my muse


emily balivet


I have thought for some time that I do indeed have a muse in my life—an inspirational fount, a person as gift and wellspring of ideas for this newborn writer—and my thoughts were recently confirmed by a friend over dinner—and that confirmation was important. I told my friend that his affirmation was like a woman who looks in the mirror and thinks she’s pretty, but doesn’t fully believe in her beauty until someone tells her she’s pretty. Its been confirmed—I have a muse. A mortal, male muse. And I’ve recently been trying to understand the relationship that I have with this inspirational someone, to name our relationship, to name us, to identify what we are to each other. As if naming us would make it all clear—as if naming us would slow down the rocket ship ride that is artist and muse.

So I’ve been digging some into muses, writing about them (the christmas muse), reading about them, and although I have not read The Lives of the Muses: Nine Women & the Artists They Inspired, by Francine Prose, it is now on my reading list. In her introduction, she likens the desire to explain the mystery of inspiration to one’s desire to know the magician’s secrets:

“One difference between magic and art is that magic can be explained. Were he willing, Houdini could have told his fans how he escaped from the chains and straitjacket, suspended under water. But the artist can never fully account for the alchemical process that turns anatomical knowledge and fresco technique into the Sistine Chapel. To create anything is to undergo the humbling and strange experience—like a mystical visitation or spirit possession—of making something and not knowing where it comes from. It’s as if the magician had no idea how the rabbit got into his hat.”

“But we find that hard to accept, and so we look around for some myth to help explain, or at least surround, the genesis of art. The logical solution to the mystery of creation is divine intervention…The Greeks assumed that a deity had to be involved. Significantly, the picked goddesses—nine of them—and had the common sense to make these celestial sisters more abstract, private and distant than their heavenly colleagues…Perhaps the Greek intuited that the muses’ important, elusive work was beyond the limited reach of anecdote and gossip.”

Prose’s introduction is extensive, and she touches on the concept of a male muse, saying that gender is basically irrelevant to the marriage of creativity and passion, referencing historical male influences. Such is my experience—my man muse excites, he introduces fantasy and obsession, erotica and Eros, he fuels my creativity with inspirational witchcraft and subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, urging. He also angers me—a lot. Prose continues with the belief that some hold, that the traditional, female muse has disappeared from contemporary society, that feminism has deemed her not-much-more-than ethereal position as unacceptable, a sexist myth that encourages male dominance. And so why not equal opportunity muses, why not the “little man” behind the woman artist? Why should gender be a requisite for those who push, pull and lead us to that inspirational, mystery locale?

I will continue to examine my muse’s role in my life, my work, only because the relationship is so odd, so unlike other loves, so unsettling as it is satisfying. But perhaps I should not look the gift horse in the mouth, perhaps I should allow him to just be, to accept the situation as the price paid for creativity, to revel in this fortunate chaos. In a related but not really related story, I once had to give up smoking pot for a job interview that included drug testing, a creative job where I had to submit a piece of new artwork as part of the interview. I struggled to create a good looking, imaginative piece and complained to a girlfriend who asked, “How are you supposed to be creative without the pot? Isn’t pot the agent that initiates the creative process?” Hmmm, the creative process, inspiration, drugs, muses—a conundrum, a condition.


photo credit: Emily Balivet /

a letter to david




I don’t listen to classical music and couldn’t identify one composer from another. I love pop culture, pop music in particular. I don’t know anyone rich or famous. I’m not interested in the military or wars, nor books, movies or documentaries dedicated to the military or to war. I don’t share many of your views, observations, opinions. My library would embarrass you. There are but a few subjects in which I might be able to tell you something that you don’t already know. But I do think highly of myself, and consider myself to be a well above average dancer, writer and page designer, an exceptional cook, housekeeper, gardener and mother. I’m attractive, almost pretty, an above average dresser, I can carry the conversation at the dinner table if I have to. I have confidence, charm and sex appeal, but our differences often disturb me as I know they do you.

And yet, and yet and yet and yet, we are consumed by one another, consumed by visions of our love making, both real and imagined. You call me 5 and 6 times a day, I swoon when you tell me “you’re mine,” we love and touch each other as if there were no distance between us whatsoever. Is this just sexual appetite, shared passion, perhaps a void that we are compelled to fill, a void felt more deeply than most, a fantasy of our own creation that we can’t, we won’t let go of for reasons unknown? What are we and why is it that I feel the need to identify what we are? Because our connection is so fucking maddening, confusing, so unlikely, so unlike anything I have ever felt before, so sensuous, even without the satisfaction of skin, that I feel the need to name it. We play cat and mouse, we lust, we tease, we confuse on purpose, we do whatever we can to maintain the rapture, the mystery—for despite the differences, the unlikelihood of us, our connection is rapture.

I give my body to you for no one can pleasure me as you do, can excite me as you do. I will be your sex kitten and show you my ass as I rub against your leg, I will purr as you stroke my throat. I will be your angel, your bitch, your baby, your whore if that’s what keeps you coming back for more of me. If sexually intense is all that we are, it is much, much more than enough. I willingly, and with great hunger and selfish understanding, give myself to you again and again and again.


art: Johannes Vermeer, Lady Writing