Jekyll Island Beach 2012

Jekyll Island Beach 2012
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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!

46 comments:

Write Chick said...

Even though it was long, I was so interested. I had no idea about Keats being such money-sucker. Frost was so much better!
I like to write poetry, but only sometimes and just for fun. I would never count on it for cash.
GREAT POST!
Just stopped in from Jenny's Alphabe-Thursday.

H said...

WOW! It's 06.48, work looms and I'm sitting here wondering if I too could get away with contemplating something ordinary all day, culminating in penning a handful of profound words!

No?

Best warm up the car then.

RawknRobynsGoneBlogWild said...

This is all very interesting. I had no idea Keats was so young when he wrote and died. That's a very tragic story. So many of the greatest talents are not appreciated until well after they are gone.
Thanks for this post.
xoRobyn

Bruce Coltin said...

Thank you for this story. It made a mild case of insomnia rather enjoyable.

Francisca said...

This was indeed a very interesting "D" post. Learned a lot about Keats I did not know. And about you. ;-)

JDaniel4's Mom said...

I enjoyed learning more about him. Thanks for sharing.

Jo-Ann Sanborn said...

Intresting and informative, if a bit judgemental on deadbeat poets. Love this blog, the artwork, the music, and the sense of fun and surprise.

mle said...

What an interesting post!
I usually mute blogs with music but yours seemed appropriate for the topic & probably kept me lingering...
Loved the pics of your family and the links to other artists!
happy thursday : )

EG Wow said...

I enjoyed reading this post. I had no idea Keats lived off the money of others. I wonder what it was about him that made others want to help him like that.

Gattina said...

Unfortunately I don't know this poete but anyway that's the destiny of lots of artists at that time, look amongst the painters. Van Gogh only became famous when he was dead and he had only his brother to support him.
I think you better live with writing thrillers or crime stories instead of poetry if you want to live from your "art" !

paige said...

I heart you. So much.

Mumsy said...

Learning about John Keats from your post is much more interesting than from my college class, because I like your commentary along the way. It makes it real and personal! I really enjoy this post, and your C post also!

Christy said...

What a great post - I love learning this way, I know I will remember deadbeat Keats and his hormonal girlfriend from now on!

Rocky Mountain Woman said...

I guess you write poetry for the love of it. Interesting Keats info.

Jo said...

long post ... yes, interesting and engaging post ... totally ... loved learning all of this ... and only 25? how utterly sad ... I was raised to be a contributor to society ... in more ways than just artistically ... so i relate to your feelings on Keats ... I can't imagine being "kept" by anyone ... What an interesting take on D!!!

Judie said...

I feel very strongly that people not depend on others to support them if they are capable of supporting themselves. Someone may be a gifted artist or poet, but unless they have a wealthy benefactor, they should not expect others to chip in to support them. Several of Keats' friends lost a lot of money trying to take care of him. I think it is just wrong. My viewpoint may be skewed because I have seen this first hand with a family member, and I know the burden it puts on others.
To Keats' credit, he did not marry Fanny and take her along to Rome to be supported by Severn.

Sue said...

I love Frost, too.

Never knew any of this about Keats. Thanks for the interesting info.

=)

Cheryl said...

Frost, our homegrown poet, is by far the most accessible poet I've ever read. Keats? Meh. I can take him or leave him ~ usually just leave him.

nothingprofound said...

Hey, Judie-the starving poet image has pretty well gone out of vogue in modern times. Most poets wind up teaching in universities, and making an agreeable living at it. T.S. Eliot was a banker, and Wallace Stevens a lawyer. Of course, there will always be some Bohemian element left, like Ginsberg and his crowd. But that was the 60s, an easier time to survive on a shoestring than now. I must admit I've sort of lived that way myself, being a kind of bum, and writing my aphorisms. Can't say I've regretted it.

Judie said...

If you want to do something you love doing, make sure that you don't have depend on others to support you in order to do it. The concept may have gone out of vogue, but there are plenty of people trying to live their own lifestyles at the expense of other people. Believe me when I say I know this for a fact. I am sure that when you reach retirement age, you will have something saved up to carry you through, so you will not become a burden on family or friends. This is called "being a responsible adult."

In Keats' time, blood-letting to cure illness was standard practice. Now, not so much.

