The Singing Womb of the Poetic Imagination
Random Notes on the Muses Dialogue
©2012/13/14 Antero Alli


"The Invisible Forest" (2008); click for details


I don't call myself an artist. Best to let others, the world, decide what to call you. I see myself more as a kind of interrupter. I interrupt whatever assumptions, expectations, and beliefs inhibit my freedom to discover new ways of seeing and staying open to the fertile void, source of all creation, and its hilarious offspring, the singing womb of the Poetic Imagination.

The idea of “the Muse” and “the Muses” has vexed, haunted, and inspired artists, poets, musicians, book authors, painters, sculptors, and other creatives for aeons. In the following reports, I am not attempting to explain the workings of the enigmatic Muses archetype but to examine their impact on my ongoing creative and artistic processes and their end results in paratheatre and filmmaking.

Writing about Muses feels ridiculous. To endure my embarrassment, I will simply report what I have experienced while sharing a series of “notes to myself”. Though there seems to be certain attributes the Muses find more appealing than others, the nature of these qualities can differ for each person, for each vessel or vehicle the Muses choose for their purposes. Note to self: People don’t choose Muses; Muses choose their own vessels. We don't own the Muses. They are not my Muses or your Muses but the Muses.

An initial observation: the Muse works through us and then, discards its vessels when we cease to be useful or appealing. The numinous Muse archetype runs its own impersonal and autonomous agendas beyond the control and the comprehension of anyone courting his, hers, or its favor. Note to self: the Muse can be a fussy, fickle entity; do not expect consistency. Bag all expectations. Stay receptive; go naked for a sign.


"dreambody/earthbody" (2012) click for details

I see three basic types of Muse vessels: creatives (those who live creative lives but don’t necessarily produce art; almost all children are "creatives"), artists (those who produce art and/or call themselves "artists", whether or not their art is actually creative) and creative artists (those whose art is produced out of their process of living creatively, whether they call themselves artists or not). All three vessels represent individuals who sometimes project archetypal Muse status onto others by mythologizing any man, woman, and child who looks or behaves like a Muse to them. Though these psychic projections can initally arouse intoxicating and inspiring emotions, they can also lead to disastrous results. What mortal can live up to anyone's exalted Muse ideal? Note to self: do not marry the Muse.

The Muse beckons us towards the Unattainable. When the Muse strikes and takes hold, I am beside myself and possessed of a kind of divine madness. Like a moth sputtering around an open flame, my heart flutters and takes flight towards the Impossible. Like the fever dream inflaming l'amour fou, the inner mounting flames of Muse-inspired passion consumes everything and everyone in its wake. I lament all the broken hearts and ruined lives of the men, women, and children charred by the creative firestorms of their Muse-inspired lovers, friends, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers. Note to self: the Muses are not always kind, wonderful, and loving. They can also be ruthless, severe, and unforgiving.

Courting the Muses can sometimes feels like falling madly deeply in love, a delirium ravaging my soul like a rag doll tilt-a-twirling in gale-force winds. And in this feral astral theatre, the Muses witness my little drama unfold with high indifference. No matter how inspiring or stimulating, the action of the Muses creates its own unique stresses on the instrument of self. If I fall sick or suffer pain or collapse and die, the Muses will simply move on to their next vessel. They don't care. The Muses don't care what happens to me; they only care about how well their Presence finds expression through me. If I do not care for the health and maintenance of the instrument of self, the vessel, I become useless to the Muses. Note to self: to stay related with the Muses, my chief responsibility becomes the maintenance of the instrument of self.

"Flamingos" (2012; 90 min.); click for details


Confession - I am a love slave to the Muses. Over the course of forty years of scripting and directing original works for theatre and cinema I have discovered a need for maintaining certain conditions the Muses find most appealing. This has been, and remains, a trial-by-error-by-success process of tending to whatever daily routines, thought adjustments, and outlooks keep me receptive to the Muses’ signals, timings, whispers, and screams. This process is also not always about me. The Muses could care less about “Antero Alli”, a fact made obvious whenever I feel like an impostor while assuming full credit for my art. I am no creator here. I am more like a translator. Note to self: don’t romance or mythologize or worship the Muses -- treat them with the same indifference they treat me. The payoff for making Art, for making films, is not fame or money or love or power; the payoff is realizing my purpose.

