Archive for September, 2012

I have a problem with my memory. It isn’t that it ever fails me – quite the opposite in fact. Indeed, my recall of events from all but the earliest years of my life is truly photographic, so there was little doubt in my mind the woman before me now was the one who had stolen the book….

So opens my short story, The Man Who Could Not Forget. It was an early foray into the so called speculative genre and began doing the rounds of the print markets shortly before the turn of the century, but without luck. I eventually gave up on it and put it on my website in 2002, then as an ebook on Feedbooks in 2008. The reason I mention it now is it’s coming up to a bit of a milestone and will at some point this week achieve 100,000 downloads. I just wanted to take time out and celebrate that fact, to thank all those readers who have made this possible, and to dwell a little on what it means both to me as a writer, and potentially to you as well, if you write fiction, but despair of ever seeing it published in a proper magazine.

Those proper magazines I submitted the story to were generally obscure with limited circulation figures.  As a rule they paid little, indeed usually nothing at all beyond a free copy of the magazine itself, and though it might have bolstered my ego a little to have seen “The man who” as a featured story in one of them, none would have carried my words very far or for very long, so I wonder at my obsession with trying to gain their favour now. Indeed, with the clock about to click over those 100,000 downloads, I look back upon it as a kind of madness. Regardless of their supposed merit as bastions of literary taste, and learned guides to what is currently “hot”, as simple vehicles for the distribution of any kind of written word, good or bad, let’s face it, they were actually quite poor.

The editorial staffers on all those “proper” magazines passed my story by without comment, but in spite of their discouraging indifference, thanks to the internet, a lot of people have now read it, at least a hundred thousand of them, and some of them have been kind enough to say nice things about it. The story has still not achieved “printed” fame, it’s not won any competitions, and it’s never been reviewed in literary magazines. But apart from that, it has been read lots of times – not because it’s any good (I’m hardly the one to judge) but because the number one distribution medium nowadays is the internet. It’s global by default.

It’s this sense of having “connected” with an audience that’s made all the difference to my writing. I write to suit myself now, to express myself, to entertain myself, to explore myself, and to heal myself. I’m free to do this, but you can’t do it if you’re constantly distracted by thoughts of trying to gain the approval of an editor, before your work can see the light of day. That’s when writing becomes less of an art and more of a chore.

Which is a pity.

In writing to suit our selves we are free to indulge our selves. We don’t need to worry about writing like someone else in the mistaken belief it will make our work more “marketable”. Our most important asset is our individuality, indeed some might say we possess nothing else of any real value, so it’s important we’re free to express ourselves in a way that reflects our essential selves, whether that makes us a marketable commodity or not.

If you’re a writer and you’re struggling to connect, be aware the readers are there online. If you’re happy to work for nothing and can forgo the debilitating ego trip of seeing your work in print, then I think it will open a lot of doors for you if you can simply make your peace with the day job, and start giving your creative work away. I know it’s hard. You’ve invested a lot of time in it. It’s the best of you. It means a lot to you. But what good does it do gathering dust in that bottom drawer? You can kiss goodbye of course to becoming an international bestselling author, but on the upside it means you no longer need to chase your tail studying the so called market ever again, and trying to second guess what will make an editor’s eyes light up.

Really, life’s too short for that.

As an interesting aside, since going up on Feedbooks, “The Man Who” was picked up by Adrian Ionita of the webzine Egophobia, and translated into Romanian. If your Romanian is up to scratch you can read it here. My thanks again to Adrian  for making this possible. “The Man Who” and “Rosemary’s Eyes” make me a translated author, and that feels really cool.

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It was a big today – one I’ve been dreading for a while. I took my eldest son to university – packed the car up with all his gear and delivered him up for sacrifice to the wide world. As a parent, it was another poignant first, like his first day at school, which doesn’t seem that long ago. The feeling today was similar, except coming away, there was also a bitter after-taste.

