Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bright Star

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 fiancĂ©e, 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

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.


Niamh B said...

Raunchy photographical choice Mr Mohan.
That'll be an interesting film alright, Keats's story is pretty amazing, the talent exhibited in such a short life, kinda depressing too, as in why didn't I write something amazing that'll last forever before I turned 25?
Lack of urgency
Life Expectancy has a lot to answer for...


Can't wait to see this film - Jane Campion is a genius.
Hi David - I met you at a workshop I gave in Saggart. You've gone on to great things since.
Great guest post.

Drama Queen said...

Love the photo, and have always loved Keats poetry. Now I know why!
Thanks Dave!

Beedlemama said...

Love this post Dave, and look forward to the film... looks wonderful. Was intrigued and found this quote from one of Keats letters to Fanny which I love;
'My Mind has been the most discontented and restless one that ever was put into a body too small for it. I never felt my Mind repose upon anything with complete and undistracted enjoyment - upon no person but you. When you are in the room my thoughts never fly out of window: you always concentrate my whole senses.'
I think 'you always concentrate my whole senses' is beautiful.

Anonymous said...

here Dublin Dave, are you the fellah hu sold me dat mobile fone box full a bricks in the chipper dat time? dat wasn't nice u better not show yur face round sherrif street again. Dublin Dan

Uiscebot said...

Watch out blogoshpere Mr Mohan is here. Don't mess with the Mohan!

Ravishingly sensual - love that line.

Great post Dublin Dave - you always dissect poetry in such an illuminating way.

Dublin Dave said...

Hi Joan and Colm,

Thanks for that. He is that sensual, isn't he! And it's a very dark sensuality as the lines below will testify.

Hi Lisa,

Yes the letters are wonderful, and that's a great quote.

Here are two more quotes from the letters that relate to the feelings and imagery within the poem -'I have two luxuries to brood over in my walks, your Loveliness and the hour of my death. O that I could have possession of them both in the same minute.' And 'I will imagine you as Venus tonight and pray, pray, pray to your star like a Hethen.”

Matt Bolton said...

You dont really ever hear that much about Fanny Brawn (or if you do, I have missed it) so it will be interesting to see the woman that inspired so much, good guest post.