Home Poetry the sacking of the Muses

the sacking of the Muses

I am always trying to find new ways to be both political and creative. In my poetry I often work with reimagining mythic material. I am well versed in ancients languages such as Greek, Sanskrit and Latin. This series of short poems is about the threats to our creative lives under current political forces around the world.


01 sacking the Muses

the Muses have been sacked
their role in the pantheon
sold up for some new
real estate venture

the Muses have fled
all nine of them
in a mathematical
and artistic frenzy

they are downcast
what a muse to do
to amuse herself
in these penny pinching days

how can a poet expect
to have her work
taken seriously when
profit is deemed all

the muses are unemployed
on the dole living
on the smell of an oily rag
their hearts raging


02 Muses are organising

the Muses are organising
they have always been a collective
and this time is no different

Kalliope arrives first eldest
of the sisters she is always in the lead
the others follow talking about the news

not only have we been sacked
it’s worse they have decided not
to recognise us at all

white-anting the arts
you can’t see us any more
we don’t exist can’t be discussed

do these governments know nothing?
you can’t decide not to know about
music poetry song dance

our domains of tragedy and comedy
could embrace this policy if only
they could see and hear us

they know nothing of history
history is what happened ten minutes ago
in a newsroom in America

in spite of rockets and space probes
they have thrown out astronomy
hobbled by her old cousin astrology

time to call up the tenth Muse
Sappho the world has turned
and we do remember you


03 Muses are grieving

all our dead are beside us
the humans dogs cats
and other familiars
those for whom I have no body
are memory holes
how to contain grief with words
with calmness with love
or something else
something not yet known

in grief the dead become undead
we tell stories though some names
are too raw to speak out loud
an eyeless seizure
taut as a violin string
howls splintering
the cold night air

history erases us
Syria trembles with new wars
over old enmities ancient Isis
replaced by misnamed acronym
warmongers misogynists

there are no antediluvian
antipathies just common loss
its ritual agonies of unbidden tears
lamentations of the body
regrets for time lost
a place in which dance is sacred

even the screeches of cockatoos
the bleaches of coral reefs
poignant pain of artists
singers and poets
writing hermetic sigils in dust
these are mnemonics
for future generations
so that histories might be told

the shock and loss and pain
that leaves you reeling
psyche with metamorphic ache
grief creates culture
when written words are absent
recall is preserved in stories

places visited memories as treasure
stories become song
chant turns to dance
images drawn on rocks
and sand represent
the loved ones
we raise our stooping
shoulders and begin to dance


04 Muses in hiding

the Muses have gone into hiding
on the day after 11/9
they say it’s no longer safe
this might be too paranoid
but they say they have seen it before
don’t worry said the nice men
some six thousand years ago
everything will be fine
provided you stay polite
don’t wind them up with your rituals
go along with this single god thing
what is one god against you
nine Muses and all your sister
goddesses everything will be fine

the Muses have retreated to the caves
the distant hills the hidden valleys
the underground bars
all the places invisible to men
they say they need to gather their strength
sing dance write poetry and songs
they need to gaze at the stars
retell their histories in prose and poetry
they will be performing their rituals
as the need arises and when the time is right


05 Muses undercover

speaking otherwise
reading slant knowing
the view from below
even sideways is useful

when you go undercover
best disguise is normality
be a daddy’s girl if need be
then you can unwork
the system as Valerie said

we are in every workplace
in the spaces of family trees
some without issue others
bedded even more deeply

when you go undercover
don’t forget who you are
we want you back after
the crisis is over remember
you are no slave to them


06 Muses writing a manifesto

Erato says she loves a spot
of weaving texts back in her day
a text was a woven thing
words braided and interwoven

while not much into
writing manifestoes
she says she’ll join in
so long as the manifesto
begins with poetry

in poetry we have depth
twisted in with memory
what use is a manifesto
you can’t remember by heart?

Erato is plucking words
she is feeling the rhythms
she needs when she finishes
her spinning and weaving
she will share it with us


07 Muses are occupying

we move in under cover of darkness
with our blankets for the night
and sun hats for the day

we are occupying the up-market
end of town where star arts
happen under the guise of excellence

the star arts are receive funding
every year they drink cock-tails
they appear on television screens

we look like a bunch of hobos
we’ve come a long way
up from the dark caves

where we’ve been meeting
these last weeks so our rustic
attire is intentional

we say we represent
the arts at the edge of chaos
well beyond your horizon

in the darkest hour of the night
we begin our chant we draw
the spirit of rebellion to us

by morning all that is left
are a few leaves some woven threads
butterfly wings and small red hearts


08 Muses love pageants

out of the fifth dimension
a stream of music unheard
for six thousand years

dingoes approach
padding along in a pack
little ones in the middle
elders at the front

sounds break into scraps
voice here song there
tambourines and clapsticks

Suzanne is leading the pageant
words escape their chains
they are being used to mean
things they’ve never meant before

on the other side of the bushes
is a herd of cows who were heard
to moo throughout the whole show


09 Muses are dancing

dance dance dance
dance the trata in your
red white and black garb
dive down dive down
dive underground

dance dance dance
dance the trata
for bread and pomegranate

dance as we have
for millennia
as is carved
on the tomb
of the dancing women

dance a zigzag
dance the weave of a basket
dance the stars and spirals

enter the labyrinth
with the young ones leading
dance as if your life depends
on the dance

sing with the old ones
sing out your strong voices
voices that hold the world
sing like swallows
twittering to bring spring

dance dance dance
sing sing sing
dance the trata
sing the spring


10 Muses come out of hiding

we come out of the desert
we carry desert fruits
animal friends accompany us

we are not in hiding
we have never hidden
it is you who could not see


Artists Statement

Art of all kinds is necessary in life. For all of us. The Muses are said to have created the arts and these poems draw on different art forms and the skills the Muses bring to them. The art forms for which the nine Muses are responsible are: Euterpe: music, Terpsichore: dance, Polyhymnia: song, Erato: lyric poetry., Kalliope: epic poetry, Melpomene: tragedy, Thalia: comedy, Klio: history, Urania: astronomy. The Muses in my poem are rebelling as we need to in this time.


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