William Butler Yeats, one of my favourite poets, was a man of great passions -- for the Irish nationalist movement in the early 20th century; for the occult -- Theosophy and Rosacrucianism, in particular: and for Maud Gonne, a wealthy and beautiful nationalist firebrand. His poetry about The Troubles is powerful and striking, and no-one has recorded unrequited love quite so eloquently or over such a length of time.
Maud Gonne famously rejected his well-spaced proposals, choosing instead to marry Major John Macbride, Irish Nationalist and Man of Action, but when she returned to Yeats five years later after he had successfully waged a war of words about Macbride, he concluded that longing was preferable to possession and broke up with her. The occult, however, had staying power. One of Madame Blavatsky's mystical "gifts" was the ability to write as if dictated to by a muse in the spirit world. Yeats had been told in seances that he did in fact have his very own spirit guide named Leo Africanus, but, alas, he couldn't access Leo on demand. When Yeats finally did marry, speculation in the literary world was that Georgie Yeats' main attraction had been the (fabricated) claim that she had the gift. To Yeats' great satisfaction and her quiet surprise, Georgie Yeats could cough up pages of this stuff. She could channel Leo Africanus and Bob was Yeats' uncle. I wish I could say that his poetry improved. In fairness, he wrote "The Second Coming" and "Prayer for My Daughter" in later life, so I shouldn't snipe.
While every writer seeks a muse, few marry a tuned receiver. Some poets disclaim the need of one: Coleridge, for example, cited genius (his own), after he had found himself having composed "Kubla Khan" during an opium dream. Well, didn't a dogged English scholar devote hundreds and hundreds of pages in The Road to Xanadu to identify the sources of every single word, phrase and image in Coleridge's previous experience. Nothing is new under the sun, and writing becomes a rearrangement of brain furniture.
I have neither muse nor drugged inspiration. Writing has always been like giving birth to an elephant. All that happens is that I start feeling the urge to deliver. Today we painters were talking about the challenges of simply keeping a journal. The only way I have every succeeded is to make the commitment to send these hard-born words into the world. They are bruised and bloody, but mine. Thanks for receiving them.