An Artist’s Prayer
by Alex Conall
History does not repeat but rhymes,
each verse an echo of the one before.
Please sing, O Muse, a song of bygone times,
of justice, torment, victory, and war.
Please sing to me of things I need to know
to keep from hurting people with my art
by treading all unknowing on some old
injustice that will hurt a broken heart.
Please tell me how, where, when my work echoes
in harmful ways our art and history,
so I may fix it, make the rhyme scheme be
something more just than unjust—this path I chose.
Learn from history, we must, lest we
repeat it, rhyme it, as the case may be.
Love being vital to each, every life,
and sex important to most of us all,
please sing, O Muse, of storied romance rife
with love declared and beauty praised, and scrawl
haiku of love, or sonnets, even songs,
explicit, double meaning, innocent.
Please sing of star-crossed lovers righting wrongs,
of lovers true who must be heaven-sent.
And sing for any sexuality,
all genders—everyone can love, and well.
Sing of my love! Muse, hear my heartfelt plea!
We all have love stories that you can tell.
Love poems speak to mind and soul and heart,
though bodies may be focus of this art.
Understanding how the wide world works
is key to realistic art, and so,
please sing, O Muse, of searching patent clerks
and other people who seek but to know
the mysteries of the world. Sing of surprise
and serendipity, experiment
and method, careful thought: the only prize
is knowledge. Sing of quarks, of elements,
mechanics quantum, relativity,
of psychophysics, of geology,
of logic, mathematics, botany,
of economics, sociology.
Your sphere is broad, O Muse, and vital too,
for every day we know more than we knew.
Dance, Muse! Do not confine yourself to the
kalamatianos, syrtos Greek;
at Irish jigs, reels, hornpipes try your feet,
and dances from some farther places seek:
rasa lila, bhangra, odori, mai,
and square dance, hip-hop, salsa, tango,
rain dance, disco, swing, tap, jazz, ballet,
flamenco, rumba, waltz, Cotton-Eyed Joe.
Solo, group, and partnered dances lie
within your sphere, and choreography,
the endless hours of practice, every cry,
the ease of the performance watchers see,
the difficulty of the dancers’ prep,
the joy of every well-timed turn, jump, step.
Art that leaves the audience with smiles,
since it is vital to a healthy life,
should be created in as many styles
as there are people. Conflict, pain, and strife,
they have no place in comedy unless
they can be made hilarious. We should
be mocking powerful, not powerless.
And satire is a tool with which we could
make level scales of Justice, who’s not blind
to wealth and power. All that matters, though,
is that we laugh, and that we pay some mind
to hurting none with jokes and quips we know.
Perhaps with wordplay and self-mockery
and punching up, not down; yes, that’s the key.
Art that leaves the audience in tears
brings sympathy for characters in pain.
It’s better that we cry than cheer or jeer
at hurts inflicted by those who, in main,
are we. We’re cruel sometimes, and thoughtless too:
would that my art helps us to neither be!
Sing, O Muse, of what we should not do
if we are to avoid a tragedy:
we must live life, not tragic art, and hurt
and pain and suffering are not things we
should wish on anyone: we should divert
our strength to winning everybody free.
Tragic art is beautiful, it’s true—
that people live them? That, we ought to rue.
The long-form artwork—novel, epic poem,
the movie, TV season: these are yours,
O Muse, and we spend months or years at home
creating them, and hours behind closed doors
enjoying them. Effects of media
consumption can’t be understated: we
might learn from the encyclopedia,
and know it to be learning, but you see,
“black woman on TV—she ain’t no maid!”
told black girls that they needn’t be what white
folk, men folk would confine them to. Well played,
but why stop there? For folk of color write,
and women, queer folk, list goes on and on:
Muse, help us have control of how we’re drawn.
Lyric poetry is short and sweet,
more so at any rate than epics are—
thus disregarded. So, the song, the tweet,
the sketch, the skit, they might not pass the bar
to be Real Art as critics say, but still
they’re real and true, and things that anyone
can do, if only they have nerve and will.
They practice take, of course, but can be done
without, if not as well. Art needs thought,
and sometimes there’s more contemplation in
a flash fic than novella. We were taught
that only some art’s real: oh, what a sin.
Not all art’s good, but all of it’s worthwhile,
so each may find our individual style.
If music be the food of love, play on,
for worlds are changed by music and by song.
Sing of what you will, but let it dawn
on listeners that you say something’s wrong:
that people kill and die in needless war,
that people are much hurt by bigotry,
that these are painful things that you abhor,
that these are things from which you want us free.
Your sphere is hymns, perhaps, not all of song,
but protest songs are hymns, for we who pray
to God and gods do so to right a wrong,
in hopes of just redress to come today.
Muse, help us all to of injustice sing
and hope, compassion, justice, mercy bring.