Su-sieee! Mac said...

Interesting. Patronage or whatever you call it was done a lot in Keats' days. Why the rich people were willing to support the artists, I don't know. No doubt they got something out of it, otherwise they wouldn't have done it.

Teresa said...

This was just fascinating. I must say I agree that it would be rather annoying to have to support someone just so they could write poetry.

Judie said...

The issue here was not about rich people. Joseph Severn was a struggling artist who did manage to sell some of his work. Charles Brown had a little money, but he was by no means rich, especially after he got the servant girl pregnant.
Severn had received several prestegious awards for his work, but the only thing he is know for now is being associated with Keats. There is no justice!
Theo, Vincent Van Gogh's brother, supported Vincent because he knew that Vincent was mentally ill and could not hold down a regular job. Actually, Vincent probably suffered from lead poisoning because of his habit of putting paint brushes in his mouth. Lead tastes sweet.

askcherlock said...

Judie, this was so well-written and interesting. Many great artists like Keats had benefactor. My husband's grandfather, a painter, was a benefactor to Van Gogh. We have the paintings and letters given as gifts to Rich's grandfather after Van Gogh made some money. What a fabulous teacher you are!

Judie said...

Poor VanGogh! He just couldn't keep that paint out of his mouth!! So you have some original VanGogh's? Yow! You're in high cotton!!!
I just got a call from John McCain, and he didn't hang up when I answered, "Bueno." I hung up on him, though. I don't take calls after 6 in the evening, unless it is from a very close friend.

jen said...

This is one reason I think our culture is headed down the crapper. Really.
If we have no money for beauty of any kind, what kind of people are we?

Juliana Matthews said...

This made me roar with laughter!
I studied English Literature at Advanced level and one of my major projects was the Romantic movement - Keats, Shelley, Byron et al.
I am not sure how your take on it would have done in the examination paper LOL

Maggie B said...

Hi Judie,
Just popped over from Alphabe-Thursday and really enjoyed your take on Keats and his friends, illuminating.
Thanks for the comment on the door push plates BTW, Judy has sold out of the stock that she had but you can always contact her at:
http://www.brittanybyways.com/

Judie said...

Jen, I have art in my home, and I buy art from fellow artists. Our art Guild even gives grants to our older artists who have fallen on hard times lately. I believe in supporting art and music programs in the public schools, which have suffered greatly in the last two decades. What I don't believe in is an artist who expects to be taken care of by others while he is waiting to be "discovered." As Nothing Profound pointed out, many artists and poets end up teaching or working in the corporate world.

Judie said...

Glad I made you laugh,Juliana! It was fun to write. Next week's letter is going to be tough! "E"! I have to come up with something more creative that "Eating."

sarah said...

beautiful post! very thoughtful! thanks for sharing and thanks for your visit! yeah, i have to find dictionaries at thrift stores and estate sales... yeah for the power of the word!..... blessings...s...

Melinda Cornish said...

I love this post......Now we would say to Mr Keats, "get a job you wastrel".......I love Robert Frost too.....This was a great post....

A 2 Z said...

Hi Judie,

Very interesting post comparing lives of poets now and then. From the little bit I know a lot of the French poets in the 17th century were kept by very rich women...or very rich men...they did not have to worry about the mundane like the rest of us. Thanks for your visit on Alphabe. Come again soon!

Anne-Marie

Anna said...

Dear Judie,
This was interesting. I did not know that Keats died so young, at only 25.

I also like Robert Frost's poems. There are some really nice ones, like 'Stopping in the woods on a snowy evening'.

Thank you for stopping by my blog and leaving your thoughts about my 'D is for dog'-post!
The Bull Terriers are actually very sweet dogs. The man that owned them was not only cute-looking, he was very nice to us and asked us if we were going to get a dog for the children. He said that many people have the mistaken idea that his dogs are 'attack-dogs/fighting-dogs', which they are not. They were very gentle.

By the way, I have added another dog to this post! Whenever you have the time, please come back and look at them too.

My cat Sara would also like to extend an invitation to visit her post for ABC-Wednesday round 7-M. (Sara is also a poet, in her own way.)

