Saturday, January 28, 2012

Prompt #88 - Muse-ing

Erato, Muse of Poetry by Sir Edward John Poynter, 1870

Have you ever thought about what drives you to write? In Greek mythology, the Muses, in ancient Greek αἱ μοῦσαι (hai moũsai), were minor goddesses, daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, believed to inspire music, song, dance, and poetry. At some point, nine Muses were assigned to specific arts: Kalliope, epic poetry; Kleio, history; Ourania, astronomy; Thaleia, comedy; Melpomene, tragedy; Polyhymnia, religious hymns; Erato, erotic poetry; Euterpe, lyric poetry; and Terpsikhore, choral song and dance. On Mount Helicon, home to the Muses, were two sacred springs: the Aganippe and the Hippocrene. The Hippocrene spring (Ἱππου κρήνης) was considered a source of poetic inspiration (Tennyson referred to it in his poem “Ode to a Nightengale,” and Longfellow mentioned it in “Goblet of Life”).

With Muses in mind, I've chosen an inspiration poem by William  Stafford for this week's prompt:

When I Met My Muse

I glanced at her and took my glasses
off – they were still singing. They buzzed  
like a locust on the coffee table and then
ceased. Her voice belled forth, and the
sunlight bent. I felt the ceiling arch, and
knew that nails up there took a new grip
on whatever they touched. "I am your own
way of looking at things," she said. "When
you allow me to live with you, every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation." And I took her hand.

The key notion of this poem is one of self-awareness and our ability to express individual ways of seeing things. Stafford speaks to the importance of accepting who we most truly are. To live with your Muse, then, is to live comfortably with yourself.

Before writing, let’s “muse” a bit on what inspires us. What inspires you to write poetry? What’s your Muse like? Is she ever-present or does she favor three martini lunches and long vacations in the south of France? In what kind of surroundings or landscapes do you find your Hippocrene spring? When you first started writing poetry, what inspired you? What inspires you now? Is there a person or place from which you draw inspiration? An emotion? Are you inspired by other poets? A particular poet? Is there a spiritual “place” to which you return repeatedly for inspiration?

Let your musings and Stafford’s poem serve as inspiration for this week’s poem. Take the cues from your Muse and choose one of the following:

1. Write a poem about your Muse (serious or funny).

2. Write a poem about your “Hippocrene Spring” (your best source of inspiration – one to which you return often in your poems).

3. Ray Bradbury wrote, “In a lifetime we stuff ourselves with sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and textures of people, animals, landscapes, events, large and small. We stuff ourselves with these impressions and experiences and our reaction to them. These are the stuffs, the foods, on which The Muse grows.” Write a poem about the ways in which you “feed” your Muse.

4. Write a poem about living comfortably (or uncomfortably) with yourself.

P.S.  Here's the link to another "Muse" poem that I hope you'll enjoy: "A Muse" by Reginald Shepherd.


  1. Very cool, Adele! I love when you give us bits of history along with the prompts.

    Thank you!


  2. Thanks, Jamie! (Next to poetry, I love research writing best.)

  3. What a beautiful and profound Stafford poem. Here's my less beautiful and un-profound example:

    Like A Rhino

    How like a rhinoceros,
    My dissatisfaction,
    My petulance.
    A rhino in a sushi bar,
    All thumbs.
    A meadowlark in a turbine,
    All feathers.
    A guy writing this stuff down,
    On paper,
    Trying to fabricate meaning,
    Watching the tip of his pen
    Carefully outline letters, words,
    Whole incomplete phrases,
    Hoping some great dark muse
    Will speak.

  4. Thanks so much for sharing your poem, Russ! I like the humor!

    1. Thanks for your poem, Russ! I'm so glad you're posting here - I look forward to your words now and hope you'll continue to share with us!


  5. As always, a great prompt!

    Nice of you, Russ to share your poems with us. Keep 'em coming!

  6. Thank you, Adele, for this prompt. My Muse is missing, but now I can try to find her!
    I loved your poem, Russ, I loved a Rhino in a sushi bar...

  7. Many thanks for kind thoughts. O yes, that's what happens when the muse is silent, one imagines a Rhino in a Sushi bar, with thumbs!

  8. Enjoyed this post immensely...and I do so enjoy the lure of the Muse

    1. Hello Janet,

      Thanks so much for your comment! It's nice to meet you here. Thanks, too, for including the link to your blog -- I visited and enjoyed your work very much!

  9. Her voice belled forth and the sunlight bent... Oh to marry a man who might think that of one! William Stafford is such a glory - I love the way you link so many different pieces of poetry together in each of your posts... Before the Muse was gendered, I wonder how men thought of Inspiration... And isn't it interesting that poetesses don't consider the Muse to be a masculine force? Do we? I don't think I do.

  10. Thanks so much for your comment, Shaista! Yes -- William Stafford is a glory! So glad you're enjoying the blog.

    My muse is definitely female as I believe the muses have always been! :-)

  11. Words of a Barefaced Muse

    On my lips out of the sea of sleep at night—
    'Of worn-out birds and hatred of the world that caged them
    the fear of what may happen next and lost confidence
    from day-to-day to hope for the best or dread the worst
    one no more helpful than the other and here, every fresh start—
    a bold experience—
    such a play at this moment neither too little nor too much
    of a man’s life to change—
    is there any other freedom: things are whatever and wherever
    they are, turn to greet them in this way—barefaced.'