Introduction Shadow Mouth

  • Jed Rasula
Part of the Modern and Contemporary Poetry and Poetics book series (MPCC)


To speak in earnest about the Muse in the twenty-first century is tantamount to admitting a paradox, which is that poetry persists despite its attachment to what might seem a disabling anachronism. This is hardly an original consideration; Robert Graves made the same point fifty years ago in The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth: “I am still amused at the paradox of poetry’s obstinate continuance in the present phase of civilization” (3). Graves’ mission in The White Goddess is dedicated to a fundamentalism evident in his vocabulary:

The reason why the hairs stand on end, the eyes water, the throat is constricted, the skin crawls and a shiver runs down the spine when one writes or reads a true poem is that a true poem is necessarily an invocation of the White Goddess, or Muse, the Mother of All Living, the ancient power of fright and lust—the female spider or the queen-bee whose embrace is death. Housman offered a secondary test of true poetry: whether it matches a phrase of Keat’s’, “everything that reminds me of her goes through me like a spear.” (12)


Female Spider Lyric Poetry Modern Poetics Good Poem Poetic Inspiration 
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© Jed Rasula 2009

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  • Jed Rasula

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