Muse, David Wagoner, born 1926, American.
The representation in this poem of the muse as unflattering female is just about the only such representation of a female which does not raise my feminist hackles and never has.
I like to think that this is because the role of muse as woman is among the few traces left of the Mother Goddess cultures displaced in the Middle East and Europe by monotheism and patriarchy. And of the oracles out of the mouths of women. As of Apollo at Delphi. Vanished with the arrival of Christianity and its male hierarchies of power fooling fewer and fewer of us even though they are dressed as women.
The way it is.
I know many women also – there are probably millions and have always been – who have not expressed themselves to the proper addressees for subjects important to them during their lives and, in old age, are internally stacked with the understandings, perceptions ripe for poetic distillation.
This poet – a man – coaxes inspiration from his muse with pleas, prayers, promises, offerings.
It is most interesting that the poet, who creates concentrated images for translating into words in order to order experience, cannot do this without his muse. A muse who found herself, prior to becoming a crone, unable to speak her truths to those whom she wanted to address.
Cackling, smelling of camphor, crumbs of pink icing
Clinging to her lips, her lipstick smeared
Detail of The Battle of Carnival and Lent, 2011, stained glass, cut, sandblasted, engraved, painted, fired and held by copper foil. Judith Schaechter, born 1961, American. On show at the Arts League, Philadelphia in 2015.
Halfway around her neck, her cracked teeth bristling
With bloody splinters, she leans over my shoulder.
Child Bride, two-colour linocut on Somerset paper, 2001. Judith Schaechter, born 1961, American. Woodmere Museum of the Arts of the Philadelphia region.
Oh my only hope, my lost dumbfounding baggage,
My gristle-breasted, slack-jawed zealot, kiss me again.
Vintage, Beacon, New York
An Invocation, 2009, stained glass, cut, sandblasted, engraved, painted, fired and held by copper foil. Judith Schaechter, born 1961, American. On show at the Arts League, Philadelphia in 2015.
Invocation: to call in.
The woman addresses her environment or something or someone outside of her which she is calling in.
Inside the woman, a grown man, waiting, looking over her shoulder at you, his audience. The poet is calling you in.
On either side pathways through our natural world: not horizontally but vertically because it is that upwards which requires the muse.
There is this, also, in explanation from John Ashbery, born 1927 , American.