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21   Century Brief Epistle to the Reader

In the spirit of Margaret (Lucas) Cavendish (1623–1673)




To say the least, I am not a very prolific author. Majestic Paradox is a collection of poems written over 30 some years. The structure of the book is chronological, the first poem from the 1960’s and the last around the early 2000’s. The muse and I have had an on-again off-again relationship over those years. I struggled to stay away from her, but she kept dragging me back to the empty page, usually in the dead of night when, on the whole, I would rather have been sleeping.


Abreactionary Surrealism – that’s what someone decades ago labeled my poetry. I suppose it is as good an appellation as any. Each of my poems is an experiment, some more successful than others, yet each an honest attempt. The reader can judge.


I have been asked what/who have been my influences. I guess just about all the mid-twentieth century writers:  Mark Strand, Richard Eberhart, W.H Auden, William Carlos Williams, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Robert Lowell, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Dan Masterson, Donald Hall, W.D. Snodgrass, Randall Jarrell, Robert Frost, Richard Wilbur, Wallace Stevens, W.S. Merwin and many I’m sure I’m forgetting. Of all these, Allen Ginsberg (“… America I'm putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.”) and Anne Sexton (“… The thoroughbred has stood on her foot.  He rested there like a building….”) are the antipodal influences. I was fortunate to meet each of them – both meetings took place in the late 1960’s - each a completely different experience.


I met Anne in a poetry workshop, her presence and power immediately arresting and apparent. Her gaze was always not only on the outer world, but directed inwardly to a degree I had not experienced before and have not since. Just talking with her taught me much; however, to define the lesson is almost impossible.


Allen was a different story! We met at a world poetry conference held at Stony Brook University. During a party held at Louis Simpson’s house we, along with Donald Hall, drunkenly danced arm-in-arm in the living room until one of us (which one I will not here reveal) fell into the fireplace. Like Anne, just being with Allen for a short time taught me something – once again indefinable except to say it was joyful.


Most of my works are based on some sort of dialogue with the aforementioned insistent muse – thus the subtitle: the Many Deaths of the Muse. Most of this dialogue expresses the love/hate relationship that has developed over the years; I suppose basically trying to define these midnight liaisons and understand the genesis of the creative process. If I had to choose the character of the muse that visits me, I would have to say a combination of Erato and Melpomene with a very light touch of Thalia thrown in (certainly not Calliope). Whoever she is, her visits essentially stopped with the new century - that is until recently. She seems to be making a comeback. Perhaps it is because, as I age, I seem to be able to deal with waking in the middle of the night better, or maybe because I am nearer to the end of “that fearsome arc of returning.”


Michael D. Blaisdell

May, 2016


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