Wednesday, October 13, 2010
D is for DEAD POETS
The Rogue Speaks:
In 1819, John Keats wrote to his brother, George, "The great beauty of poetry is that it makes every thing, every place interesting."
If I, like John Keats, did absolutely nothing all day long but pursue that muse, I might find a lot of interest in a bird, or a ceramic pot(Ode on a Grecian Urn) and would no doubt use a multitude of words to describe such objects. Would those words pay my rent? 'Fraid not!
I spent some time online this afternoon trying to find the average salary for a poet in the U.S. The closest I could come up with was a single line from Answer.Com--"Most poets would be placed in the 'starving artist' category" period, the end. You can certainly be a poet if you want to, but don't expect poetry to keep a roof over your head, or food on the table. If you want to write poetry, you had better be independently wealthy, or only write in your spare time, after you have finished your "day job." I don't have much respect for people who do whatever they want to at the expense of others.
Back in Keats' day, I guess it wasn't unusual for creative souls to be "kept" by friends or mentors. Keats was trained in medicine, so he could have actually had a fairly decent annual salary. He could have married the love of his life, Fanny Brawne, and had some little Keats's running around the house. He could have written poetry on the weekends!!
Keats, however, chose to be that "starving artist." He had had a little money from a very meager estate left him and his siblings by their parents, but he gave his share to his brother George because George said he needed it. He was instantly sorry, because now he really was broke. Since he didn't want to be an Indian-giver, he began to depend on the kindness of his friends to take care of him so he could continue his dream to write poetry.
Does this plan sound acceptable to you? No, I didn't think so. Our mamas didn't raise us to lounge around all day thinking of ways to describe a Grecian urn, while the rest of the world was out working its collective ass off in order to eat. Our ancestors would be rollin' over for sure if we decided to live off other people while we pursued our "dream" of writing poems. We just weren't brought up that way.
"An honest day's work for an honest day's wage!"
If one of my kids told me he was quitting his job to write poetry full-time, I would very carefully spend EVERY PENNY of his portion of the inheritance from us immediately. If he is going to be that irresponsible, he doesn't deserve it.
Getting back to John Keats, he spent several years being "kept" by a friend, Charles Brown, who owned a duplex. He and Keats lived in one side of the duplex for 6 months out of the year, and then went south for the winter. Keats' girlfriend lived with her mother and siblings in the other side of the duplex. Brown tried to keep the two lovers apart, because he wanted Keats to become famous and rich, and then pay him back for all his years of care.
Brown pissed in his own chili one year and got the servant girl pregnant, so when winter came, he couldn't take Keats south with him, because he had to pay for child-care, etc. That was the beginning of the end for Keats. All of his other friends got together to figure out whose turn it was to "keep" Keats over the winter. One of the friends, an artist by the name of Joseph Severn, was wintering in Rome, so it was decided that he would take Keats.
Keats, in the meantime, had come down with consumption (TB) and was pretty sick and pretty depressed because he would have to be parted with the love of his life. Keats' brother, Tom, had died of consumption a few years before, and it was not a peaceful death. Keats was anguishing over his health and leaving his love, so he was in pretty bad mental shape when he and Severn left for Rome.
Severn really had his hands full with Keats in Rome. He couldn't work because Keats begged not to be left alone, and he was fast running out of money. The weather was lousy,and Keats kept getting sicker and sicker, until one day he died. The year was 1821. He was only 25 years old. Severn was not happy about having to notify Fanny that Keats had died. She was a teenager, and very hormonal. When she learned of Keats' death, she cut off her hair and starting wearing all black, and wandering the woods crying. This kept up for two or three years. Then she got over it.
Now you might think by reading this that I don't care much for poets or poetry, but actually I do. I have some wonderful friends who write poetry, and you will find some of their work on the right side of my blog. Even my granddaughter has a poem there. She's ll. I even write poetry myself. When I was younger, I wrote a lot of poetry, and was once asked by the mother of a Dutch friend to come and write in Holland because she thought I could get published there. Since I was married and had children at the time, I turned her down. I had responsibilities that came first.
I think I may have gone on way to long here, but let me just tell you that my favorite poet of all time is Robert Frost. When I was young, I once heard Frost read several of his own poems, including "Death of the Hired Man." I was spellbound, mesmerized, and in total awe. He was such a wonderful poet. Of course, he worked in a textile mill, as a teacher, and a cobbler, and as a farmer in order to support himself and his family. That makes him an extra special person in my book.
Whew! Alphabe-Thursday wears me out sometimes!