I have been suffering from writer’s block for most of a month now, two months maybe. Part of the problem is that I’m working on four different projects: a book on the standing metaphor (almost impossibly broad and perhaps beyond my ability altogether), final work on proofs of Zarko’s and my book “On Friendship,” a third book drawn from two years living with 94-95-year-old Walter Furman in Princeton (“The Absolute Depravity of all Inanimate Objects”), and an essay on my experiences as a reader of works by Peter Handke for his 80th birthday. Wracked by insecurity, I move from one to the other, read widely, order promising new books (just this morning I ordered Timothy Bewes’ Free Indirect: The Novel in a Postfictional Age for help describing Handke’s novels), revise a paragraph and revise it again the next day, never pressing on…you get the picture.
In short, I was desperately in need of the revelation I had this morning.
In a dream, I walked into the house of a composite muse: Callipe—muse of epic poetry, Thalia—muse of comedy and pastoral poetry, and Erato—muse of love poetry. While bearing the characteristics of all three Greeks, the muse I encountered was a single person comprised of attributes of three Utah Poet Laureates whose work I deeply admire: Katharine Coles, Paisley Rekdal, and Lisa Bickmore. (Where were you, Lance Larsen?)
In awe of the muse, fearful about my reception, I noticed suddenly that I was naked except for tightly fitted underwear.
She noticed as well and approached me with a smile.
She kissed me…a long, warm, sweet, increasingly erotic kiss.
Someone else entered the room and the kiss ended. They left and the muse kissed me again … kept kissing as I grew aroused.
“Grew aroused,” I thought. That’s an apt metaphor. Don’t be a pedant, I told myself, and leaned into the kiss.
Although the erotic aspect of the kiss didn’t lessen (thank god! … I mean thank the muse), I could feel a growing sense of well being, a widening sense of my abilities, a rising confidence, a flood of new ideas. Suffused with those feelings, I woke up, made coffee, and began to write:
Twenty years ago I visited Peter Handke at his home in Chaville, between Paris and Versailles. We talked about his travels in the former Yugoslavia with my friend and co-author Žarko Radaković. He sautéed mushrooms and served them with dark bread and Portuguese white wine. He showed me a letter from Roger Straus to Siegfried Unseld, Handke’s German publisher: “We have a problem … his name is Peter Handke.” The books weren’t selling as they once had.