I seek not to command but to entreat,
because, artist myself, the last thing I
could want is to offend my muse. It’s meet
that I give back to you, though I am shy,
what you, O Muses, kindly gave to me.
I thank you, and I mean to use it well.
For I believe that creativity
is meant for great things: stories ours to tell,
in the artistic medium we need
to tell the story best. The world is quite
imperfect; it’s our sacred task to feed
the good parts so that they grow strong and bright,
to starve the bad parts so that they will fade.
I thank you, Muses, for this art I’ve made.
Sing, queens of art!
by M. A. Rivera
Mnemosyne, Mother Memory
Mother of the Muses Nine
Whose touch resides deep within
Like the roots of great trees
Or little, delicate flowers
You bind us to the ground of our being
Calling us back to ourselves
When we forget who we are
What we have done
What there is to do
Receive our praise and ever be strong amongst us
Lest we forget the ways to the houses of the Gods
Lest we forget to drink from your fountain and drink
Save us from such a fate, Great Titanic Queen!
And we will remember you, forevermore, throughout the ages
I Sing the Muses Nine
by Amanda Artemisia Forrester
I sing the daughters of Mnemosyne, Muses Nine
Sweet Inspirers of all arts fine
I call You to attend to my song
Written in Your honor, beauteous Goddesses
Who delight in ink spilled in Their names
First I sing of Kalliope, the eldest
Who tells the epic tales
Grand deeds of ancient heroes and noble kings
Mother of Orpheus, the Thrakian poet
Torn asunder by Dionysos’ maddened women.
Lovely Erato of soft voice, She
Who sings the glorious melding of lover’s bodies
Of sweat, of heat, of illicit kisses hidden in the dark
Bawdy limericks and love poems alike
Owe their origin to Erato.
Holy Historian Kleio
Pouring over ancient tomes
Rememberer of the forgotten
Whose stories bring the dead to life
So that we may learn from our past.
Euterpe plucking Her lyre strings
She rarely speaks with words
She speaks in melodies, in musical notes
And the silences between them.
Laughing Thaleia full of mirth
Celestial comedian of toothy grin
Bright eyes crinkling
With the laughter of a thousand years
Pleasant company, She is always welcome
Tragic Melpomene behind Her mask
Whom sad-eyed Goths adore
Inspirer of sad and lonesome tales
From Oedipus’s misfortune and Troy’s fall,
To Macbeth’s treachery and Hamlet’s madness
Terpsikhore dancing Her whirling dance
Supple body bending, twisting
Swirl, spin, whirl, prance,
Like a reed in the wind
All eyes upon Her, all souls entrance
Polyhymnia sing Thy sacred hymns
Praise raising like incense to the skies
She who inspires holy piety
Songs like veils o’er Thy limbs
And worship shining from Thy eyes
Ourania, sacred astrologer
Rich-haired Muse of Science
Patroness of astronomers,
Bent over Her globes and charts
Glorious Goddesses, bless me
Attend the singing of my voice
And the scratching of my pen
And I will honer You e’ermore
In thought, in song, and deed.
In Praise of the Mousai
I raise my voice in praise of Mnemosyne’s nine Daughters
Talented and beautiful They are
Their voices ring out on Mounts Parnassus and Olympos
Their feet dance to the rhythm of Apollon’s lyre.
Such Goddesses They are!
Erato sings songs of love and longing
How well She knows the passion of mankind
Clio writes down the deeds of kings and heroes
And knows the past so well
Melpomene wears the sad mask of tragedy
And knows the lessons tragedy provides mankind
Thalia wears the joyful mask of comedy
And knows how laughter can heal broken spirits and hearts
Urania gazes at the night time sky
And knows the secrets of the cosmos
Polyhymnia wears a veil modestly on Her head
And sings solemn songs of praise to the Gods
Euterpe plays the double-flute
And knows how music can lift melancholy souls
Terpsichore gracefully dances on light feet
And knows how dance moves a person in time to the spinning stars and planets
And great Calliope,
Mother of Dionysos’ prophet Orpheus
To You we give thanks for the inspiration you gave Homer and the other ancient poets
For without You we would not have known what our ancestors thought and felt
Hail to the Mousai! We give thanks for the many gifts You have given mankind. We give thanks for the inspiration You have given singers, historians, playwrights, astronomers, musicians, dancers, and poets. Io Mousai!
To the Mousai
And I sing of you, dear Goddesses,
who help with every poem and hymn,
the Nine Maidens of Mount Helicon.
You are the ones who pour out beautiful speech,
and make us proficient at singing and dancing.
Playing upon your harps, you fill the world with lovely music,
and make things enchanted, beautiful, and wonderful.
You are very dear to my heart, you daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne.
And I will remember you always.