Betting on the Muse

Betting on the Muse

by Glenn Cole Russell

Jimmy Foxx died an alcoholic
in a skidrow hotel
room.
Beau Jack ending up shining
shoes,
just where he
began.
there are dozens, hundreds,
more, maybe
thousands more.
being an athlete grown old
is one of the cruelest of
fates,
to be replaced by others,
to no longer hear the
cheers and the plaudits,
to no longer be
recognized,
just to be an old man
like other old
men.

to almost not believe it
yourself,
to check the scrapbook
with the yellowing
pages.
there you are,
smiling;
there you are,
victorious;
there you are,
young.

the crowd has other
heroes.
the crowd never
dies,
never grows
old
but the crowd often
forgets.

now the telephone doesn’t ring,
the young girls are
gone,
the party is
over.

this is why I chose
to be a
writer.
if you’re worth just
half-a-damn
you can keep your
hustle going
until the last minute
of the last
day.
you can keep
getting better instead
of worse,
you can still keep
hitting them over the
wall.
through darkness, war,
good and bad
luck
you keep it going,
hitting them out,
the flashing lightning
of the word,
beating life at life,
and death too late to
truly win
against
you.

Summary of the Poem “Betting on the Muse”

  • Popularity of “Betting on the Muse”: “Betting on the Muse” by Glenn Cole Russell, a popular American writer, and poet, is a symbolic poetic piece. The poem expresses his significant ideas about the power of imagination and creativity. It illustrates how these qualities make the writers win glories no matter how tough the odds are. Its popularity, however, lies in its matter of the fact tone and its simplicity.
  • “Betting on the Muse,” As a Representative of Reality: This inspirational poem revolves around the subject of life. It illustrates how our choices have a more significant impact on our lives. It begins when the speaker mourns the tragic death of a great Athlete, Jimmy Foxx, who dies silently in his hotel room. Similarly, another great athlete, Beau Jack, fails to attain the lasting charm. He further argues that there may be uncountable athletes grown old without creating their lasting impression. To him, this is one of the cruelest things life offers to humanity. Others quickly replace these great athletes. Instead of tasting the fruit of the struggle they make throughout life, they become laymen once their fortune changes. Their fame, the cheering cloud, winning parties, and all other victories shine only in history. Keeping this short-term victory in mind, the speaker does not become an athlete. Instead, he becomes a writer so that he can live despite having troubles in life. To him, a writer can live a thousand lives; his works pass his names to the generations to follow.
  • Major Themes in “Betting on the Muse”:  The poem’s major themes are the transience of life, the importance of choices in life, and decision-making. This symbolic and thought-provoking poem inspires the readers to think carefully while deciding about their careers. To support his point, he states examples of two great athletes; one dies mysteriously in a hotel room. However, the other fails to maintain his position in his field. Through this simple poem, the writer conveys a profound message that whatever you want to do in life, do it for yourself. If we make efforts to please the world, we may end up in despair because the world is aligned with the changing nature of time. The writer presents himself as an example to show his right choice that has led him to the level of satisfaction he intends to achieve.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Betting on the Muse”

literary devices enable the writers to present their ideas. Their appropriate use makes a simple text deep and absorbing. The analysis of the devices used in this poem is as follows.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /e/ and /o/ in “if you’re worth just” and again the sound of /e/ in “the flashing lightning/of the word.”
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as /m/ sound in “more, maybe/thousands more.”
  3. Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of a word or expression in the first part of some verses. Glenn Cole Russell has repeated the word “to” in the first stanza of the poem to emphasize the point such as;

to be replaced by others,
to no longer hear the
cheers and the plaudits,
to no longer be
recognized.”

  1. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /n/ in “now the telephone doesn’t ring” and the sound of /r/ in “there are dozens, hundreds.”
  2. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example;

Jimmy Foxx died an alcoholic
in a skidrow hotel
room.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Glenn Cole Russell has used imagery in this poem such as “now the telephone doesn’t ring”, “Jimmy Foxx died an alcoholic” and “Beau Jack ending up shining shoes.”
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects that are different. The poem shows the use of literature as an extended metaphor to show how it wins prosperity for the writers during their life and even after death people love to adore good writers.
  3. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from literal meanings. The poem shows the use of the symbols of life, changing nature of time, and the ageing phenomenon just to show how life makes us travel on the roller coaster of a time.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Living in Sin”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction: The poem shows descriptive diction that outlines the characters of the athletes. However, the tone is somewhat depressing and sober.
  2. Free Verse: Free verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free verse poem with no strict rhyme or meter.
  3. Quintain: A quintain is a five-lined stanza borrowed from Italian poetry.
  4. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are six stanzas in this poem with each comprising a different number of verses.

Quotes to be Used

The following lines from the poem “Betting the Muse” are useful to quote while talking about great personalities.

if you’re worth just
half-a-damn
you can keep your
hustle going
until the last minute
of the last
day.