Best wishes,
Anna
Sara sends purrs.
Anna's D-word Alphabe-Thurs

Sara Cat's abcWED-round-7-M

Splendid Little Stars said...

very enjoyable biography of Keats! only 25, huh? Maybe if he had lived longer he would have gotten a responsible job. Who knows?
I like Frost, too. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is a favorite.
Your post reminded me of a children's book by Leo Lionni, Frederic.

Judie said...

Hahaha! You are sooo right! But only up to a point--the animals could forage for supplies for the winter, but Keats's friends needed money in order to survive. They could not live on his poetry.
I doubt that poor Keats could ever have gotten a paying job. His head was too steeped in poetic words to concentrate on anything else--Except, of course, Fanny. And for that, he thought with his "other" head.

Elisa said...

Back in the day that's just how it was. Artists were usually the only ones who believed in themselves, and we all know writing or painting or whatever in "spare" time just isn't the same. Like children, art doesn't flourish unless you spend some quantity time with it.

However, I do not wish to get into the "irresponsible adult" debate. i'm sure you look at me with much of the same disgust you hold for Keats. Although, unlike Keats, I am willing to do almost anything to support myself and my family but no one is taking me up on that. My family is dying and we're not going to be able to save ourselves without someone else's help. Period.

CRISTINA said...

Very interesting well-written article.Love this post.
Your blog is truly wonderful!
You left a comment long time ago in my blog http://cristinasdailypaintings.blogspot.com/. Forgot all about it!

Judie said...

Elisa, this post was in no way about you. Frankly, I resent your implying that I look upon you with disgust. That was a pretty low blow.
I have always been compassionate to your situation.

This post was supposed to be humerous.

The Guy's Perspective said...

I have a friend who is a poet, and she is grateful that her spouse has a great job-that he loves-so she can work on her passion.
It's too bad that artists, musicians, writers, and poets aren't valued more ...they give so much to the world.

Judie said...

Sai, you are a perfect example of a gifted adult who tends to his responsibilities as a parent and a husband. I wish that you could compose and play your wonderful music all the time, and/or write and create podcasts. You are a talented man who deserves to have every chance to be a success with your muse. As you know, your music really helped me through some pretty stressfull times while we were in Atlanta. I am blessed to have you as a friend.

Jenny said...

Judie! I adored this link to Alphabe-Thursday.

What wonderful facts and points to ponder you shared with us here.

I would totally be willing to spend all time writing about a grecian urn...if someone wants to sponsor me.

Ummm...

Let's see.

The urn it sits in mornings light
It's shape, it's size, is a delight...

OK, if that isn't enough to make someone want to pay me an exorbidant sum to continue writing, I don't know what is!

Thanks for the wonderful link.

I really enjoyed my stop here today.

A+

Judie said...

Just what do you consider exorbitant sum?
Jenny, your writing skills so exceed mine that I should be paying you to be part of Saturday Centus and Alphabe-Thursday!

ChrisJ said...

Most of Keats's friends didn't begrudge him the support. And the terrible irony is that after his death, when it was too late, it was discovered that the executor of Keats's mother's estate had squirreled away the sum of 4000 pounds sterling - a princely sum. If Keats's had had that money he would have not needed help.

I wonder if the work from any of our jobs will be around for people to study and love in 200 years? Maybe he was worth the money after all!

Judie said...

Fanny Brawne didn't do too bad financially either. Well, at least her children didn't! It seems that she had kept all of Keats' letters to her, even after she married. She willed them to her children, because she felt that they would someday be valuable. Her husband never knew that she had kept them.

Her children were delighted to have such an inheritance!

Thanks for adding to the story, Chris!

I wonder just how many high school students are still studying Keats these days! Will anyone remember our blogs years from now??? Hmm--I don't think so!

Susan said...

GREAT POST! I am a poet, writer, artist! I am also, wife, mother, and an educated woman. I am by profession an MRI Technologist, but was disabled in 2005. Prior to going to school for that i worked many jobs...including being a mail carrier, a restaurant shift supervisor (3 times) and a certified nurses assistant for almost 11 years. I have been published, but never for money. I'd sure loved to know how JEWEL virtually came out of now where and got 2 books of poetry published???

Frost is also my favorite poet, I also like e.e. cumming, and that carlos guy.

Thanks for a good read.! Now following
Susan