Jack of Many Trades

Orpheus and Inspiration

Originally posted: 2012-09-13

Over at Pagan Reveries, Ryan has posted several poems about Orpheus and the Orphic tradition. Now it just so happens that one of my favorite authors is the poet Jack Spicer, and it so happens that he's written more than once using Orpheus as a theme, so I figured today was a good day to be sharing some of his poetry.

Spicer is an interesting figure: he lectured on the subject of "dictated" poetry- a state of inspiration where the poems are essentially given directly to the poet from whoever is responsible for inspiration. Spicer called them Martians, but I have my own suspicions about where my writing comes from.

It very much feels like taking dictation sometimes, regardless of the source.


Sharp as an arrow Orpheus Points his music downward. Hell is there At the bottom of the seacliff. Heal Nothing by this music. Eurydice Is a frigate bird or a rock or some seaweed. Hail nothing The infernal Is a slippering wetness out at the horizon. Hell is this: The lack of anything but the eternal to look at The expansiveness of salt The lack of any bed but one’s Music to sleep in.

Orpheus in Hell

When he first brought his music into hell

He was absurdly confident. Even over the noise of the

shapeless fires

And the jukebox groaning of the damned

Some of them would hear him. In the upper world

He had forced the stones to listen.

It wasn’t quite the same. And the people he remembered

Weren’t quite the same either. He began looking at faces

Wondering if all of hell were without music.

He tried an old song but pain

Was screaming on the jukebox and the bright fire

Was pelting away the faces and he heard a voice saying,


He was at the entrance again

And a little three-headed dog was barking at him.

Later he would remember all those dead voices

And call them Eurydice.