Like the Muses, they are attracted to talent and promising projects, and the presence of several at once probably means you are on to something big. Still, they can frustrate or even destroy the most inspired tender new poem, and send the poet into despair, alcoholism, or flash fiction. The more we know about them, the better.


Their mother is Amnesia, “Forgetfulness.”
They are goddesses, 13 in number:
Typo
She who holds the alphabet under her terrifying mis-spell.
Blabē
The Anti-Muse of computer (typewriter, fountain pen, goose quill) malfunction
Keno
The Anti-Muse charged with the terrifying void of the blank page. As her symbol is Zero, she also governs poetry royalty checks.
Krisis
The Anti-Muse of unsympathetic, snarky and condescending reviews. Yes, it is possible to dismiss an entire book of poetry on the grounds of capitalized lines.
Tripsichorē
“She of two left feet.” If your rhythms clunk, your lines lurch, your sonnet does not scan, this Anti-Muse may well be to blame. Mind you, if everything you write goes da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM, you may be under the sway of her equally evil twin, the jackbooted Metronomē.
Errato
Not to be confused with her half-sister, Erato. She is the (Anti-) Muse of false revision. Also, she whispers the name “Cortez” when you should be writing “Balboa”.
Anecdotē
She governs rejection slips and rigged book-publishing contests and all impediments, real and imagined, to publication. She also inspires poets to versify pointless incidents from their everyday lives.
Telephonē
Her name means “voice from afar,” thus “interruption”. Sometimes this Anti-Muse manifests herself as the shrill ringing of an annoying device. Sometimes it is a small child calling for a cookie from across the length of the house. Her seat of worship is Porlock.
Pezo
She is the Anti-Muse of Prose disguised as Verse by Line-breaks.
Chimaera
Represented with the head of a warthog, the body of a Slinky, the wings of a bat, and the tail of a beaver, she holds sway over all mixed and misbegotten metaphors.
Polyhohumnia
The Anti-Muse of verbiage, 1000 words that create no picture. She also governs graphomania in all its manifestations, and the related ekdotomania, the compulsion to publish a new book every year.
Hyperbolē
The goddess of blurbs.
Ann-Athema
A total lack of subject matter, thus a curse on confessional poets with nothing to confess. Suddenly the poet starts writing poems about sitting down at his desk with his leisurely morning coffee, looking out the window, and writing a poem ("Morning Coffee"). See also Anecdotē.

Originally Published: September 24th, 2007

A. E. (Alicia) Stallings studied classics in Athens, Georgia and has lived since 1999 in Athens, Greece. She has published three books of poetry, Archaic Smile (1999), which won the Richard Wilbur Award; Hapax (2000); and Olives (2012). Her new verse translation of Lucretius (in rhyming fourteeners!), The Nature of Things,...

  1. September 24, 2007
     Steve

    These are awesome. (And only slightly Audenesque.) I should add only that some of the most popular living poets (I have one in mind, whose work I don't like very much) and some of the best of those recently deceased (again, I have one in mind) wrote about leisurely walks, w/ dog or w/o dog, quite often: mediocre poems on such subjects may strike their fans-- the fans who drive hours to cubicles-- as escape literature, and are not to be despised for it, though they may be despised for their general lack of interest, or predictability, or on other grounds.

  2. September 24, 2007
     Ange

    Fabulous!

  3. September 25, 2007
     Alicia (A. E.)

    Thanks, folks. Yeah, I was wondering if anyone was going to take me to task for the last one... (thinking also of Emily D.)--I'll probably do some tweaking.

  4. September 25, 2007
     Alicia (AE)

    OK--Ann-Athema tweaked a bit, per Steve's feedback... I hope she doesn't get angry with me!

  5. September 25, 2007
     rachel hadas

    Bravissima!!!

  6. September 25, 2007
     Jilly Dybka

    That is so hilarious -- thank you.

  7. September 25, 2007
     KateBB

    The confessional poet with nothing to confess--Definitely I was an acolyte of Ann-Athema there for a while. I even wrote a little ditty called "Coffee Break" (... Uncapped, the smell alone will get you with a junkie's hunger...) Of course, it was supposed to be funny.
    Anyway, these are perfect!

  8. September 25, 2007
     Peter P

    Oh this is a-musing!
    Touche!
    I would add:
    Bromidia: Anti-Muse of the platitude and the trivial.
    Ellipsis: Anti-Muse of that for which we can't find the words.

  9. September 25, 2007
     Jesse

    "despair, alcoholism, or flash fiction" got me reading, and the rest kept me giggling with a "been there done that sigh." Very clever!

  10. September 27, 2007
     Rob M

    "the compulsion to publish a new book every year."
    Yes, or even every two or three years. It's great when poets take their time and don't include so many 'passengers' in their collections.
    I enjoyed all of these, by the way. Very funny!

  11. September 27, 2007
     Paul

    Perhaps Pezo also has a twin, Prostono, who governs tombstone blocks of prose disguized as prose-poems by their lack of line-breaks. And there's Chevrita, who brings forth the urge to write verse about losing virginity in the back seat of whatever.
    I can imagine your list of anti-muses expanded to dictionary size, and including a selection of anti-duendes.
    Thanks for making my day.
    Paul