Crisis of Creativity: “Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Muse & the Albatross”, an Essay by Jenny Fabian

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“The Mad Poet” by Michael Whelan, 1992.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Muse & the Albatross

Jenny Fabian, 2011

In 1800, when William Wordsworth rejected Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem ‘Christabel’ from the second edition of Lyrical Ballads, it precipitated a crisis of creativity for Coleridge. It would be another sixteen years before ‘Christabel’ was finally published in Sibylline Leaves, aptly-named, for Coleridge’s poetry is curiously prescient, particularly in his representation of women as portents of his own fear of failure.

This essay will examine how Coleridge’s imagination is driven by this fear of failure, the extent to which the women in his poetry are polarised, and the power they hold over speech, both to inspire and suppress. In ‘The Eolian Harp’ and ‘Kubla Khan’ I will examine the conflict between the earthly and the transcendental and the emergence of the Abyssinian maid as muse, with the idea that Coleridge sacrifices himself to her power. I will show how the fear of failure becomes represented as an inability to speak in ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, and how polarisation of women appears in the form of ‘Heaven’s Mother’ and ‘Life-in-Death’. Rituals of crime and punishment in ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ illustrate the implicit symbolic violence of Coleridge’s imagination that exists beyond the threshold of consciousness.


Facsimilie title page from the 1816 edition.

The motif of thresholds is further explored in ‘Christabel’, which I will link with the Gothic symbolism that Coleridge employs to demonstrate the effects of evil on innocence; here Geraldine is the ultimate seducer in Coleridge’s pantheon of female representations, a lamia-like figure with hypnotic powers. Finally, in ‘Dejection: An Ode’, I will argue how, by acknowledging his loss of the transforming power of the imagination, this loss becomes transformed into a presence that enables Coleridge to explore his creative failure.

J.B. Beer, who describes Coleridge as a ‘visionary’, writes: ‘at times, he hoped to discover the ideal woman, who should be his inspiration; and at times the “Ideal woman” became, like Solomon’s Beloved, or the celestial bride of Jacob Boehme, the image of a psychological state – the recovery of Wisdom and the lost Shechinah’. (1) (Beer 1959, 270)

If Coleridge’s women represent a sense of divine knowledge, such as the sibyls of antiquity or the Abyssinian maid, they also represent the polar extreme of evil intention, like the intimidating Life-in-Death and the hypnotic Geraldine. Conflict between active and passive is intrinsic to the dynamics of Coleridge’s poetry and represents the competing desires for freedom and engulfment. Camille Paglia argues that ‘Coleridge’s protagonists are always sexually dual…The poet is feminine because passive to his own vision’. (Paglia 1991, 328-9) For the poet to abandon himself to his muse involves a form of active submission, and beneath the passive surface there is deep mental activity; consequently, the movement in Coleridge’s poetry oscillates between the doing and being done to, and it is hard to be sure who is ultimately in control.


A beautiful antique cloth-bound edition of a selection of Coleridge’s work, ed. by Andrew Lang. The illustrations in this edition were astounding. 

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The Diary of Xander Tully, a Novella-in-Progress by Sanguine Woods, Coming Winter, 2018

22FE38E1-A688-4586-AA8C-B3C173D42767Dear Book Lovers and Ardent Readers,

RE: A quick note from the writer’s desk…


Working on my novella The Diary of Xander Tully. It is a frightening tale set in the years before America had become a nation, up in the woods of what is now the border between Michigan and Canada, where French-Canadian settlers have started a fledgling colony led by two old families.

Xander Tulley is a stranger here. His origins are not known to the community. But he is a clever man; he shows the world a practical and rational side; a lover of facts and the path they reveal to truth. But Tulley has other sides. He hails from a foreign land, across the sea. His people are tall, fair of hair and pale of skin. He appears as an artisan printer in the colony of River Raisin, where the villagers have a respect for the past and their heritage (one of the families traces its roots all the way back to a French king).

