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Keats’s Letters (Found Poems)
from A Wordsworth Notebook

These kirkmen have done
Scotland harm—
they have
banished puns and laughing
                                    and kissing. . . .
Were the fingers made to
squeeze a guinea or
a white hand?
Were the Lips
made to hold a
            pen or a
                        kiss. . . ?

the world is very young
and in a verry [sic]
                                    ignorant     state

[7 July 1818]



If we compare the Passions to
different   tons and
hogsheads of wines
in a wine cellar
--thus it is—
the poet
by one cup      should know
the scope of any particular wine
without getting intoxicated.
This is the highest
exertion of Power, and
the next step is
to paint from
memory of
                        gone
                                    self
                                                storm

[annotation to Hazlitt on King Lear]



I
almost
wish
we were
                        butterflies
and
liv’d
but three
summer
days

[1 July 1819]



I think
I shall
be
among
the English
            POETS     after
my
death

   2.
They do not know
what a women is

[14 October 1818]



every     man
who can row his boat
and walk     and talk
seems a different
     being from
                        myself  --

I
do not
feel
            in      this      world. . .
an intellect
                        in splints
 
[30 September, 24 October 1820]



Talking of Pleasure,

this moment I was
writing
with one hand, and
with      the      other
            holding to my
Mouth a Nectarine

-- good

  1. god
  2.       how
    1. fine –

It went down soft
                                    pulpy slushy,
oozy,
all its delicious embonpoint melted down my throat
like a large
                        beatified
                                    Strawberry.
I shall certainly breed.

[22 September 1819]




Spliced (Aleatory) Romanticism: Link words from Romantic Poets to the words from modern and contemporary poets in chance correspondences
from Romantic Presences, Spliced Romanticism, and A Wordsworth Notebook

Richly tinged
   breathing on a stream
       a washed
     memory

(Coleridge and Lorine Niedecker)



Lizzie     Porphyro
Rose blends
                        with violet
my overfevered wish
a southern home?
A putty-gray motel bedroom?

Enter heaven (sapphire heaven)
            with clean
    hands

(Keats and Robert Lowell)



I feel sweet passions
for Nature, and Human Life
they dug the earth in them

I spoke against God
I feel sweet passions
and spoke

(Wordsworth and Paul Celan)



Wedged destiny
easeful death
            rich
     mutiny

(Keats and Susan Howe)



a crowd, a host
poisonstilled
of golden

pensive
the vegetal

How good we had it!
But oft. . .
this despicable bedstead
shine                                    dance

wandered

(Wordsworth and Paul Celan)



White simplicity

This pleasant tale is
What is “there is”
Ghost and jealous mother
A Poet’s death
Fruit ripening in stillness
The peach teaches thuds

(John Keats, Lyn Hejinian)



A man
worn
down by sickness:

Therefore we
build
and
build

(William Wordsworth, Paul Celan)



Spinning still
I let the incense grow cold
giving my body giving
idle since getting up
bedcovers tumbled
neglect    neglect
spinning still
the rapid line of motion
the curtains down in the sun
earth rolling with visible motion
my body emaciated a prisoner
neglected endless staring
sweeping through the darkness
cliffs wheeling by me

(William Wordsworth, Li Ch’ing Chao)



along the silver of a morning raga
this dull and clodded earth
over inner structure of the Human Thing
touch ethereal along the river Rio Grande

(John Keats, Ed Dorn)



     1.
holding
light with
            shade
kill or cure
no irritable
            reaching
America    get  real

(John Keats, Anne Waldman)



rivulets and beauty born murmuring
her face     but who is she     who
the hook     moving in water
peeling onions     in glade and bower
I sit with her on this calm heath
a Lady of my own     who is she
something is moving

(William Wordsworth, Lucille Clifton)



trapped in a box of colors
sealed in     rolled round
history a coffin
                                    the touch of

