The following article is from the Academy of American Poets.
Many poets claim an inspiration beyond their conscious mind as a vital part of their writing. This channeling of creative force manifests in a variety of ways—inspired by gods, God, aliens, deceased spirits, “something out there,” or by a psychiatric condition.
Explore the varied tradition of poets’ channeling—and what happens when the muse takes over.
|Blake’s Angels Besides his dream visitations from the prophet Elijah, William Blake also believed his dead brother could communicate with him from beyond the grave.||Hugo’s Table Tapping Victor Hugo’s first memorable encounter with a spirit while table-tapping was a visitation from his deceased daughter.|
|Yeats’s Spiritus Mundi W.B. Yeats’s marriage was held together by the fact that his wife’s sleep-talking happened to come from the spirit-world.||Lorca’s Duende The word duende literally translates into “having goblins.”|
|Pessoa’s Hysterical Heteronyms “The origin of my heteronyms,” writes Pessoa, “is basically an aspect of hysteria that exists within me.”||Merrill’s Ouija Board James Merrill’s conversation with an otherworldy fruitbat, via Ouija, garnered him the National Book Critics Circle Award.|
|Spicer’s Martian Transmissions Jack Spicer described poets as “radios,” who pick up transmissions from “Martians.”||Mackey’s Dogon Elders Nathaniel Mackey’s serial poem “Mu” gives voice to the elders of the Dogon tribe of central Mali.|
|Notley’s Automatic Writing What would a dead mother tell her daughter if she could communicate with her from the afterlife? Notley answers this question.||Brathwaite’s Madwoman Défilée The poet channels forces as diverse as his recently deceased girlfriend to the mad girlfriend of a slain Haitian Emperor.|
|CAConrad’s DIY Séance “It’s true to say the poem is there, it’s right there, it’s always there, and it’s waiting, actually waiting for us.”|
Special thanks to Max Ritvo for his research and writing contributions to this suite of articles.