When we came to visit this place, earlier in the year, we were shown around all the best bits, and I remember having a warm feeling about it. The residential halls we’d seen had a modern look about them, quite new, and though the rooms were a little on the small side, I thought to myself  I can leave my beloved son here and I won’t feel too bad about it. He’ll be comfortable. Okay, it’s  horribly expensive, but it’s decent, and it seems safe.

Fair do’s.

Of course the halls he was allocated today were in a different part of the university, a much older part that we weren’t shown around. The place was worn out, to put it politely. Even summoning all my skills as a fiction writer, I cannot adequately describe the sheer tired despair of it – beige painted brick, knackered fittings, every flat surface sagging and stained, fag-burned and cup-ringed, every corner of every single thing that had a corner to it was battered and chipped. Lighting was a bare neon tube – I mean, how crude is that? If I had tried to imagine the very worst possible thing, the room that awaited my son today was ten times worse. It bore the scars of forty years of occupation, and to be frank, I would not have kept a dog in it. So I’m very sad this evening, at having abandoned him there.

There was a piece of paper in that room. It listed all the fittings and we had to tick that what we’d found was in good condition, otherwise risk forfeiting our £200 deposit, should our son in some way “spoil” the room for the next occupant. I looked at it in disbelief, having apparently stepped back in time to a time before even I was born. Condition? Where did one start? And how much money did a tin of paint cost anyway? I wished we’d brought more posters to cover it up!

Now, £5000 a year isn’t cheap. You can rent a house for that, so, on the one hand, while I’m proud of my son for making it to to university, I’m under no illusions – this is no longer about education, this is about making money. If you’d paid more than £10 a night for that place you’d think you’d been ripped off and would be glad to get out of there in the morning, let alone sitting there this evening, as I’m sure he is and thinking Sh1t, I’m here for at least another twelve months!

My good lady and I are what I’d describe as middle income earners. We’re lucky, we can cover his living costs – his rent his food, his odds and sods, but he’s also got his tuition fees of £9000 per year, which we can’t even come close to paying. My son will therefore finish university in three year’s time with a degree, and a serious debt.

Is there a crisis in further education? Erm,… no brainer, sorry.

Oh,… it’s okay, they say. He only starts to pay that debt off when he’s got a job and is earning decent money. But those are the rules now and, frankly, the lesson of the past twenty five years is there’s no such thing as long term certainty when it comes to finance. The words of the lenders aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, and I’m afraid I have no faith in any system that would take advantage of ones so gloriously young, a system that would dazzle them with the razzmatazz of a slick powerpoint presentation, a tour of the glossy bits, then dump them in a beige painted brick cell like that.

I’m sorry, I feel bad tonight.

Sleep well all you freshmen of that grim northern college. I call down with all my might and make humble sacrifice to the goddess Brigidh (my Wiccan friends please join me), she of home and hearth, to comfort each of you tonight, that she may poke a finger in the eye of that foul smelling god of avarice, and knee him squarely in the balls.

May youth and good spirit prevail.

Having said all that, I’d like to thank all those second and third year students it was my great pleasure to meet this afternoon. I thank them for their enthusiasm, their cheerfulness, their openness and their sheer energetic assistance. May the world not sully you, and your resistance be endless. It’s in you I invest my hope.

Meanwhile, my youngest son, aged 15 looks on. He’s bright and able, but says there’s no effing way he’s going to university. I hesitate to argue with him.


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The climate is changing. In my part of the world we’re noticing a shift in patterns of rainfall. Monthly averages seem about the same, the difference being that nowadays, you can get your month’s rainfall over a period of twenty four hours, in a sustained heavy downpour that simply overwhelms the river systems and the drains.

My home village is built along the banks of a normally sleepy little river. But now and then the river will get its dander up and surge like a silty brown snake down the main street, washing silt and poo through people’s houses. You could expect an inundation like this once in a generation, which was bad enough to have to cope with, especially if your house was one of those in a flooding black-spot. The village old timers will shake their heads and tell you tales of the great floods of ages past, but now we’re coming to expect a damaging flood every year. This year it’s already happened twice.

