Greek mythology

2 posts

The New Muses of Poetry


Ancient times, when I was a kid running through Greek forests, brought us nine (a magical number, like three and seven) muses with nine ungodly names:

  • Calliope (the muse of epic poetry and eloquence)
  • Clio (the muse of history)
  • Erato (the muse of love poetry and mimicry)
  • Euterpe (the muse of music)
  • Melpomene (the muse of tragedy)
  • Polyhymnia (the muse of sacred poetry and religious dance)
  • Terpsichore (the muse of dance and lyric poetry)
  • Thalia (the muse of comedy and idyllic poetry)
  • Urania (the muse of astronomy)

Try remembering THOSE names. Me, I insist they wear those “Hi, My Name Is…” stickers whenever they show up for a party. And notice how many of them, among other specialties, cover forms of poetry: epic, love, sacred, lyric, and idyllic. Amusing, isn’t it? At least to poets, who are easily amused.

The problem is, these ancient Greek muses are dated, some even married. We need new blood, which is why we now have new, updated muses of poetry. And just in time, too. Terpsichore just wasn’t cutting it for me (though she does cut a mean rug when showing her moves on the dance floor).

If you want to write poetry today, then, invoke these:

  • Eutubia (the muse of viral poetry)
  • Amie (the muse of friends on Facebook who actually read your uploads)
  • Limerickia (the muse of bad poetry in public bathroom stalls)
  • Haikudzu (the muse of 17-syllable poetry in elementary classrooms)
  • Please Refrainia (the muse of bad lyrics in really bad pop music)
  • Cocoa Puffrina (the muse of backs-of-cereal-box copy)
  • Onlineia (the muse of online social network “writing”)
  • Textichore (the muse of dancing thumbs and cellphone addiction)
  • Snapia and Chatia (the twin muses of the ephemeral and the worthless)

Invoke at your own risk!

Reading Your Book Like Mom Would

50s family

Is publishing poetry with references to family hazardous to your health? In a weak moment, I decided to test the theory by reading the proof of my poetry collection (I still remain bookless–where’s Dan-O when you need him?) with my mom’s possible reactions in mind.

Bad, meet move!

Like most of us, I know my mother all too well. Of course I hope she responds to the book positively, but reading from her vantage point changed everything. I noticed stuff I never noticed before, using her eyes, and I can already hear her reaction: “Oh, Kenny!” (for only Mom still calls me “Kenny”). “Why are all these poems about death?”

“Uh, they are? Not all. Just some,” I might argue. But mothers get to define “some” in their own ways.

“Some?” she’ll ask with the patented incredulous look. “Where’s my cheerful little boy?”

“Ma, death is one of literature’s great muses. Don’t you ever wonder where you’re going to go? It’s the stuff of so many myths in so many cultures!”

“Have you been skipping Mass again?”

“Think of Orpheus. Persephone. All those trip to Hades to figure out what happens. And what about the Divine Comedy? Nine circle of Hell, Ma. Nine!”

“That would be Irene’s book group get-togethers, but I don’t see…”

“Don’t you realize that guys like Homer and Faulkner and Joyce wrote about it? It even came for the archbishop in that Willa Cather novel!”

“Willa who?”

Death Comes for the Archbishop, Ma.”

She’ll grimace, I know. “That’s fine and for the church to settle, but we don’t have time for death, and I told my friends about this book because I was so proud. Now what are they going to think? They’re going to think, ‘What a depressing boy she raised!’ Where’s your sense of humor. Can’t you write something cheerful? A poem about jelly beans or something.”

“There are cheerful poems in there, Ma. Honest. And I don’t write for the Easter bunny. Here. Let me show you some pages with upbeat poems.”

“It’s OK, dear. I browsed through already.”

“What? You didn’t read them all?”

“Most all,” she’ll say. Mothers get to define “most” and “all” too, you see.

And so it goes. And so I am amazed. Deep analysis sometimes reveals new layers of poetry, but who knew reading with the eyes of a mother does, too? And how did the New Critics miss this?

Weekend Update: I have no clue how my alleged books are arriving: United Parcel? Fed Ex? Good ole United States Postal Service? The latter was the last hope of the weekend, however, as the noonish mailman has come and gone leaving only bills and other clichés in the box.

So there’s a downside to weekends after all. Maybe Monday? Stay tuned!