When Tulley becomes curious about a tale of an odd grouping of stones located in the deep woods that begin about a mile northeast of the village, he is drawn to the site. There is no visible path to the outcropping, and reaching it is difficult unless you know the woods, and the way. The stones circumscribe what appears to be a gash in the earth, an opening some five paces across at its widest. The villagers don‘t appear to know of the spot, its history, or the fact that a grove of trees surrounds the area in almost a perfect circle. They are deciduous trees, “evergreens”—-and they are the only trees in the wood that turn the color of glowing embers when autumn steals the light from summer and creeps toward the winter solstice.

The story of the woods is old. Some things—some geographies, secrets—-some stories—-lay quiet and undisturbed for a reason. Xander Tulley has been dreaming about the burning trees. His preoccupation with learning the history of the Wood leads him to seek out an indiginous tribe that once dwelt near the area, but has since moved higher north. It is in the tribe’s legends, wrapped tight within in an ancient language, that Tulley begins to see a story form in the forgotten shadows of time, one that once breathed life, and should now be left alone.

Xander Tulley reaches a proverbial fork in the road, where he may learn more about himself than he ever cared to know; and where he will be faced with making the hardest decision he will ever have to make.

Stay tuned for more!



Illustrating Lovecraft, from Uruguay to France, These International Artists Have Allowed Us to See the Unspeakable…


Art by Richard Guérineau for Lovecraft’s novel The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. (See Sources)

J’ai Lu: “Do these illustrations allow you to revisit the Lovecraft Universe?”

Richard Guérineau: “The problem with Lovecraft is how to represent something that is supposed to be unnamable? It’s impossible! When Philippe Druillet* captures Lovecraft, he makes Druillet first and foremost.  Druillet’s graphic universe is so well defined, he does not even attempt to match it with the work he illustrates. The reverse bias—trying to be extremely faithful to Lovecraft’s descriptions—often leads to ridiculous-looking monsters. For me, the best graphic adaptation of Lovecraft is that of Breccia**, because his representation of the Abomination is almost abstract. Where do I stand as an artist in all ? I have the impression of being the new tenant of a place steeped in history. So I try to arrange the decor to suit my taste without stirring any of the original furniture.”

(Translated from the French by Sanguine Woods)

*Philippe Druillet is a French comic-book artist who has illustrated Lovecraft’s fiction


Artwork by Philippe Druillet, ca. 1970s. Druillet was well-known for his detailed illustrations of Lovecraft’s (Cthulhu) Mythos stories. (See Sources)

**Alberto Breccia (d. 1993) was an Uruguay-born Argentine cartoonist. His son is the famous comic cartoonist Enrique Breccia. While Alberto (along with Norberti Buscaglia) illustrated Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror” for Heavy Metal magazine in 1979 (first image below), the reference here may well be to Alberto’s son, Enrique, whose Lovecraft illustrations (second image below) are more numerous and well-known than his father’s.

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Wilbur Whately, an Alberto Breccia illustration for Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror” (Heavy Metal magazine, 1972)


Art for Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, by Enrique Breccia, 2009 (Pinterest)

(Text/Image Sources: J’ai Lu;;;


Artwork for Lovecraft’s Story “Dreams in the Witchouse”


Artist unknown. (Pinterest)

“Dreams in the Witch House”—Artwork for the H. P. Lovecraft Story by Harry O. Morris, 1972

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She Walks in Shadows: ed. Sylvia Moreno-Garcia, Innsmouth Free Press, 2015, TOC

