Sunday, December 2, 2007
Fire lives the death of earth,
And air lives the death of fire;
Water lives the death of air,
Earth that of water.
So these days I invoke the muse, Calliope (the “beautiful of speech”, chief of the muses...)
Find I’m unable to write at this time without at least touching a photo of the Simon Vouet painting, “The Muses Urania and Calliope,” in which Calliope is holding a copy of the Odyssey.
I “call upon a greater power or a spirit for help...”
Like my love, a visual artist (it was she, by the way, who drew the image that appears above) I start with a blank canvas. And it doesn’t get easier... not even after 50 years. I first began writing because in a sense I didn’t know any better. Started, really, when I was 18, an enlisted man, a sailor aboard Landing Ship Tank, LST 914, an amphibious ship so insignificant it didn’t have a name.
I was the ship’s librarian. So I read and read, Shakespeare, Whitman, Herman Melville, Carl Sandburg, a biography of Abraham Lincoln, even an account of the coming to be of the Tennessee Valley Authority. I also read and re-read catalogs of the parts we might need to repair our ship, a relic of World War 2. To this day I read and collect catalogs.
The Navy was my muse. And the books. And being away from home (Chicago) for the first time. Poems, scribblings, like letters from a distant land.
I sometimes look up the meanings of all the words in poem. I look up the meaning of the word “the.” The word “poem.” The word “love.” All those things the definitions of which I need to be reminded.
So it is with the word "Muse." “A source of inspiration for an artist, especially a poet... One of the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, goddess of memory. (This from Encarta World English Dictionary and, in truth, Encarta, Webster, Oxford, New Century, et al, have served as muses. I am thinking of poems of mine like “The Apteryx (1/35) of Webster’s Dictionary"; “For Gloria On Her 60th Birthday”; and a poem titled, simply, “My Muse” –all from the Collected Poems, 1957-2004, Black Moss Press.).
Thanks and credit to Gloria K. Alford for the black and white muse etching which appears at start of this "post." This is one in an edition of ten.