They say writers and poets often have it rough in love relationships. WB Yeats is one poet who easily comes to mind. There are other prominent writers who got roped into unrequited love by ill-fate. They wrote that part of their lives into poems and stories, some of which we read long after they have passed.

We spoke to six writers and poets who are or were once married. We asked them questions about the intersection between their love life and writing. The questions

  • Lover or muse, which comes first? Why?
  • Should writers find mates from the writing community?
  • Have you ever had a thing with a writer/poet?
  • If yes. In one sentence, state the duration and how you would describe the affair.
  • Did you select your spouse based on their flair for literature?

The six writers (one female and five males) we spoke gave amazing and insightful responses that we want to share.

Respondent One:

The Opias

Lover comes first

The lover inspires the muse

Mates are everywhere even in the writing community. Everyone knows what works for them.

Not really though. I have written erotic poems with writers for the sake of the art and nothing more.

Every individual has a level of flair for literature, but it depends on how deep it is. I don’t consider literature as a yardstick for selecting my spouse. I hope this helps with your survey. Cheers.

Opia-Enwemuche Maxwell Onyemaechi

Respondent Two

1. Muse first

2. Muse has long-lasting benefits while love is not eternal.

3. No. Lovers should naturally appear.

4. No.

5. No.

Marial Awendit

Respondent Three

Questions:  Lover or muse which comes first?

Answer:  Muse

Questions:  Why?

Answer:  It is my propeller. Beyond being the propelling force, my muse is often feverish, shaky and seemingly jealous in the face of intrusion. Intrusion here implies involvement in romantic activities when I should be writing.  The muse comes and vanishes whenever anything comes between us.  So I seek to concentrate whenever it comes. At such points, my lover (wife) waits. Good a thing, my lover understands.

Questions: Should writers find mates from the writing community?

Answer:  Not necessarily. But the person should be one that is supportive and interested in the scribal arts.

Questions: Have you ever had a thing with a writer/poet?

Answer: No.

If yes.  In one sentence, state the duration and what would you say about it?

Question: Did you select your spouse based on their flair for literature?

Answer: Yes. I even mentioned it openly in the church on our wedding day.


Respondent Four

Lover. Because life precedes words.

A writer doesn’t have to love a writer.

Yes. Brief, exciting, but a failure. She was a playwright and I acted in her play.

Thomas Graves

Respondent Five

Lover or muse which comes first?… Poetry turns me on, excites me. I have a physical experience with poetry. I believe because it is a source a great aliveness. I feel so alive and so alive, more creative. My creativity gets activated and the sensual juices being to flow. Thus, one can get a lively response from me; one that is from the body and thus, rather passionate. Now a lover may turn Muse. Still, I sense another quality that becomes a qualifier that separates the physical presence from the spirit or ethereal one. There is a different presence with the ethereal Muse. There is an experience of transcendence. One is transported to a different realm of knowing and feeling. IN THAT REALM ONE CAN EXPERIENCE BEING FED WORDS. There is an ecstatic flow of words, images, verses take shape lightning shape. One can hardly keep up with the hot sensual presence. there is an exclusive possession of time, space and body. One is exhausted yet writes until they (i) drop! Now with the bodily lover, there can be a similar response. I know with being around a musician lyricist, that we each excite, charge each other’s imagination and creative juices. This is like cranking a car to start the engine. the other is a divine strike of lightening, that possesses one until the epiphany ends. With the physical, there is always a loss of the creative act by getting physically involved with each other and experiencing wonderful lovemaking, which hopefully becomes an ecstatic moment of unleashed howls of sensual, erotic joy!!. So, to conclude I would say this: (1) either lover or muse can come first-it is a matter of degree of influence, the spirit may have an advantage here, still the physical is just as present and immediate, as explained above.

(2) sometimes a physical relationship can not be helpful; rather than help it can detract or distract one from their heart’s work, quest, the reason for living. Still, there is usually a need for physical love, the rubbing and touching of bodies, beautiful acts of recognition, care, deep appreciation, wonder and gifting of each other-this certainly can become food for art of any kind!

Jeff Cannon

(3) Lastly, I sense and feel that both are required for the balanced health and well-being of the poet/artist. The poet needs seclusion, and maybe can exist there for along time and just enter the public realm for readings and teaching. Otherwise, I know I need touch, I want to touch, I need the rapture of unencumbered physical presence. Now, this balance requires a deep understanding of one and the other. Much sacrifice is involved here. I suspect a great deal of maturity and emotional maturity become helpful characteristics that help both be present and fully caring, wholesome creative human beings.

This last concern is important for considering mates from the writing community or hookups with other writers and poets. They certainly happen and most are successful. To become aware of the pitfalls that tend to wreck such relationships is vital to know. One’s overall temperament -secure, insecure or somewhere in between, one’s sense of self as good enough to believe in one’s self and not have to question every step or ask ten people what they think. power and gender issues become important. is the man secure enough in himself to watch his wife’s or partner’s career skyrocket as his meanders, stalls or seems to lag behind? If one or the other is jealous, ever angry over the other’s achievements and so shames or puts them down in some way, privately or worse in public, like “You think you’re all that?!!” Such episodes spell disaster and the ruining of two essential descent people. a sense of continual dialogue, understanding, clarity of feeling and expression when it comes to differences, appreciations and of course expectations, delicate cues must be set up so that the Muse flow is not disturbed but remain as long as it is supposed to last. Now there will be times when the pen, the brush must be put down or the computer shut down. Unless we are hermits, the other will always have a place in our lives and so require our attention and possible outside of those restricted times given to artistic work.

About selecting a lover or spouse, I will say this. for myself, there was and is a physical attractiveness. Now, this is physicality is also entwined with the art, music, lyric and in my case poetry. As mentioned above I am turned on as much by the word and expressive presentation of it as I am my physical appearance of the presenter. Literature was another factor. I like stimulating conversations particularly in light of the continuing present political and social situations. Different poets, authors, essayists have always inspired me. The exciting experience of finally getting involved in poetry denied me actually in my time because only dead white poets mostly male except for Emily Dickenson were taught. How refreshing to get into African-American female and male poetry, its history roots in music up to the present hip-hop and other innovations in that realm.

I have also enjoyed reading Nigerian poets along with Wole Soyinka, East African poets and “Voices from 20th century Africa: Griots and Towncriers by Chinweizu…others include Camus, W.E.B. Dubois, Memmi, Fanon and other race and social justice and race history authors. Such information and discussions about related topics all become part of poems. My poems seem more often than not to always have some social comment, image, metaphor. For me, our whole life becomes the grist mill for our work. Life itself, commentaries on it and on particular brutal and unnecessary events is our ever-flowing source of creative inspiration!! Thank you for your invitation and your questions Ehi! 

Jeff Cannon

Respondent six

Amaka Ikem

Muse. I write as I am being led.

Yes, if it clicks.

Yes. It didn’t last for long. Was an on and off affair. He was into me but =I wasn’t.

No. My husband wasn’t a literature type. We both fell in love with music. We still sing together to date.

Amaka Ikem

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