A while since I last blogged, as it’s turned into a busy summer. First there was an Arvon to teach in Devon with the short-story writer Adam Marek. Totleigh Barton was at its peak of lush loveliness, scented with sweet peas and honeysuckle; a deer strolling past me as I tried to get mobile signal. Having so recently been teaching about Sylvia Plath at Court Green, it felt fitting to be just ten miles from there, thinking of her descriptions as I walked through the vegetable patch with its ‘creamy bean flowers with black eyes and leaves like bored hearts’ (‘The Bee Meeting’). I even got stung, appropriately.
Since then there’s been an event on ‘Making Poetry Work’, the Betsy Trotwood All-Dayer, and a couple of festivals – I did an Ovid Show at Latitude and a workshop for the Idler Academy at Port Eliot Festival, so there’s been lots of messing around in tents, trying to get Gruff to sleep in his pram during very loud gigs (Portishead and the Parma Violets were highlights) and drinking wine out of plastic cups.
There’s also been some mentoring sessions, a reading list to compile for this autumn’s Poetry School/University of Newcastle MA (applications still open!), and the arrival of a big box of translated poetry for the Popescu judging. And this morning I was rather randomly on Woman’s Hour, talking about the male muse. It was quite interesting that in both the teasers for the segment, it was suggested the concept was something to ‘scoff’ or ‘laugh’ at – I think it shows how deeply gender stereotypes are still embedded that the idea of a heterosexual woman being inspired by a man, gazing at him or celebrating his body still makes people so uncomfortable. I didn’t get to say half the things I would have liked to, particularly about the history of the muses (pictured above) being figured as women, and Robert Graves’ idea that a woman has to be her own muse (it’s interesting that Sappho was often called ‘the tenth muse’ despite being as actively ardent as any man, perhaps attempting to position her as a source of inspiration rather than that more threatening thing, genius itself.) Still it’s good to get people thinking about the topic anyway… If you want to hear it’s on listen again about 29 minutes in (and my Male Muse article in Magma from years back is here).
I think I can relax for a few days now, anyway. This weekend it’s the folk festival in Broadstairs, so we’re heading to the coast for Hooden horses and sandcastles. And I coincidentally picked up a brilliant second-hand biography of Robert Graves by Miranda Seymour the other week which I can’t wait to get back to (he’s about to meet Laura Riding, perhaps his greatest muse and the embodiment of the ‘White Goddess’…)
PS: for those interested in my garden, we currently have lots of blackberries and golden plums but the ants appear to be farming blackfly on my green beans, which is kind of disgusting, and my hollyhocks and sunflowers are already bowing as if to signal summer’s end.