The last flood entered people’s homes in June, and the village has been near impassable since then for all the builder’s skips and vans, while the insurance was sorted out and repair work got under way. It’s still ongoing – reflooring, rewiring, replastering, refurnishing, decontaminating.

My own home, being built on slightly higher ground has thus far survived flooding, and I take some reassurance from the fact there are seventeenth century cottages here that have never flooded, especially since I live in a bungalow, and don’t have the option of moving my valuables upstairs whenever the river’s looking grumpy.

It’s been raining for two days now and, driving out to work this morning, I had to detour to avoid a lake that had occupied the centre of the village overnight. The river, in flood, had met the incoming tide in the small hours of the morning, taking some unfortunate souls back to square one with a call to their insurance company, not even having had the pleasure of moving back into their homes since the last flood in June.

That last flood happened over a weekend, so I was able to help out a bit and stack a few sandbags in the vulnerable areas, for all the good they seem to do. We made the TV news, that day, and we probably made it this evening as well – though I didn’t watch, because I think there’s something ghoulish about a TV reporter with a grave face and gleeful heart –  we’re well known for flooding here now, and it always makes for a good local story.

That last flood, with the village all upset, the media arrived in the thick of it, driving their whale of van into the chaos with an arrogant self importance that took my breath away. Never mind sorting the mess out, let’s get a picture of it and some reaction from the shell-shocked victims. So you get insensitive men with orange tans, wearing silly hats and floral patterned wellies, thrusting microphones into people’s faces while they’re still swilling out their homes, and asking them how they feel. Well, how would you feel?

One poor woman I witnessed being subjected to this vulgar insensitivity – white faced and tearful – having seen her lovely home ruined – just stared at the rather camp-looking ghoul, speechless. I was speechless too, and rather hoped he’d ask me for my reaction. We’re “the media”, he seemed to be saying, that he had a direct line to that great satellite in the sky, which made him terribly important of course, more important even than the fire crews who’d come to pump out people’s basements.

There’s been no loss of life in our locale, thank God, though there’s something quite sinister about a sluggish three meter surge pushing its way through the village, spilling out into side streets, swelling into great lakes and brushing up against the doorsteps.

We’re going to have to adapt to this, but short of raising our homes on stilts, I’m not sure how. It’s either that or we just evacuate large parts of pretty, seventeenth century housing. Anyway, I’m hoping we’re done for this year, but I’m reminded that the really wet season hasn’t started yet.

It could be worse; it could be hurricanes.


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I’ve just downloaded Skype and hooked up an old webcam to my equally ancient laptop in order to keep in touch with number one son when he goes to university next week. I’m sure he’s going to have a brilliant time, and I’m sure he doesn’t want any fussy, tearful parents cramping his style, but I also want him to know he can port back into home any time he wants, and there’ll be someone here to talk to.  We’ve been giving it a dry run and I’m impressed with it. I  have a friend whose brother lives round the other side of the world. They keep in touch by weekly video chats, via Skype, so the benefits of this technology are not lost on me.

But it has a darker side.

Perhaps it’s my current interest in all things Skype that led to a news item catching my attention this week regarding a rather disturbing scam being perpetrated via the medium of on-line video networking. Forgive me if I’m slow here and everyone already knows about it – but it seems a lot of us are sitting in our bedrooms and other private places late at night, hooking up with strangers around the world on our webcams and taking our clothes off for them, as well as performing other intimate acts.

Let’s take the case of an hypothetical teenage lad in his room late at night – his parents work-worn and fast asleep next door. The scenario is as follows: the lad finds himself chatting to a pretty girl via Skype or MSN – a girl he doesn’t really know but whom he’s somehow hooked up with via a social networking site. Things are going well, she’s a real hottie, and the conversation turns flirty,.. before you know it the girl is egging him on into baring more and more of himself – and,.. well,… we’ll draw a veil of modesty over what happens next. But then she turns nasty, tells the lad she’s been recording him all along, and while he’s sitting there, vulnerable and shocked, she asks for money. If he doesn’t pay, she tells him, the recording will go on You Tube with links posted to all his Facebook contacts – or even more sinister, to the police with the complaint he was doing this in full knowledge it was an under-age girl on the other end of the webcam.

It surprises me girls fall for this as well, but apparently they do, otherwise I suppose guys wouldn’t be interested in doing it either, but in these cases the blackmail plumbs even greater depths of disturbing depravity with the girl also being required to “perform” on demand, to the satisfaction of the scammer in ever more lurid ways – or the recording again goes online.

It’s a very nasty business, and a lot of us are falling for it – not just teenagers worried about what their Facebook  “Friends” will think, but also older guys afraid for their marriages and their jobs. Notwithstanding the fact that Youtube would rightly torpedo anything of this nature on sight, money has been paid, and there have been suicides, so it’s not funny. Given the intimate and embarrassing nature of the scam, few are reporting it to the authorities.

Now, I’m not entirely surprised people share “anonymous” intimacies this way. I’m a veteran of Second Life and let’s just say it’s been quite an education what goes on under the veil of anonymity. I pass no judgement on it because I’m sure there are times when most of us could have been caught with our pants down at an embarrassing moment. I’ve also got a couple of teenage lads with laptops and Skype and I’ve no idea what they get up to on Facebook, and while I’m hoping they’re wise to this kind of thing , as a parent you worry. I’m afraid to say I do lecture them on occasion – or as number two son puts it: provide stern mission briefings –  but there’s only so much one can do and after all, this is their world and they have to grow into it on their own terms, as I grew into mine.

What I’m also wondering about here though is the kind of society we’re boxing ourselves into. It seems to be another example of technology connecting us, but in a way that only seems to push us, paradoxically,  into ever greater social isolation – family members dispersing of an evening to do their social networking thing instead of sitting together and talking to each other.

For those of you who know your Orwell, our webcams seem to have become a sort of self-inflicted Visiphone. This evening, while my family’s safely asleep, instead of finishing off this blog post, I might now flick on my webcam, seek out a suitable hottie, and we could do mutually rude things together (she’d have to be partially sighted of course) –  all the time remaining (hopefully) assured of my anonymity. But why would I want to? What need would this kind of connection fulfil that cannot be fulfilled by simply going out into the world, talking to people, making friends with them and, where appropriate, making love to them?

In some ways I see the on-line world as a reflection of what’s inside our heads, a kind of collective imagination where conscious and unconscious forces manifest themselves in sometimes beautiful, sometimes inspirational, but also sometimes hideous ways. And we can all too easily retreat into this inner world, especially at times when the outer world seems somehow less accessible, or harder to cope with. You can’t just switch the real world off when you’ve had enough of it, nor can you delete your mistakes like you can online. But that’s life – there are no rehearsals. It’s always going to be a live performance.

However much of a mystery it is, our place is surely to be in the world, experiencing its untidy and often ambiguous reality. Also, since it’s no small miracle we find ourselves here anyway, it almost seems our duty to honour it in some way by at least paying it the proper attention and trying to keep it real. In short, your honour, there can be no true intimacy between people without a sense of mutual responsibility, and a degree of commitment on both sides,… though the on-line world would sometimes have us believe this isn’t so.

I rest my case.

If you’re the victim of this kind of scam, whatever you do don’t pay. Block your tormentor. Delete your ID. Keep a sense of proportion. Rest assured you’re one of tens of thousands around the world being scammed in this way, and that even if your privates get posted on You Tube, which they won’t, who’s going to notice? Even if you feel you can’t go to the police, let your tormentors know you definitely will. They’ll leave you alone and go after the more submissive victims – God protect them –  but sooner or later the bastards will get busted because there’s no such thing as anonymity on-line. If you do business on-line, whatever it’s nature, rest assured Big Brother knows who you are.

But above all children, let’s just be careful out there!

Graeme Out

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Well, it’s kind of late. I’m still thinking of it as Friday night, but it’s really Saturday morning, but at least the house is finally quiet and I can get some thoughts down on paper at last, for whatever they’re worth. And what are they worth? I don’t know, let’s see:

September will be turning to October soon, perhaps the most significant point in the year, I think; the autumnal equinox, leaves crisping, Persephone bound for the underworld, Christmas crackers appearing in the shops, and the evenings drawing in. A switch from light to dark – no sense in fighting it. Relax. Let it in. What else? Ah, yes: I’m still battling with a leaking conservatory roof, drip dripping into a strategically placed bucket at the moment, and it’s noticeable how little time there is from arriving home from the day job, midweek, to the sinking of the sun, which leaves precious  little opportunity for outdoor DIY like that. I managed to squirt some gutter sealant into a suspicious joint last night, rather hastily, but this stuff never works, and I’m thinking I need some rubber paint now, to be liberally applied at the interface between the aluminium down-channel and the plastic gutter, where all the original sealant is now flaking away. But that’ll have to wait until tomorrow – I mean later on today. For indoor DIY, there’s always the bathroom lights I could be getting on with, half of which are out, following a wiring fault, a blown transformer and a near fire in the attic back in the spring. Normally I’d’ve tackled that one months ago but it seems to have been an unrelentingly busy year, and also age seems rather surprisingly to bring with it a waning of confidence, rather than the reverse, or is it a decline in my natural energy levels? Perversely I’m reluctant to call out a £50 per hour pontificating electrician to do a job I know I can do perfectly well myself, and all within the stringent requirements of the IET wiring regulations (Part P) thank you very much, because I’m a time served engineer, dammit, and can supposedly tackle anything,  but it doesn’t alter the fact we’ve been managing on three down-lighters instead of six all year.

Anyway, as regards my energy levels, they’re currently very good, at least according to Doc Lin this afternoon and she should know, being an officially certified practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, as well as being an all round very nice lady, and all right probably a very good business woman to boot. I’d just emerged from an hour of acupuncture and massage at her tender mercies, and I have to admit, as I floated down to the coffee shop on Market Street, I was feeling rather good, but then acupuncture and Chinese massage always does that to me. I’ve been seeing Doc Lin for about six weeks now – hoping she can fix my sense of smell, or rather the lack of it. So far, however, Asnomia still rules.

Try smelling something strong, she says. You mean like coffee, or something? Doc Lin thinks coffee isn’t strong enough to register with my atrophied nasal nerves. How about wife’s perfume, she says. Good thinking, thinks I, to be caught by number two son later on, twisting the tops of all the bottles on my wife’s dressing table, and snorting at them eagerly,.. nothing. Damn! Erm,… hi there, spud. I can explain.

But that was later, after the coffee shop, where I sat a while and enjoyed that delicious post acupuncture feeling. I don’t care if my sense of smell doesn’t come back, so long as I can go on feeling as good as this, if only for an hour a week after Doc Lin’s administrations (except for those pins in the side of my nose which feel like six inch nails when they’re going in) Anyway, apart from that they should make this stuff compulsory. It’s dodgy thinking that causes all the worlds’ problems, says Krishnamurti, and who am I to argue, but an hour of acupuncture and massage makes you think good things, makes you think all is right with the world, makes you content with its untidiness, and your equally untidy, ambiguous position within it. It makes you feel indestructible. And even if you’re not indestructible it makes you feel like you don’t care. And anyway, it’s Friday evening and all is right with the world!

So, I’m sitting in the coffee shop – with an Americano and piece of fruit cake – how urbane I’m becoming? I think not. Beyond the windows there’s the bustle of the town, all umberella’d and hurried under a sudden shower. I love my quiet northern market towns – running always slightly to seed, but somehow managing to hang on. Indestructible we are!

Now, it might be my imagination but I have the impression people look at me strangely when I step out of the acupuncture clinic. Like I said, the coffee shop is usually my first port of call, and the waitress looked at me last week as if George Clooney had just stepped into the joint. I looked around, puzzled. Nope, it’s definitely me she’s looking at, I thought. Has Doc Lin left a pin sticking out of my nose? Is one my acupuncture points still dribbling a little after she took the pins out? Are my flies open? Weird. Or maybe I just look better when I feel better?

Anyway, I’m sitting there with my Americano and my half eaten piece of fruit cake, and I’m looking at my fellow customers out the corner of my eye, and something strikes me. Those who are coupled up are talking. Those who are alone are all of them fiddling with their ‘phones. Except me, I’m thinking, smugly. Why do people have to fiddlew ith their ‘phones all the time. Switch the damned things off, relax, enjoy your coffee. Breathe. But then I notice my ‘phone on the table where I’ve just put it after texting home to number one son. Damn! Pins out, enjoying coffee, all quiet there?

There are changes coming. Number one son is off to university next weekend. I’m secretly dreading his going, dreading my tears when I leave him there. Life is so strange, so fleeting. Five minutes (Eighteen years) ago, he was a small blue baby – sticky, sleepy, glue eyed,.. thrust into my care while the surgeons stitched his mother back together, and I felt the first searing shock of an unconditional love – a grown man of thirty four realising at last there are some things, some people, you would die for without question.

He’s brought me much joy, shall continue to do so, and I shall miss him.

Anyway, that’s enough thinking for now.

I’m off to bed.

Good night all.

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To the ancient (male) poets, poetry was the resulting progeny of a part unconscious, part inspirational, part devotional intercourse with a mythical yet hauntingly ever-present creature called the Muse. Anything else was doggerel and not worth the papyrus scroll it was written on. Beautiful, merciless, demanding of unwavering dedication, yet disproportionately frugal with her favours, the Muse has many guises, but all of them essentially female.

If a poet was respectful of his muse, in sufficient awe of her, and sufficiently in thrall to the muse’s more corporeal and multifarious projections onto mortal women, then his poetry would be profound and recognised at once as the purest utterings of the Divine One herself, unsullied by the poet’s rather more imperfect, and all too human excretions.

In other words, a man does not make poetry up, or for that matter fiction, or music, or paintings, or indeed any other form of art. He seeks inspiration, and by some mysterious contract, all too often signed in the poet’s own blood, the muse delivers the art to him. He merely transcribes it, therefore a wise poet never takes credit for his best work, lest he should court her wrath. Conversely, he must always be ready to accept the crap as his own.

But what happens if the poet, the artist or whatever, is a woman?

Male Muse-Goddess psychology is amply explained in the theories of Carl Jung, who would have termed her “Anima”, the divine feminine. It’s from Anima a man derives his wisdom, his inspiration, and his more intuitive faculties. When it comes to women though, I find Jung is less clear – her soul image being defined instead by an amorphous harem of male figures – which doesn’t sound very mystical and muse-like. But to stick with Jung for a moment, it’s through him the concept of the Muse, the Goddess, or even a belief in fairies is rendered accessible and relatively harmless to otherwise rational minds by a process of de-literalising and internalising.

Rather than devaluing such concepts however, Jungian psychology achieves the opposite, promoting the unconscious imaginal realms these daemonic creatures inhabit to a real, if hidden, collective dimension – or what in classical mythology might be called the Underworld. Jung thereby granted the Goddess a supernatural reality she’d not enjoyed since the banishing of the pagan gods by a stern, male-centric, Christianity.

Through our mythologies we see how many a powerful Goddess once influenced the world stage, and one might be forgiven for thinking both contemporary religion and rational secularism have banished her to such an abject obscurity only poets and other unreliable types still talk of her. But we should be careful, for it is through our own selves the old deities have always lived, and through our own irrational and so often inexplicable behaviour they still wield their mysterious influence in the world.

Thus it was in the middle of the twentieth century, the Goddess found herself reborn among a resurgent neo-pagan faithful, who have been quietly redefining the nature of mystical spiritualism under such banners as Wicca and Modern Witchcraft. And it is from among their ranks, some might argue, and some might even hope, she is earnestly plotting the rescue of both the Great Mother (earth), and humankind from ten thousand years of blood letting at the behest of the formerly all-powerful (and male) Sun God, and his equally misogynic demi-gods of War, Rape and Avarice.

The poet Robert Graves (1895-1985) was a vociferous champion of the Goddess, and in his book “The White Goddess” (1948) he claimed to have uncovered, by a process of linguistic analysis of ancient European and Greek myths, persuasive evidence for a Goddess-centric civilisation predating the classical period and stretching back into Neolithic times. The book was largely ignored by scholars who paused only briefly to point out it’s shortcomings and Graves’ embarrassing lack of authority on the subject. However, later work by archeologist and leading feminist Dr. Marija Gimbutas (1921-1994), found persuasive evidence in support of Graves’ hypothesis.

It seems there are indeed enigmatic traces of a lost European culture – matriarchal, sophisticated in its industry, and possessed of some of the earliest known writing on the planet – dating to 4000 BC – possibly the equal of the Chinese in its documented antiquity. This old European civilisation, according to Gimbutas, also distinguished itself by having left no trace among its artifacts of any history of warfare, or weapons, suggesting a political philosophy of admirably passive coexistence, resulting in a society that was breathtaking for its multi-millenial longevity.

It has to be said, not withstanding the physical evidence, Gimbutas’ unashamedly feminist interpretation does not go uncontested. However, her thesis, presented in her book The Goddess and Gods of Old Europe (1974) along with Graves’ The White Goddess became essential reading for the feminist and Neo Pagan movements.

But whatever the evidence for her possible role as a Neolithic deity, what we can say for sure is that the Goddess-Muse constitutes an abiding pattern of psychic energy, one whose presence has always been a powerful force in creation. But to come back to my earlier question, given her voracious and vampire like appetite for men, what about women?

If the muse is possessed of such sexually desirable feminine attributes, how can a woman show sufficient devotion as befits art, without distorting her own sexuality? Do women poets, for example, have male muses instead? Can the muse even be conceived of in masculine terms? As a man myself I’m outraged at the very thought, so devoted and protective am I of the Muse-Goddess. Therefore, are only men and moon-struck Lesbians capable of writing decent love letters? And are not all love letters incantations to the Muse, rather than to the poor young lady in question, and on whose shoulder the Muse just happens to be sitting at the time?

These are provocative questions, and clearly I’ll need to tread carefully. Or perhaps not, for since women are every bit as capable as men of sublime artistic expression, the Muse, or the Goddess, is clearly working through them anyway, and we can define it however we like. Just because a woman is an artist it does not make her Saphically inclined, so what is the nature of her relationship with the Muse? And similarly if she aspires to the ranks of neo-pagan neophytes, how does she relate, spiritually, to the Goddess, given that the female psyche is wired so differently to the male? Ah,… I think there might be a clue here.

Graves addresses this enigma in The White Goddess, and I also see answers to it in the WordPress musings of neo-pagan adepts, a great many of whom of course are women. And of those women, a great many I note are also very young. This is interesting, for they are exposed to the same youth-targeted, and overwhelmingly consumerist distractions as others of their age, yet they draw something from the archetype of the Goddess they find uniquely empowering, uniquely capable of granting them the gift of transcendence. By this I mean that through the Goddess concept, they are capable of communing with the spirit, where so many of the godless, and even the nominally religious see nothing of the spirit at all, but instead a bland consumerist edifice where is written the somewhat cynical mantra of our times: “I consume, therefore I am”.

Graves, although a severe and curmudgeonly critic of faddish and pretentious poets, did not admonish women who dallied with the perils of poetic genius. Rather he urged women to recognise their essential femininity, and to write as women, and not to try to write like men whose vision and whose relationship with the muse, by dint of male psychology, is always going to be different.

So after all of that I think the answer slowly reveals itself. A man’s relationship with the Goddess-Muse is one of subservience. She is the dominatrix, sometimes cruel, but just sweet enough, and often enough, to hold the man in thrall. Sometimes dismissed by non-artists as the result of infantile male sexual fantasy, this is none the less how the Muse engages men and goes about her business. For the woman though it’s different. For the woman, the aim is never to court the Goddess, but rather to avail herself and, if favoured, then to be the Goddess. And therin lies the innate power of any woman, be it through her art or in the potential of her relationships with men.

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