Reviewed by Caitlin Busch

Not a Muse is touted as a “post-feminist” work in its synopsis, before that notion is deconstructed in its preface. Considering how complex the inner lives of women are, it is a very complete collection. Submissions were accepted from a wide variety of poets: over 100 amateur & professional writers from 24 different countries are included in the published text. The reader has an unparalleled opportunity to participate in a wide array of stories, all in one volume.

This anthology is divided into themes:

Creator|Family|Archetype|Explorer|Myth maker|Home maker|Landscape|Lover|Freedom fighter|Keeper of secrets|Keeper of memories|Ageing

These themes make Not a Muse especially exciting for fans of literary theory, students and writers. Each poem is attributed a particular theme by the editors and it’s a delightful challenge to figure out why each poem belongs to its chapter. The poets cover topics like the arts, nature, goodbyes, cooking, motherhood, childlessness, sex, love, abuse, adultery, maturity and widowhood… and that’s only the beginning: there are 543 pages of excellent poetry here!

There are too many selections I want to recommend from this volume. I’m afraid it would be unfair to the other authors to do so and it would bore the reader with yet another list. I will mention one as an example of 21st century spirit behind Not a Muse: “This Is the Muse” by Gol McAdam. It opens up the old archetype of the [amazonify]988180941X[/amazonify]muse to a contemporary audience. In the course of the poem, the muse is revealed to be a synapse: a biochemical process, instead of a spirit or goddess. Instead of traveling between heavenly bodies and the Earth, the Muse travels within the brain via synapses. She is as romanticized as she’s ever been, but language is here used to glorify a scientific reality rather than a spectral one. Greek myths need not apply.

Poetry is the creation or retelling of stories using word-, sound- and sense-scapes, so it can be very unnatural to break the narrator’s voice by explaining a literary reference or Latin phrase. In a volume like Not a Muse, the end notes are endlessly useful to the reader when the poet has crafted a work that relies (all or in part) on such references. Brief biographies of the authors are also provided, which fascinate and often help interpret the voices in their poems.

Not a Muse has so many moving parts; depending how you approach it, the book could be escapist or a highly involved read. I believe it would make an excellent text for a master class – and I wish I could take that class. I am fortunate to have had the time to fully bond with this book; I am so glad to have it on my bookshelf and have nothing but praise for it.

Rating: 4.5/5

Caitlin is a fiction writer who also dabbles in poetry, creative nonfiction and acrylic painting. When not reading, she enjoys hiking, cooking and spending time with friends and pets. She earned her B.A. in English from the University of Portland and currently resides in Oregon.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by PR by the Book. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.