I'm guessing you are the creative type. Maybe you paint, maybe you write, maybe you create dance moves or you design elaborate dance halls or bedrooms. It's not a far stretch for me to guess that you are a creative type because, in some ways, I think we all are.
When Bruce Springsteen wrote the song "Blinded By The Light" I always imagined that the Calliope in the song ("the Calliope crashed to the ground") was a young, misunderstood, and very creative girl. I don't know this, of course, and I know many songologists will elaborate or maybe even leave troubling commentary to set the record straight (I like that: "set the RECORD straight). So before my point is derailed by my own "gun shy" delusions and I'm distracted by imaginary critics I will move on and leave the debate to those who like to debate these kinds of things.
Bruce's song came out in 1973. That is the year I graduated from high school. That is also the year I drove to New York City to meet with Ed Freeman, the record producer who worked with Don McLean on the American Pie album. The music in my 1970 Nova on the drive to New York that Summer came from a small cassette player. I had a box of a dozen cassettes or so. Among them was "Greetings From Asbury Park."
You see, I embraced New York City. I embraced it because it is where I was born, it is where I played when, at 14 years old, I figured out I could ride the train from Long Island and be part of "The City," and it is the place I missed immensely when, at 17 years old, my family moved to Dunnellon, Florida. So, I was listening to Bruce Springsteen a lot. (I know he's from New Jersey but, trust me on this, Springsteen, to me, represented the "feel" of New York.)
I was always attracted to artists like Bruce. He was gritty. He pushed against the "status quo." His music "cut like a knife." Same thing with John Lennon, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan.
So, let's get back to Calliope. Strangely, last year (2020), Dylan released a song called "Mother Of Muses," in which he writes: "I’m falling in love with Calliope. She doesn’t belong to anybody - why not give her to me? She’s speaking to me, speaking with her eyes. I’ve grown so tired of chasing lies."
Maybe Bob Dylan always thought of Bruce's Calliope the way I had. The creative girl. The muse. The goddess.
As a society we tend to look upon the truly creative people as weird or even as troubling. Yet, if they can break through all of that nonsense, we celebrate their creativity. We celebrate their weirdnesses. We even celebrate how they were troubling.
On Don McLean's album, "American Pie," he also included the song "Vincent." It is because of THAT song that I wanted to be part of that circle when I was in high school. It is that song that led me to write to Ed Freeman. It is the acknowledgement that there is something deeper in art than a pretty picture or a catchy song or a dazzling choreography. In Vincent, one of the most beautiful homages written about Vincent Van Gogh, Don McLean writes, "Now, I understand what you tried to say to me. And how you suffered for your sanity. And how you tried to set them free. They would not listen, they did not know how. Perhaps they'll listen now."
So I painted this picture and titled it "Calliope." She is a bit disheveled. She is posing by a chain link fence. She has a star painted around her eye. She seems, perhaps, a bit of an outcast and unwanted yet, at the same time, curiously attractive. Not just physically attractive but something undefined that tells us she is creative and pushes against the status quo.
Calliope is an artist in my reincarnation of her. Of course, she has always been an artist. Her poetry has been her art. In fact she, herself, is art. Think of Madonna, the pop star. She was the Calliope of her early years in the public eye. In fact in an interview in 1991 she is quoted as saying, "“I am my own experiment. I am my own work of art.”
But Madonna is one of those Calliopes that soared to amazing heights. So many other Calliopes "crashed to the ground." They crashed because of many reasons. The saddest reason, though, is feeling no self worth, being told she (or he) is no good at their art, being critiqued into submission, or simply being forced to abandon their dreams and sacrifice the creative spirit that was at their very core.
Vincent Van Gogh, you might say, was a male Calliope that crashed to the ground. He died without having sold any of his paintings (except one to his brother). Fortunately, for us, his genius was discovered after his death and that "crashed Calliope" found posthumous recognition.
Sculptor Augusta Savage was another "Calliope." She lived from 1892 to 1962. Augusta was born near Jacksonville, Florida, and moved to New York City when she was a young woman. In 1923 she applied for a summer art program but was rejected because of her race. Look her up.
There is an inexhaustible list of "Calliopes." My point in this blog is not to list them all but to call attention to the Calliope who might be reading this.
Yes. The Calliope I want to reach is YOU.
Whatever you do, wherever you go, however successful or unsuccessful you may become, don't let your own inner Calliope ever EVER "crash to the ground." Stay true to that creative spirit that is within you.
It is who you are.
Yes, you ARE Calliope.