Varjak Paul on Inspiration

Varjak Paul, in his --th year, wrote in his journal:

“My writing is not entirely mine; it cannot be. Part and parcel of all my words, the surroundings and experiences from which the words germinated are not things for which I may rightly take credit. I have come to think, as a sort of saving grace in moments of megalomania, that I have stolen from everyone and everything with whom I have come in contact. My words, my ideas, my creations are all little more than the dreams of a child, assembled from the events of his days.”

In what some have viewed as a startling contradiction to the above passage, Paul maintained an outspoken belief in the Muse. To Paul, the Muse was a being every bit as real as his wife. His journal entries detail particular incidents, supposedly face-to-face interaction with the muse, and portray her as a kind of understanding older sister, consistently and gently pushing the Paul toward new truths. During his lifetime, Paul countered such arguments regarding the seemingly contradictory nature of his belief in the Muse and his belief that all creative activity is a product of environment and experience, albeit briefly and subtly, in the form of poetic commentary. The poem “asleep, and asleep” (serves as possibly the best example:

‘neath panes of moon
panes of blue and greyellow
small smiling child blinks
dreamily swimmingly)
of dangers from the schoolyard
foes friends created
not blinking so
and narrated by songs from the radio
on landscapes sculpted from
bits of cheese, or perhaps dessert

‘neath panes of truth
panes of untruth and doubt
small smiling someone drinks in
knowingly unknowingly)
as the styling One sneaks
in, “there’s treasure
and out again.

asleep, and asleep
‘neath panes of moonblue
and greyellow
small smiling child blinks
dreamily, swimmingly)

Most scholars interpret this poem as pointing toward the “styling One,” or the Muse, as the organizing force exerted upon our reflections on experience. Paul was attempting to show that while a paradox may exist here, it is one of organizing value. The Muse, for him, focused his understanding of experience such that it could be re-presented in words. To paraphrase an idea from Paul’s Daylily, the Muse and our experience, as inspirational sources, are at once at odds and in perfect harmony, they present both conflict and resolution. This notion, that the universe is ordered on twin foundations of paradox and harmony, remains both the key and a barrier to understanding many of Varjak Paul’s ideas.


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