(William Wordsworth, Adonis)



in thought                                    War begins at any moment
love the brooks                           in a season of calm weather

 

                                    The telephone rings
                                    round the setting sun

            Slavery, too deep for tears, is abolished.

                 tenderness
                        utterly
                             abolishes
                                    the philosophic mind

the teeming meanest flower

                                    eyes
                                    are
                                    mighty
                                    waters
                                    in thought

            the colouring of mortality / is in the audience
            central, original, a new born Day

(William Wordsworth, John Cage)



Speak against bonds, my songs,
Deriving thy light from Heaven
—untended watchfire—
Go, my songs, to those who have delicate lust,
The Tricksome Hermes is here.

(William Wordsworth, Ezra Pound)




Poem on the Letter “A” (from William Wordsworth’s “The Triad,” 1828)
from Wordsworth Day by Day

(first, lines 34-51 from “The Triad,” a playful poem about his daughter Dora and her friends Edith Southey and Sara Coleridge)

“Fear not this constraining measure!
Drawn by a poetic spell,
Lucida! From domes of pleasure,
Or from cottage-sprinkled dell,
Come to regions solitary,
Where the eagle builds her aery,
Above the hermit’s long-forsaken cell!”
--She comes!—behold
That Figure, like a ship with silver sail!
Nearer she draws—a breeze uplifts her veil---
Upon her coming wait
As pure a sunshine and as soft a gale
As e’er, on herbage covering earthly mould,
Tempted the bird of Juno to unfold
His richest splendour, when his veering gait
And every motion of his starry train
Seem governed by a strain
Of music, audible to him alone.—

 

Poem on the Letter “A”

                 Triad
        Naiad        Dryad
                 Dora
        Sara        Lucida
                 MAY
fancy
     pathless
        command
             (hand in hand)
                 coral Ida

interweavings waving:
     earth and sea

        measure aery
        starry
             Lady

                near
        fair tear
                day
        archer
            heavenly day
            hath        Majesty
        A canopy
            vainly
            lagging
        shades sang
                           raftered
            delicate
                           dance
                    ungarlanded
                           breathed
        Idolian
            Thracian
                           arch audacity
                               primal
        aim
                           star vague
                               Daughter
        as faery clapping
        Last
                           skylark’s
                               gladness a float.
Dawn fair page a hand

     azure

        angels

            all fragrance




Pilgrimage from Hampstead to Keats’s Grave, Rome, 1995
from Spliced Romanticism

The following suite of poems charts a pilgrimage by a North American to Keats’s grave in the year of the poet’s 200th birthday.  Many poets (and countless other persons since the time of his death) have made a similar journey, following Shelley’s urging: “Go thou to Rome.”  My pilgrimage, it must be confessed, was contrived, constructed: having seen the grave and the room in Rome several times previously, I decided, nevertheless (Catullus’s “tamen”) to go to Rome and observe and write as a pilgrim.  Now I have done what—among others—Christina Rossetti, Alice Meynell, and Oscar Wilde have done.  But I could not write my experience as they or most other pilgrims did: I found that neither my feelings nor my sense of poetic form nor my sense of Keats were elegiac enough to match theirs; the pilgrimage was confusing—I did not even know if I wanted to go straight to Rome or first to Recanati, home of Romantic Leopardi—I was initially disappointed at not fitting myself into the genre of pilgrimage and eulogy, but slowly confusion, having been accepted, led to an openness to sound and sight and. . .an unexpected constellation of poems.  I turned to a more open (and perhaps “American”) form in order to transform my confusion into poetic play, a feature of Keats’s poetry often overlooked.  Indeed, it is precisely the element of play that the elegiac tradition of both reading and honoring Keats has often squeezed out.  My poems come together as a series of de-familiarizing combinations, correspondences, and metonyms that praise Keats by reconfiguring him and the conventional images of the pilgrim.

