying a creative urge. For me the muses, all nine undifferentiated ones, touched me when I realized what I was: a poet. I experience the world and explain it to myself as a poet, not as a mathematician, not as a scientist. Whenever my poetry, its fervor and intensity, begin to flag I don't search for a personality within or without. I apply myself to another means of creative expression. But even in drama, in music, in history, I remain a poet and different from an actor, musician, historian. I remain creative as I must until the focus is reformed.
That concept has served me well. I need no separate entity within or without.

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