Keats After Me

The first time I looked up John Keats was after watching part of the movie Bright Star . The 2009 movie, which lost me when Fanny Brawne filled her room with butterflies and then let them die, had left behind the desire to understand exactly what and who I was supposed to be watching. After I had finished my research, I came to the conclusion that the real-life Fanny Brawne had fallen for a sickly man who had presented her with a recycled love poem and that the poet himself, Keats, was a little bit of a jerk.

Fast forward a few years. I have spent most of my time researching prose authors, but feel I have to study poets if I want to  improve my own poetry. I had been at it for a few days when I ran into this:

“I have been astonished that Men could die Martyrs for religion – I have shudder’d at it – I shudder no more – I could be martyr’d for my Religion – Love is my religion – I could die for that – I could die for you.” -Keats to Fanny Brawne, 13 October 1819

Sure you could, Mr. Keats. Sure you could.

His name brought a bad taste to my mouth and I was dubious of his sentiment. But, I’m studying poets and he qualifies. Why not find out what all the hubbub is about?

After reading up on Keats, it didn’t take very long before I thought I was finished with him again. I had come no closer to connecting with his life or with his work. I decided that he was young and idealistic and therefore wrote poetry and love-letters with the dramatic flair of the young and idealistic. I felt that his writing was, for the most part, lip service with lace on it.

With that, I put Keats down once more. But Keats’ work wasn’t done with me. In less than 24 hours after abandoning him again, I ran across this:

“This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou would wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calm’d–see here it is–
I hold it towards you.” -Keats
How had I missed this?

Research told me that this poem had been scribbled in the margins of an unfinished manuscript called “The Cap and Bells; or, The Jealousies” while he was on his deathbed and that it had gone unpublished until 1889.

Hmm…

I looked into his work for a third time, deciding to put aside my prejudice and find whatever it had caused me to miss before. That last time is when I learned a thing or two about Mr. Keats.

Firstly, I found that when Keats was less concerned with the beauty of the words and more interested in the emotions he was trying to express, his work was more poignant (“This living hand, now warm and capable”). Secondly, despite his desire to be remembered as a great poet, he detested the laws that bound his poetry (“If By Dull Rhymes Our English Must Be Chain’d”). This was work I could sympathize with.

At the finish of the Keats adventure, I found my own appreciation for him.  His most touching works are reflections on mortality, not romance.  It is when he ceased trying to please the critics, ceased following the rules of poetry, ignored the accepted beauty and forewent the rules of the time that he created true beauty and poetry. It is his struggle against what was celebrated in poetry and his abandonment of the common form that speaks to me as well as what was truly in his beating heart: fear and the struggle to accept a death he knew was coming.

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Under the Same Moon

For my Moon Woman…

“The funny part?”

The human asked as it stared through the canvas to the wall

“After all the paintings and the engravings and models,

after every effort to mimic and every facsimile made in paint and ink and wood,

after every poem written to its heavenly shape

lauding its purity, its beauty, its aphrodisiac effect,

after making of it a lover or a mother or a curse,

after all these versions and interpretations of its form,

We’ve all been born and died under the same moon.”

Giving Thanks

I have always written and always wanted to be read. The joy of WordPress is that I can write and I am usually, if not always, read. It’s a pleasure to know that what I wish to share with other people can be shared without a middleman eyeing it and claiming it unfit for the reading world. However, I would not be here if it was not for two (?) bloggers who, entirely unbeknownst to them, are the reason I came here to  share. Today, I wish to highlight and thank them.

First is Last Night’s Parties and Last Night’s Horrorshow. I stumbled across them one lonely night looking for answers and Tom Waits quotes. I have been a regular ever since. Their posts are (and I say they, because according to their About page, they’re a family of bloggers) are like a nightclub after hours. You can tell a thing or two about who was playing by the glitter on the floor, the notes written on napkins, and the looks on the faces of the after hours crew. You may even catch the end of the show, but you can never predict who or what will be playing. Their posts range from the historical to the paranormal, poetry to prose, silly to serious and when I’m not getting what I want from the rest of the world, when I’m blue, they satisfy much like Tom does. So I saunter in, take a seat, and listen to what they have to say about it all.

Second is The Regency Redingote, something I found when I began research into the fashion of the Regency Era. According to her About page, Kathryn has a passion for and a college education in English history with particular focus on the Regency. She writes in an effort to educate readers and writers of Regency fiction which, like all historical fiction, can sometimes fall prey to terrible anachronism and inaccuracy. Kathryn’s posts are always informative and interesting (one of my favorites is about the history of ketchup) and she ends them with a little nod to writers, asking what inspiration they might draw from the post (and we like inspiration).

I recommend both blogs to anybody looking for a little something to add to their “Following” list. You can’t go wrong with LNPALNHS (I claim credit as the first to abbreviate it, ha!) and as long as you have an interest in history and are open to learning about this often-overlooked era, you’ll find something on The Regency Redingote to please you.

In conclusion, thank you to Kathryn Kane at The Regency Redingote and, well, everybody at Last Night’s Parties and Last Night’s Horrorshow. I wouldn’t have found my way to this place without you.