While constructing the pilgrimage, I thought of Catullus’s beautiful elegy to his recently dead brother, Carmen 101 (“multas per gentes et multa per aequora vectus”), focusing my confusion on that strange line-opening: “ nunc tamen interea” (now nevertheless meanwhile), which expresses (along with “nequiquam,” in vain) the sense of urgency, skepticism, impotence, and hope; the simultaneous uselessness and necessity of the task of speaking to the dead (“mutam cinerem,” mute ash) in their permanent silence; the juxtaposition of the eternity of death with the utter immediacy of  the speech (Catullus saying that his poem is wet with his tears).  His poem further came home to me (on Italian soil) when I encountered on the pilgrimage Ugo Foscolo’s “In Morte del Fratello Giovanni” (1803), with its extensive verbal recastings, including the mute ash, of Carmen 101: Catullus, Foscolo, Keats.

N.B.—The “infant plum-tree” in poem I refers to the recent replacement of the tree in Hampstead under which Keats reputedly composed the “Ode to a Nightingale.”  Poems II and IV verbally echo Catullus and Foscolo.


I. The Moon: Hampstead—Rome


  1. Nightingale, Keats Grove

infant plum-tree
   poor
   stick
late November twilight
      belted to a post in
   low
         foliage
            drowned
                  electric
saw threading the voice
                        of birds
crescent
            glancing down
cat
      staring on garden
                  path


  1. Staring the full length of the Piazza di Spagna to the house of his dying, I remember that one day Keats revolted against his Roman food.

Imagine
            window
                        muffled        flurry
arms
            white gown
food flying
                        gravy drops
            spoon
                        meat
   face
            arms
                        fly
—moon shedding in violet sky—
                                    like Auden’s
   Breugel’s
                        falling Icarus
   tossed from
                        arms     sky     legs
   in frame’s lower right
                                    a poet
                             dripping
                        away


  1. Enoteca: Roma

                 o
    vintage        full
        Barolo 1978
            Pecorino
        fresh bread from
            Trastevere

    queen-moon
            winking

    wine        rhyme        Keats
        bubbling from
            stone
                graveplot



II. Go Thou to Rome

                        Meanwhile
                                    now
            I arrive
            now    Roma
                                    through many
            lands   I
                        come
                                    and people
            over seas
            meanwhile
                                    neverthe-
            less     in vain
                                    I arrive
            accept
                        from me
            peoples and
                                    seas
                        these (mute ash)
                                                gifts
            in vain I arrive
                 not in Recanati            home
                                                            of
                 humpback     Leopardi     and
                 “these hidden
                                                hills”
            to see you (taken),
            sitting by your stone,
                 I will
                        No more
                    fly
                        to the wrong
                                                poet



III. Recoveries (from Keats)


sleeves wet with morning
I floated through
dusk and hail
with your lips
footing your paths
Hermes, a cricket, sings


The Feverish Poet:
word
   and thirst
             are one


wedged     destiny
easeful death     rich
            mutiny


a sleeping maid
catches
shapes of light
enlivening
eternal book
over a precipice



IV. Grave                        Nevertheless: stretching my palms out to you while 175 drowsy years numb finger tips, I sit by your stone watching cats laze.  You other people! traveling here and there, give back his bones to the breast of his sad mother!



IV. Graves of Shelley and Keats

water writ Keats
                        eternally
     Shelley     rich
frozen                    alive
            Pompeii-strange
                        pearl
                                    eyes
knees
                        still
                                    springing
Severn’s full palate
Keats’s broken lyre
whose palate fine?
o nameless stone!



V. “A Vowelled Undersong” (from the acrostic on the marble plaque by the grave)

Each                        meek                        cheek:
Seeks                        Keats
Deeds                        Sleep
K-K-Keats
                                    be

A sacred name
                                    in vain

honoured    slaughter
mourner’s             water
     drops
            not
                        fallen

            oft
heroes                        tribute                        write

though
            so
                        some
                                    such
dazzling
epitaph