a bright star among our kind

27 September 2009

Back in university I took all the available Romantic Literature classes. These classes were recommended to me because they were being taught by the engaging and eminent Canadian author Alistair McLeod. But I came to fall in love with the Romantics; their explorations of the human spirit and beauty and ways of seeing, and innovative ways of exploring art. These were my kind of people.

As anyone might, I was fascinated with John Keats and what he managed to achieve in his young life. How does one become one of the greatest of all poets in a mere 26 years on the planet? Art like this – seemingly out of nowhere and of such immense skill and richness is what makes me believe in a higher power.  And what would he have achieved if his experience and view upon the world had ripened with maturity?

One of the papers I wrote at the time was a comparative study of Keats’ “Bright Star” and that of another lesser known poet (my apologies to him but I can’t remember who it was). I came to love that poem, and have reprinted it in my online journals more than once.

That winter I became very ill with a rotten flu which sent me to bed for days, and it was one of those nights in bed when a ghost who lived in our house at the time manifested himself to me in human form. Up until then my girls and I had experienced his presence in a number of ways, most notably when he knocked things off the plate rail in the dining room. But it was not until I was awakened one night that I actually saw the ghost, as I rolled over and opened my eyes to see him hesitate for a moment before he walked into my closet. I nicknamed him John Keats then, as I’d been studying the poet in bed while I was confined there.

Of course the ghost was not John Keats – as I’m sure the furthest he’d ever travelled was Italy where he died. But he was so ingrained in my consciousness during those weeks that it seemed the natural name for the otherwordly fella who’d decided to hang around in the sick room. The ghost actually looked more like Johnny Cash, but he was alive at the time and naming him after a dead poet seemed much more appropriate.

All that is why I’m really looking forward to seeing Jane Campion’s new movie “Bright Star” about Keats and his love affair with Fanny Brawne, the inspiration for that poem. I think it might be a good time to take our poet back off the bookshelf and revisit his notions of inspiration and beauty with a perspective some seventeen years or so have given me.


10 Responses to “a bright star among our kind”

  1. willow Says:

    I’m looking forward to the movie, too!

  2. roscoedialogues Says:

    I took only required literature classes, don’t know Keats, I’ve heard of him .. never studied him or any other poet, don’t know Bright Star ..

    Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art–
    Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
    And watching, with eternal lids apart,
    Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
    The moving waters at their priestlike task
    Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
    Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
    Of snow upon the mountains and the moors–
    No–yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
    Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
    To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
    Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
    Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
    And so live ever–or else swoon to death.

    that just confuses me …
    this helps ..

    Mike … broadening my horizons.

  3. Jennifer Says:

    That’s the one – reprinted here less than a year ago. A hint – it’s lusty – probably an indication as to the movie (actually I heard that in a review).

  4. Reluctant Blogger Says:

    Ooops sorry, I know this was a serious piece but I am chuckling at the thought of Keats looking like Johnny Cash and wondering if he sang. Sorry – I was serious until that point, I promise.

    • Jennifer Says:

      Well that bit wasn’t meant to be entirely serious RB (though it DID look like Johnny Cash with his long hair and long black coat walking into my closet!) – so chuckle away!

      I once used the experience to develop a practice lesson plan when I was doing my TESL cert, and it got lots of laughs!

  5. Alana Says:

    I just went to the brightstar-movie.com website and sw that they have a contest for the most romantic love letter or tweet with prizes from A Diamond is Forever and Montblanc. What a great idea to get people writing again…a true art.

  6. green eyes Says:

    Splendid post. I loved the Johnny Cash ghost! I am reminded of my university days, too, and of engaging with writers and adding to one’s store of interests.

  7. Jennifer Says:

    My girls and I have often wondered it the Johnny Cash ghost has presented himself to the people who bought our house. I read once that ghosts sometimes attach themselves to things rather than places, so it could be that he is in the top of my closet, packed in the boxes with the antique china, which dominated the plate rail he loved to terrorize, and which hasn’t been unpacked since we left that house!

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