The Half-Dead Poet Review – Once Upon a Time When I Used to be Prolific or How to Lure Back (and Even Trap) the Muse


1. (in Greek and Roman mythology) each of nine goddesses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, who preside over the arts and sciences.
synonyms: inspiration, creative influence, stimulus; formalafflatus “the poet’s muse”

2. a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.
synonyms: inspiration, creative influence, stimulus; formalafflatus “the poet’s muse”


[su_quote cite=”Tom Nattell”]May The Muse Be With You ![/su_quote]


[su_quote cite=”Charles Bukowski”]Writers are desperate people, and when they stop being desperate they stop being writers.[/su_quote]


So here’s the story.

Once upon a time a kid finds a book of poetry by Tennyson left behind in a cabin on summer vacation in Upstate NY when he’s thirteen. Then inspired, the kid starts secretly writing poetry then hides all his poetry away and then burns it all at 18. Then the kid grows up and goes to college and finds out that he still loves writing, decides not to pursue becoming a doctor (Thanks Ronald Reagan, GSL) and then becomes a disc jockey instead. Finally the kid becomes a man and discovers the world, women and eventually discovers that the world of words is a part of him and that it never left. So man works the day job, writes and sends out his work at night to numerous journals and magazines. Starts going to open mic poetry readings at his favorite punk rock club hang out. Becomes a singer and lyricist in unknown bands. Keeps sending his work out, creates groups with others of his kind and events of his own. Promotes and makes them successful and the places where all the poets want to read and to be. Becomes somewhat famous. Gets kudos. Becomes known. Keeps writing. But then, somewhere along the way. Despite all of the books, poems, destructions and resurrections. The survival of what it means to be creative? The poet (as most frail humans) eventually gets older and finds the one, falls in love and gets married, is happy and has a great job. Now what could possibly go wrong?

Well … Actually, quite a bit.

Take emotion, the idea of happiness, for example. Are poets even meant to be happy? Find happiness? I mean It seems like such a strange alien concept. I was always told by others that I wrote my best work either when I was drunk, heart broken or unhappy or even miserable. Some friends even claimed all three plus miserable. So I suppose that sometimes it’s the pursuit of happiness or love that is what it’s all about. Writing. Life. The essential need for a muse that inspires us to write ourselves into a higher realization of being human and human being. That is, reaching for the stars and then realizing that you just got dumped or fell flat on your face. I like to call this the “Keats Phase”. Highly Romantic but highly unsensible. Shortly followed by such other well-known phases of poets as “The Lord Byron Phase” “The Sid Vicious Phase” and several literary others where wearing black is essential. But all joking aside let’s face it. When it comes to poetry by my own confession I’m a bit of a purist and a throwback and proud of it. By “purist” I mean I’m a man out of time, a gentleman outsider and that I believe in a return to the core of things. And what I mean by that is that I believe in a return to honesty, a return to the heart of it all and what makes poetry still truly matter. The words, the voice, the myth and the muse and of course the craft. But I live in the 21st century in a time where the internet and mass media, urban living and complexities of living have made poetry almost obsolete now with the exception of political poems. It’s frightening. It’s tragic. And sometimes? It still even makes me a bit angry. So? For those of us who write poetry or even read out at open mics anymore? Many of us have surrendered. We have given up and given in. We use Tumblr or Twitter and we even use Facebook. We have joined the legions of other poet humans who create gifs & jpgs and post them on Pinterest or Instagram hoping that we connect to an audience and hoping that someone out there in the void will read our words, maybe a publisher or another poet who will say, “Wow. This guy’s poetry is amazing. Where can I find this his books?” But the fact is? On the internet we have reduced feeling and we have reduced intimacy to what the world calls nothing Zero. Nota. Zilch! 5 likes, an emo happy face and a comment that says:


But is this all there is?

All that’s left?


Because the muse is still waiting and if like me if you lost or misplaced her? Don’t worry. She’ll eventually return and come back. But to find her we must take the long way home. We must wait it all out. We must keep trying, keep writing. We must keep sending out our work and keep finding our own authentic voices. We must simplify, rectify and start listening, connecting with other living humans and stop thinking about all our respective glory days and focus on what matters:

The Words

Recognition? Fame?  It’s nice but honestly it’s just a bag of shit. And I speak from experience. Whether you’re a slam poet, a formalist, a rock star- a spoken word whatever. It’s crap. If you are you really a poet? A writer? A novelist? If you’re in it for just the fame or the money (what?) then you’re in the wrong bar my friends.  So get a real job in the real world, buy a house, have some kids and have a successful life. But mostly? Of all things find love. Center yourself. Find yourself. And don’t be defined by just that one extension of your soul, writing or poetry. The muse is your life. The pen is your life. Booze isn’t

The muse is the homeless person on the street asking for a dollar. The muse is your beautiful wife making you dinner after you’ve had a terrible day at work. The muse is your conscience saying that you can’t ignore what’s happening in the world or around you. It doesn’t matter that you’ll never be Hemingway or EE Cummings.  Rich or poor. But it matters that you never surrender those gifts that make you truly unique and who you are.

For when the human race began? There were writers, artists and poets. And when the world ends? There will still be writers, artists and poets. Some things will never change.

Like me for instance wearing black.

It’s essential.

So remember, the muse is always waiting. She’s never left.

Stay desperate.

Engelhardt Words

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