41B3qH8vFULTable of Contents

  • Bitter Perfume • short fiction by Laura Blackwell
  • Violet Is the Color of Your Energy • short fiction by Nadia Bulkin
  • Body to Body to Body • short fiction by Selena Chambers
  • Magna Mater • short fiction by Arinn Dembo
  • De Deabus Minoribus Exterioris Theomagicae • short fiction by Jilly Dreadful
  • Hairwork • short fiction by Gemma Files
  • The Head of T’la-yub • short fiction by Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas
  • Bring the Moon to Me • short story by Amelia Gorman
  • Chosen • short fiction by Lyndsey Holder
  • Eight Seconds • short fiction by Pandora Hope
  • Cthulhu of the Dead Sea • short fiction by Inkeri Kontro
  • Turn Out the Light • short fiction by Penelope Love
  • The Adventurer’s Wife • short story by Premee Mohamed
  • Notes Found in a Decommissioned Asylum, December 1961 • short fiction by Sharon Mock
  • The Eye of Juno • short fiction by Eugenie Mora
  • Ammutseba Rising • short fiction by Ann K. Schwader
  • Cypress God • short fiction by Rodopi Sisamis
  • Lavinia’s Wood • short fiction by Angela Slatter
  • The Opera Singer • short story by Priya Sridhar
  • Provenance • short fiction by Benjanun Sriduangkaew
  • The Thing in the Cheerleading Squad • short story by Molly Tanzer (variant of The Thing on the Cheerleading Squad)
  • Lockbox • short fiction by E. Catherine Tobler
  • When She Quickens • short fiction by Mary A. Turzillo [as by Mary Turzillo]
  • Shub-Niggurath’s Witnesses • short fiction by Valerie Valdes
  • Queen of a New America • short fiction by Wendy N. Wagner
  • She Walks in Shadows • interior artwork by Sara Bardi
  • She Walks in Shadows • interior artwork by Shelby Denham
  • She Walks in Shadows • interior artwork by Lisa Grabenstetter [as by Lisa A. Grabenstetter]
  • She Walks in Shadows • interior artwork by Karen Hollingsworth
  • She Walks in Shadows • interior artwork by Cindy Lewis
  • She Walks in Shadows • interior artwork by Liv Rainey-Smith
  • She Walks in Shadows • interior artwork by Piam Ravenari
  • She Walks in Shadows • interior artwork by Diana Thung
  • She Walks in Shadows • interior artwork by Kathryn Weaver

The Mammoth Book of Angels & Demons, a Dark Fantasy/Horror Anthology ed. by Paula Guran, 2013



Table of Contents

    Introduction: Things Are Complicated • (2013) • essay by Paula Guran
  1. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep • (1991) • novelette by Suzy McKee Charnas
  2. Stackalee • (1990) • short story by Norman Partridge
  3. Bed and Breakfast • (1996) • short fiction by Gene Wolfe (variant of Bed & Breakfast)
  4. Frumpy Little Beat Girl • (2010) • short story by Peter Atkins
    The Night of White Bhairab • (1984) • novelette by Lucius Shepard
  5. … And the Angel with Television Eyes • (1983) • short story by John Shirley
  6. Lost Souls • (1986) • short story by Clive Barker
  7. Uncle Chaim and Aunt Rifke and the Angel • (2008) • novelette by Peter S. Beagle
  8. Demon • (1996) • short story by Joyce Carol Oates
  9. Alabaster • [Dancy Flammarion] • (2006) • novelette by Caitlín R. Kiernan
  10. Sanji’s Demon • [Yamada Monogatari] • (2010) • novelette by Richard Parks
  11. Oh, Glorious Sight • (2001) • novelette by Tanya Huff
  12. Angel • (1987) • short story by Pat Cadigan
  13. The Man Who Stole the Moon • [Tales of the Flat Earth] • (2001) • novelette by Tanith Lee
  14. The Big Sky • [Newford] • (1995) • novelette by Charles de Lint
  15. Elegy for a Demon Lover • [Kyle Murchison Booth] • (2005) • short story by Sarah Monette
  16. And the Angels Sing • (1990) • short story by Kate Wilhelm
  17. The Goat Cutter • (2003) • short story by Jay Lake
  18. Spirit Guides • (1995) • short story by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  19. Demons, Your Body, and You • (2011) • short story by Genevieve Valentine
  20. The Monsters of Heaven • (2007) • short story by Nathan Ballingrud
  21. Come to Me • (2012) • short story by Sam Cameron
  22. One Saturday Night, with Angel • (2010) • short story by Peter M. Ball
  23. Lammas Night • (1976) • novelette by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
  24. Pinion • (2011) • short story by Stellan Thorne
  25. Only Kids Are Afraid of the Dark • (1967) • short story by George R. R. Martin
  26. Murder Mysteries • (1992) • novelette by Neil Gaiman