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The muse, morning writing, and the mythic imagination


In A Course in Demonic Creativity I talk at some length about the process of using early-morning writing to establish an open line of communication between yourself and your genius daemon. Here are some valuable further insights and reflections on this practice from poet Dennis P. Slattery, originally published in Spring: A Journal of Archetype and Culture and now reprinted at the website for the Pacifica Graduate Institute, where Slattery is a faculty member, and where he helped to organize the Mythological Studies program.

[I]f I am to write any poetry, it happens in this early morning time when the dreamscape from which I have just risen and the poetic inscape that I actively enter in reverie, in meditation, in contemplation, have a porous quality, a thinness of texture, so that ideas, images, can move freely between them, as through a shimmering membrane, where memory is in front of, rather than behind, me. Poetry and dream surface from the same embodied place, one which I now want to enter in this early hour without violating the thin filaments of dream that cling to my waking life, but rather moving into a conscious meditation of poiesis, the word given to us by the Greeks and invented to signal the creative act of making, of shaping an image into words. To this early poetic time of Polyhymnia I am called each morning, seven days a week — for I believe the continuity of creative time promotes a certain habitus, a certain disposed way of being and imagining — a rhythm rocking towards insight — that invites such reverie.

… Into this state of active quiet reverie, I am attentive, naïve, receptive, like a soul just born to the order and resonance of words and to the reality they point me to. The remarkable fact is that this reality is what I already know on some cellular or biological level but have failed to bring sufficiently across the threshold to consciousness. Speaking more generally, all of the nine Muses remind us, following their mother, Mnemosyne, of something we must retrieve, something once known but forgotten.

— “Tending the Muse of Poetry: Polyhymnia, Myth, and Dream” (pdf),  Spring: A Journal of Archetype and Culture, No. 70 (2004)

(Thank you to Depth Insights for alerting me to this article via Twitter.)

Also fascinating and valuable are Slattery’s reflections on the profound and vital relationship between poetry, the psyche, and matter, such that “Poetry helps us to see the truth of the idea that psyche and matter may indeed be the same thing,” since “poetry allows matter to speak; poetry allows speech to matter on a more imaginal level than discursive language.”


Image: Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, “Luigi Cherubini and the Muse of Lyric Poetry” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons