van gogh’s ear iv – david gascoyne, surrealism and the vanishing muse

By Darran Anderson

van gogh_s earA great deal has been written down the ages about the poetic muse: what it is, where it comes from and how to channel it. Most of this has been utter drivel, hyperbole to canonise poets as something akin to divine saints or soothsayers: the Mystic Megs of the literary world. A more interesting question arises when you consider not why or how the muse arrives but why, for some, it disappears? The writers who have it and lose it, the one-hit wonders, the child actors turned Baby Jane. Those who pissed away their inspiration through comfort, lost it through simple misfortune or had it stolen from them by madness.
A case in point is the late David Gascoyne whose poem And the Seventh Dream is the Dream of Isis ranks alongside Coleridge’s Kubla Khan, the paintings of Conroy Maddox and Emmy Bridgwater and the visions of William Blake and Lewis Carroll as one of the greatest of that rarest of things; English Surrealism. A writer who connected briefly with genius and wrote a poem so monumental it casts a long shadow over everything else he wrote or failed to write. To say that Gascoyne struck lucky is unfair given the skill with which he constructed his poems but his legacy is one that suggests true inspiration is a fleeting mercurial thing.

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Filed under History, Study

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