Dialogue, not monologue
The Muses’ demand that I expose and eliminate my “creative buffers” -- whatever habits, events, and people impede or diminish critical receptivity to the Muses. Meeting these demands has made me more antisocial, or socially selective, and more friendly with myself. My experience of the Muses has always been about dialogue. Muse dialogue is not about talking to myself or confusing the inner critic or conscious mind or ego with the Muse. These are all imposter voices. Muse interactions are rarely verbal. They're more like intuitive recognitions of ineffable impressions passing between the transpersonal Muse realms and my uneventful low-drama daily life; I prefer my drama onscreen or the stage. Note to self: the only art created by conscious mind is dead art. Conscious mind is a liar and a whore -- death of the imagination precedes death of soul!


"The Book of Jane" (2013) click for details


The Muses demand respect. I never call them “my Muses”; if they can be be owned, they are not Muses but ego trips. I call them the Muses for good reason. They come and go on their own accord and schedule. They are not on my watch; I am on their watch. When the Muses disappear, I take it as a sign to pick up some patience, walk the fallow fields and do next to nothing -- sometimes, for months or years at a time. This back and forth between action and inaction sets up a dynamic balance between the stimulation-oriented sympathetic nervous system and the rest-oriented parasympathetic nervous system. Too much of one or the other throws the whole system off. Note to self: my value to the Muses does not depend on constant productivity but periods of rest and recovery where receptivity can be restored. Only when I am empty can the Muses take notice and make use of me.

Whenever I become too full of myself -- gloating on past successes, achievements, accolades -- the Muses are bored to tears. And like any bored and fickle lover, the Muses start eyeballing other vessels. I remember times when I was obsessed with some brilliant idea that would unexpectedly appear one day in somebody else’s project. W.T.F. ?! Did I wait too long? Was I tripping? Why did I not follow through when the idea came to me? Note to self: without commitment, the best ideas languish in the mind alone. Commitment is a force. To stay attractive to the Muses, I need to increase the force and heat of my commitment. Thou shalt not bore the Muses!

The Muses test my faith whenever I fret about where all the resources will come from to produce my next film: the talent, the technology, the passion, the time, the money?! The Muses mock these petty concerns. Newsflash! Money is not the same as wealth. The Muses trade exclusively in the currency of True Wealth where talent, technology, time, love, and money exist as its subcategories. Worrying about what I don't have kills the spirit of gratitude, the chief inlet and wellspring of True Wealth. Note to self: Gratitude, not attitude. Without gratitude, I am fucked.


"dreambody/earthbody" (2012; paratheatre video document) click for details

Postscript: At 60, I am well beyond the fantasy of creating Art out of inspiration alone. I now respect the sweat and the toil, the commitment to craft, and the self-discipline that lays the groundwork for inspiration to take root, blossom, and bear fruit - if that's what the Muses want. I feel blessed to have remained in touch with those sources that light up my neural grooves with eternal delight, neural pathways nourished in my ongoing paratheatre work.

Throughout 2010 and 2011, the Muses dialogue took on a highly kinetic, somatic turn through their physical engagement and expresson (see 'Muses Lab' reports below). These paratheatrical muse labs inspired the scripting and production of two recent movies: "To Dream of Falling Upwards" (2011; 2 hrs) and "Flamingos" (2012; 90 min). This paratheatrical muse work has left me with deeper sense that the Muses, as I now know them, are as real as the day is long -- giving new insight to what William Blake may have meant when he wrote, "Eternity is in love with the productions of time."

2010 - 'MUSES LAB' REPORT #1

2011 - 'MUSES LAB' REPORT #2







TED Lecture on the Muses by Elizabeth Gilbert

How these terms are applied by Antero Alli


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