A treat for everyone! Here, as promised a little while ago, is a guest blog post from the talented Mr David Mohan :) He has something to tell us about a new movie coming out about the poet John Keats....
Later in the year Jane Campion’s Bright Star will reach Irish cinemas. Campion’s film focuses on the poet’s relationship with his unofficial fiancée, Fanny Brawn, in the last years of his life.
Although poetry and poets’ lives rarely translate well to celluloid – I’m thinking of the Gwyneth Paltrow vehicle Sylvia, and Julian Temple’s lives and loves of the Lake poets, Pandaemonium – there is something compelling about Keats’s story and of course, about Keats’s poetry that makes this film seem potentially interesting.
Keats is one of those poets that attracts devotion. He is a poet whose life, like Plath, attracts almost as much interest as his poetry, or at least the two interests are often intertwined. In Keats’ case this is partially due to his letters, which are justly famous as records of his both his creative and love life – they are presumably Campion’s key source material.
Part of his mystique is of course down to him dying of tuberculosis at the age of 25 – and that he knew that this was his likely fate. This knowledge informs certain poems like Ode to a Nightingale to a marked extent and makes them seem eerily prescient. His early death and the death-obsession in many of his poems overshadows everything else for some readers – one of my favourite poetic tributes is very recent – Heat and Cold by Vicki Feaver.
Keats also remains a popular poet because he is one of the most ravishingly sensual poets in the language. He is a descendent of Marlowe - he has that golden High Renaissance style married to a more earthy and humane sensibility. However, he is a dangerous master for the budding poet - even the distinctly modern William Carlos Williams admitted having to get over the stylistic influence of John Keats in his early poetry. He is, to many modern readers as sensual as he ever was, but also modern in his lush extravagance and flamboyance. I know readers of his work who see his poetry -in a very positive way - as camp.
Here is the wonderful 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 steadfast, 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.