It seems that muses, those shadowy goddesses who influence writers, are limited under current editorial and employment injunctions to give inspiration alone to great male poets. Or so Simon Gough would have us believe.
Muses apparently perform some type of quasi-sexual inspirational function and it doesn’t matter if they are girls or boys, once the poet is a dude and his inspiration is carried through the ages to the makers of poetry. I wonder (aloud) if the linked article had been written by a female poet, a woman writer – would the muse issue be a bit more interesting, or complex ?
“There’s no reason on earth why a muse should have to be female. Whatever the truth of the matter (and uncertainty still rages in the higher corridors of intellectual power), the identity of “the fair youth”, to whom Shakespeare dedicated so many of his sonnets is almost immaterial. The one certainty is that he had a muse, who provoked
‘But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall Death drag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st.’
Here is Simon’s top nine list of great poets and their muses :
Catullus – Lesbia
John Keats -Fanny Brawne
Thomas Hardy – Emma Gifford/Florence Dugdale
W.B Yeats – Maud Gonne
F. Scott Fitzgerald -Zelda Fitzgerald
Bob Dylan – Sarah Lowndes
Neal Cassady -Jack Kerouac
Robert Graves – Margot Callas
The woman muse (or sometimes the young boy muse) provides the meat and torture of poetic inspiration to a succession of male writers in Gough’s imagination. He makes no mention of the muses of Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, of Adrienne Cecile Rich, of Sylvia Plath. The entire list of writers produced by Gough includes not a single woman poet !
I’d like to see a woman poet’s perspective on the muse. Maybe that will happen in a century or so when the literary establishment comes round to the idea that women write rather excellent poetry. I have to say that I rather prefer the idea of the Duende anyway. Writers interested in the idea of the muse and of the Duende should look up Federico Garcia Lorca.
The muse who features on Poethead is called Euterpe.