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‘Women as Muses’
Is This Time-Worn Relationship Sexist?
© 2019 James LaFond
“Someone on twitter was complaining that men in the arts have women as muses but do not look up to women as role models.”
-Lynn Lockhart
Lynn, I wish keeping a woman enthralled as an objectified tool for my art was evil, for I surely miss being the White Devil back in Harm City and would be comforted to have a nimbus of malediction cling to me like the thunderheads that once proclaimed Zeus’s impregnation of another mortal wench…
But alas, most of my muses are men.
Muse is the Hellenic root from which music, musician and museum [muse-house] derive. Orpheus famously tried to serenade the Descender, keeper of the dead, to return his darling muse to the world of the living to no avail—yet she remained his muse. I will return to this in closing, the special power of the female muse, rather than to apologize for not emulating women and striving to be more womanly, a striving that strikes me as hideously gender appropriative.
If you, my honored reader, have written in a comment or question, or even berated me for being an ivory privilegeite or an ebony-lover, depending on your color of mind, than you have been for at least the length of time I spent writing the resulting article, my primary muse, and have thence rejoined the mumbling, whispering, humming, cursing, laughing, raging, sneering, ranting, agreeing, disliking, jeering and even praying muses crowding the low-rent amphitheater of my failing mind. Every work of fiction or nonfiction I write, no matter how short or long, deep or shallow is written with a certain one of you in the forefront of my writing mind as a specific address to that one imagined reader, as well as a general address to the receding rest.
When I think of Ishmael as I write, he is standing on a mountain looking at the heavens, telling me what planet or star that shines above the gnarled end of his trigger finger presiding over our conclave and wondering in that halting high country cadence what I’ll think.
Riley, sits tumbling a whisky glass in his weathered hand among his sabers, hoping I don’t put my foot all the way down my throat and get hauled away be the men who don’t play.
Mescaline Franklin snarls at our fallen gods as he shakes his fists at their betrayers, hoping I don’t indict more crooks than his hall of shame has meat hooks.
Little Emma looks at me narrow-eyed, hands on little hips and grins, just knowing that we’ll find a way to outwit the grownups once and for all…
The thing that every attempt to reach a muse in my mind has in common is failure, which is why the most powerful muses of mine are female, one of them a tiny girl child, for the simple fact that the failure is more in-depth, more hopelessly profound and feels less like some misunderstood, mischaracterized or wrongly-taken sound I might have attempted to reach my unknowable opposite with. In other words, when the process works, the hopelessness of it all might just accomplish by accident what I meant.
Perhaps the most non-fiction wordage I produce outside of historic research is the revisiting of a conversation I have had with a friend, a man who has posited a question or proposition which I have inevitably failed to satisfactorily answer or addressed in our discussion, to which I later apply my writing mind, it working far better than my talking mind. Hence my most highly regarded essays are often part of an unfinished or even failed dialogue with a correspondent or friend.
This brings us to the place dominated by my second-most potent muses, the women in my life who I have loved or whom I have come to fancy are my judge. Much of my fiction is directed at these fair souls—even the ones who hate me for the pain I’ve caused them in not giving up my writing for their affection. Women, lost, missed, unattainable, pissed and unfathomable all float like asking faces in the well of thoughts in which stories are forged.
But even they are not the most compelling of my muses, foremost of whom is that lost and lonely boy, who always took time to wonder but always seemed to blunder, who I coldly murdered on Putty Hill Road, in Baltimore County, Maryland in the summer of 1975. I still wonder, when I write a weird tale, if he would like it if he had survived our cruel encounter.
So, for me at least, the impossibility of seamless communication with my tender opposite, the ghost of an innocent, or with the hard question posited by a masculine countertype, all power my drive for expression for the very reason that I am unable to be Them and This in the same understanding moment. For this writer a muse is an unheard voice that asks silently, listens impatiently and awaits breathlessly the answer that never completely comes into the house of ideas they have summoned from the struggling minds of creatures like me.
Notes on Sponsors
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