Her(S)tory Embeded and Threaded in Beat- Hi(S)tory

12 Oct

Figures. When I have time, I want to know i can easily find this link because my short term memory is the Bermuda triangle and all is lost. Midterms. Blerg.


For anyone who may or may not want or want no to check it out, a blurb sneak peak:

Muses or Maestros? Women of the Beat Generation
© 1997, Angela D. Baccala

I learnt more from her in a flash,
Than if my brainpan were an empty hull,
And every Muse tumbled a science in.
Tennyson, from “Princess II,” 1847

The word muse comes from the Ancient Greek language and Mythology. The king of the Greek gods, Zeus, and Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory, had nine daughters the Muses. Calliope was said to be the chief Muse. Each daughter was associated with a different discipline. The most famous being Clio, the Muse of history. Today, “muse” means the particular inspiration for an artist, “a poet’s particular genius, the character of his style and spirit.”

Philip Whalen refers to his muse in his poem, “To the Muse.” Here, Whalen evokes the muse of history “Cleo” and apologizes for a misunderstanding between them. He describes his muse as the “one Lady who changes before my eyes.” He titles her “QUEEN LIONESS OF HEAVEN IN THE SUN.”

She is his inspiration, a goddess in her own right. Yet she is not supernatural. In the following verse, he identifies her as human. He sleeps beside this goddess: “waking I watch your closed eyes, film of gold hair across your cheek a mystery.” Whalen describes their struggle together as “a tangle, my impatience, your wildness.”

Some woman, a goddess, a wild-woman, a muse, had influenced Whalen. In fact, the “persistence of [her] vision centered” in his heart. At the end of the poem, Whalen asks that she bless him as he walks “along the fire-road.” It is this muse that watches over Whalen as he writes, as he rebels.

The Beat women never intended to be the keepers of the flame.

When I began studying the women of the Beat Generation closely, I looked to the one and only secondary source on their role in the movement, Brenda Knight’s Women of the Beat Generation.

As I eagerly read through the newly-released text, I noted the divisions of the chapters: The Precursors, The Muses, The Writers, and The Artists. Pause. Who was a muse? Many of the women of the Beat movement were influential in their husbands’ or lovers’ or friends’ writings. Does that make then muses? Was Joan Vollmer Burroughs — the friend and advisor of Allen Ginsberg — a muse? Was Edie Parker Kerouac, who wrote a hidden, unpublished memoir about her life? Was Carolyn Robinson Cassady, who paints and consults, and wrote Off the Road? Was Joan Haverty Kerouac, who wrote Nobody’s Wife? These women had not merely influenced the work of their men, but had created themselves. Similarly, those women listed (in Knight’s book) as writers — including Joyce Johnson, Elise Cowen, and Hettie Jones — influenced the Beat men. No clear line can be drawn between those who created and those who were a catalyst for other Beats’ creative processes. Not only does the label “muse” do an injustice to these women’s works, but it does not thoroughly explain the Beat women’s indirect influence in the movement.


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