I read a couple of articles recently about Leonard Cohen's inspiration for his poem/song, "Suzanne". One talked about the recent renovations to the small, now "boutique" hotel in Montreal where Suzanne Verdal had a room in the 1960's: her "place by the River." The other article talked about Suzanne herself, who is now virtually homeless and lives out of the back of a renovated wood camper in California. In this second article, an academic speculates on the rights and responsabilities of The Muse: "Is the muse expendable? Perhaps....The muse is the source of what there is, the inspiration. Does the muse have a claim on anything more than that role? My instinct tells me no."
I imagine it would be the death of poetry if artists began having to pay licensing fees or royalties to the people who serve as their creative inspiration, yet at the same time, I can't help but feel irked at the injustice of Verdal's situation. Cohen and others have profited from the song Verdal inspired. The hotel, in the hands of the right marketing manager, can claim landmark status because Verdal once kept a small room there - all while Verdal herself lives out of the back of a truck.
As far as I know, I've never been anybody's muse. I likely don't have the right temperament for it. Maybe I'm not mysterious enough,or beautiful enough, or exotic enough - Maybe I lack that intangible "X" factor that gives certain people a luminous aura that draws one in like a moth to a flame. Maybe it's because it's obvious that I'd only end up wanting to art direct the project myself (which obviously would ruin everything). The one thing I'm really not is passive.
Does the muse get to have his or her own creative life?
I wish that Leonard Cohen would buy Suzanne Verdal a place by a river so she could park her van for a while. Or a place in Venice Beach overlooking the Pacific. Whatever. There's something disturbing about the disposability of the Muse.
Leonard Cohen - Suzanne
Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by
You can spend the night beside her
And you know that she's half crazy
But that's why you want to be there
And she feeds you tea and oranges
That come all the way from China
And just when you mean to tell her
That you have no love to give her
Then she gets you on her wavelength
And she lets the river answer
That you've always been her lover
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that she will trust you
For you've touched her perfect body with your mind.
|Leonard Cohen - "Suzanne"|