Wednesday, May 4, 2016

On Fame by John Keats (1818-1819)

So last week I read Wordsworth, and pretty much enjoyed all those poems.

This week, I'm reading / listening to one Keats poem every day - unfortunately not enjoying these complicated poems so much.

So Keats.  He was brilliant.  He died tragically young, at age 25 of tuberculosis.  He wrote all of these complicated poems in his early 20s.  You know what I had accomplished by age 25?  A college degree I wasn't really using at that point, and I had just met my wonderful husband.  That's it.  On the emoji scale, comparatively speaking Keats is the winky face, and I was the poop emoji (I'm not the poop emoji anymore though; if I have to choose an emoji for myself, perhaps I like the tsunami wave).  So Keats's story is pretty fucking amazing.

But did I mention that his poetry was complicated?  What's a word that means "complicated- makes -you- think- really- hard- makes- you- have -to -google- every- third -word- and -I -thought- I -was- a- smart- guy- but- I -guess- I'm- not- as- smart- as- I- thought."  It's egghead poetry.  I mean all poetry is egghead poetry at some level and makes you think really hard, but Keats, man, this poetry makes you work.

Or Keats is trying very hard.  I know, from my English degree of long ago, that poetry went from being quite ornamental and baroque to romantic around this time, and Keats is some sort of bridge.

That ornamental crap  - see "Nilus-born" above - is what I don't like about Keats. Baroque music is one thing, baroque poetry is another.

And yet, "On Fame" is still a hoot.  The minute I started reading this poem, I started thinking about this 20something I know, who is rabidly desperate to be famous, but doesn't want to actually work at it.  He blathered on about this one night at our house for what seemed like hours (we'd had him over for dinner), a night which ended in me really disliking him intensely (hate is not a family value, I know, but I think I'm allowed a few people to actively dislike).

This poem's for you, boy, and all the other idiots out there swimming like little white mice in a bucket in their quest for fame.  Reality television stars. Vine folks.

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