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my muses break my heart.

November 6, 2010

listening to regina spektor’s apres moi, which isn’t ANYWHERE on youtube (only live versions which don’t do the song justice, to be honest. eff. well, i can send you a copy of the song if you want. it’s this eastern european-sounding piano ballad.) she takes from boris pasternak’s russian poem fevrale/february, which is heartwrenching. get ink, shed tears.

now to the blog topic.
yes, i work under the muse.

maybe this is an odd idea for a modern-day writer. i mean, the muse does tend to be an old-fashioned idea. and it takes away a lot of the culpability of the writer, to claim that one was entered by a muse, that the muse directed all or most of the writing. i don’t like to use the muse as a crutch. it’s not a crutch. it should be something that inspires you, not something that you rely on, that you blame when your writing flops and everybody hates it. (can you tell what has been on my mind lately?) and there has always been something remotely sexual about the muse. woolf wrote about it very viscerally in … oh crud. a room of one’s own, i believe, but feel free to correct me on that one. she wrote of the muse and the idea of germinating an idea as sex, as birthing. and all of the ancient male writers were always pictured with beautiful floaty women in filmy dresses hovering around their heads. the relationship is an intimate one.

so as a brief – the muses, as i know them, were 9 sisters in greek mythology. actually, there are varying reports of how many of them there were, but i go with 9 – calliope, clio, erato, euterpe, melpomene, polyhymnia, terpsichore (what a great name!), thalia, and urania. each of them has a different sphere that they are in charge of – terpsichore being dance, erato being lyric poetry, etc. those women are the set of muses that i always think of when i refer to the “muse”. different people have different ideas of who the muses are.

in a lot of ancient poetry – and some newer poetry, too – the writer “invokes” the muse at the beginning of the piece. it’s as if the writer is calling for back up. sometimes, even, the writer is identified as a mouthpiece, as the vessel that the muse channels idea through.

but i have always been fascinated with the idea of the muse. forget clio or erato or polyhymnia. my muses are male. i don’t think there has been a single woman who i have seen or experienced and been inspired by, and don’t get started on what this means in terms of my own gender/how i experience my own gender/how i experience the male gender. i realize that i have a skewed perception of gender sometimes. that is just how it is. that is how and what i write. complain elsewhere.

there are three categories to my muses.

1) i know the person, and they are my friend, or i have recruited them because they are drawing something out of me. and we interact on a frequent basis. (this is the rarest of the three. i have had/have one, maybe two of these. they don’t work out incredibly well because the muse is usually just as intense and creative and cruel as i am and we fuck things up by sparking off of each other and it usually melts down in a spectacular fashion.) note: a muse is not somebody that i was in a relationship with and now write poems about based on the emotions that came from that. that is not a muse. a muse is somebody who you encounter, and who you feel an instant mental and creative connection with. i have dated people who are not muse material. in fact, most of the people i date are not muse material, because the relationships would be so dramatic that i would lose all of my hair and also my sanity, and i would be too cruel to them. it’s best if you don’t date your muses. it’s best to give them breathing room. god wouldn’t you just kill to know who my real-life muses were/are? maybe you are one of them. sorry not telling that would be weird for the actual muses. but maybe it could be you. it might have been you.

2) the person who is the muse is dead, and i have taken their memory, patched together from youtube videos/written works/quotes/pictures/hearsay etc and have created a beautiful figure for me to idolize. this is pretty common for me. most of my muses fall under this category. it is easier to manipulate somebody when they are dead. it’s kind of a golden calf. it’s kind of false, but it works for me. it works for writers. you can take the idea of a person, the shell of them, the sketches of their person, and then colour in the fascia, the irises, the fingernails all of the colours that you want. the muse is therefore yours and also not yours. but it can be the most inspiring of all of the muse choices, because any time you get stuck, you can edit the muse. they are plastic, very malleable.

david wojnarowicz, taken by peter hujar.

3) the third option. the muse is someone i know a little more about, someone who is not a friend, but who is still alive, a public figure, etc. bowie would fall under this category. this is somewhat unusual for me, but yes, i do get inspired by this kind of muse once in a while.

the inimitable bowie.

the main question that i wanted to address is this: am i in an abusive relationship with my muses? both ways?

i would consider myself emotionally manipulative and abusive towards my muses. take, for instance, option 1. this option is a real life person that i interact with. and in a way, i’m kind of using them for my own needs and aims. i’m drawing things from them. is their energy being depleted because of this? is their own creativity being depleted because of this? i don’t know, because sometimes i am so focused on getting what i want – me, being instant self-gratification girl, as we all know – that i don’t stop to think about them.

and option 2. i’m debasing the memory of someone, essentially. i’m sort of perverting their memory, writing about them how i want, maybe based off of legitimate memories and personality traits, maybe not. as i said before, they are my golden calf. i know what i am worshiping isn’t real, isn’t truly real, but it gleams so. i can’t help it. i’ve soldered it myself and that is what makes it beautiful.

and option 3. well, it’s just weird. if i ever met david bowie i don’t even know what i’d do. it’s creepy to be inspired by a real-life person who you’ve never met. i like his chameleonic nature, and that is what i admire and am inspired by, but it feels a bit gross to write about it. i’ve written a triptych of poetry based off of bowie, and it feels icky to publish/read them.

but it goes both ways. my muses break my heart on a daily basis. they are so cruel to me! i have pictures of a lot of them up on my walls, and if i am trying for inspiration, i’ll look to them. kind of like icons and iconography. but sometimes they don’t obey me. they’re spirited, and mean. they’re feral in a very beautiful way, and they are incredibly hard to get down on paper. i can see them, really, dancing in front of me, twisting nimbly out of my grip when i reach for them like a frustrated parent. some days they don’t want to be caught.

some days they are caught, and when i write about them i cry. some days they want to be caught, and they want me to write about the hardest things – molestation, death, hate crimes, bleeding faces, bad stuff. a lot of these men that i write about/am inspired by had very hard lives, very hard things happen to them in their lives. and the only way that i – a straight, young, white, privileged girls – am going to understand that is if they make me live it over and over again. i live in my head with them when i am deep in the writing haze, and that is certainly abusive on their behalf. emotionally abusive.

so there we have it. my muses and i are abusive towards each other. if i knew most of them in real life, i’m sure that many of our relationships would have come to blows. does this make them bad muses? no. i think that we have beautiful, volatile relationships, and when it comes down it, i can ignore them and push them away. it’s push and pull, definitely.

and they’re so gorgeous, those men!! that always helps.

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