How do YOU read Keats?

Discussion on the works of John Keats.

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How do YOU read Keats?

Postby AhDistinctly » Fri Aug 18, 2006 12:44 am

Your site is quite filled with a wealth of information on Keats. It quite staggers the mind when first going through it all.

I've only had a fleeting encounter with Keats in my education -- which is to say: "No teacher has had a chance to ruin Keats for me." (I've never forgotten the teacher who told me I just didn't "get" Jabberwocky.) My question (which may turn into a suggestion for the site) is this: How does one get the most out of reading Keats? For instance, would one get more meaning from the works if one read a bio first? Is there a specific work (or type of work) with which one should start?

I do know that people could create a “So you want to read Keats?” primer in vastly different ways, depending on their personal perspective. That is okay. Perspective is what makes a discussion, after all!
Last edited by AhDistinctly on Tue Oct 03, 2006 4:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Malia » Fri Aug 18, 2006 1:19 am

Hi there AhDistinctly :) I think the answer to your question would differ with each person who answered it. But as far as my opinion goes, I'd begin by assessing what type of reading interests you most. Do you prefer poetry to prose or vice versa? I like both, *but* I am partial to a good story about an interesting person so I admit, I'm more drawn toward Keats's biographies and letters than his poetry. His poetry is excellent, mind you, and I do read it--but not as *often* as I read his letters or biographies about him. I think that the poems can stand on their own (i.e. you don't need to read about Keats the man to enjoy his poetry--that's a sign of the excellence of his poems--they can stand alone) but you do achieve a new level of understanding when you know Keats's background and what motivated his work. Also, his biographers provide some interesting and helpful interpretations of his poetry if you find it difficult to understand Keats's poetry. If you want to start with the poetry, I'd say, take volume of his works outside into the fresh air, find a good leafy tree to sit under and just soak it in. Don't *try* to understand everything. . .just *feel* it. Allow the poem to speak to you. And don't worry about reading everything in order--jump through the volume like a horse romps through the fields (that's how Keats himself used to read :) ). Enjoying yourself is most important--understanding what everything means or what in heck Keats was trying to get across in each poem can wait :) I find Keats's poems have a great "mouth feel" when spoken aloud and I recommend you read his poems out loud (in the privacy of your own home, if you prefer ;) ). Just the *sensation* you get from reading his works aloud is, to me, as enjoyable as understanding (or trying to understand) what the poems are trying to say intellectually.
Have fun as you discover the world of Keats :) Hope to see you 'round the forum!
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Postby Saturn » Fri Aug 18, 2006 9:10 am

I would say just let yourself be carried away in the mystique of the poems first.

If you are enraptured by that, read a biography, and then read the letters for the full appreciation of the man and his work.

Oh and welcome to our little community AhDistinctly :D
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Postby greymouse » Fri Aug 18, 2006 7:08 pm

Hey AhDisctinctly! Welcome to the forum, I like your name and sig. 8)

My question (which may turn into a suggestion for the site) is this: How does one get the most out of reading Keats? For instance, would one get more meaning from the works if one read a bio first? Is there a specific work (or type of work) with which one should start?


You're right; there are as many different ways to approach Keats as there are Keats fans. So I can only speak for myself. When I was first exploring poetry, I kept coming across his name. Especially when I was reading Wilde, whom I adore! So I picked up the complete poems and I just started reading.

I think the best place to go at first would be something he wrote, whether it be poems or letters. That way you get to see his words with fresh eyes. That's how I did it, and then I began to supplement it.

The Odes are pretty much an ideal place to start, since they are his most beloved works, and they are quite stimulating.
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Postby dks » Sat Aug 19, 2006 4:44 am

Superb ice breaker, AhDistinctly.

Best way to approach this stunningly perfect poet is to read "Ode to a Nightingale" when you are completely relaxed in a semi-lighted room with full viewing access to the lawn and sky...that poem is quite like a drug--if you read it at just the right moment with the planets somewhat aligned, you'll never be the same again. Ever.

Then, the floodgates will open and Keats will then have permeated your entire world. In short, there will then be nothing you won't want to read penned by him. Nothing. And everything else will fall just a whetted edge of a hair short.

:shock:
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Postby Manako » Sat Aug 19, 2006 12:18 pm

I came to read Keats in my literature class -I read it the day before the keats commentary lesson, as dks said
completely relaxed in a semi-lighted room
, and it was quite a magical moment. I started by La belle dame sans merci, then Ode to a Nightingale, and finally Ode on a grecian urn.
I had my teacher's help on understanding the poems, although he centered only on the grecian urn, but he did the main work: make me read Keats and make me run directly to the library to get some books about him. I didn't read his biography neither his letters yet, but that doesn't prevent me of enjoying and understanding his poetry (I recognize I may understand them better if I read his letters).
I think that the best way to read Keats, and poetry in general, is to read each poem twenty times trying to understand it for its own, whatever it may say to you personally.
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Postby Saturn » Sat Aug 19, 2006 2:40 pm

Manako wrote:I think that the best way to read Keats, and poetry in general, is to read each poem twenty times trying to understand it for its own, whatever it may say to you personally.


Yes I agree.

Only when you have made them your own can you begin to understand, and then to love them.
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Postby AhDistinctly » Mon Aug 21, 2006 5:37 am

Wonderful, wonderful! To be honest, I’ve been lurking the past few days reading responses. I didn’t want to interrupt the flow.

Saturn – My apologies for posting to the wrong section (my post started as a suggestion, but rather morphed into something else) and my thanks for keeping things orderly in the forum.

Malia – what an excellent suggestion – to read aloud. Actually, it was an excellent suggestion until I tried it. I blame my “bland” Midwestern (American) accent. It is just not the stuff of the Romantics. My solution: I’ve ordered a copy of Keats on CD from my local library!

All -- The excitement evident in all your responses is infectious! I hope people keep adding to this string.
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Postby AhDistinctly » Mon Aug 21, 2006 9:48 pm

This site is an absolute treasure trove! And as with any good dig site, a wealth of little sparkly bits are to be found the deeper the spade is set. Imagine my delight at finding the Keats Recordings thread!

Conversely, I recoil from the knowledge that whatever observations I may make are likely to be reiterations of long-since concluded discussions found in other threads.

Still, I carry on, as the Belcerebons, if only to drown out the sound of my own internal musings by the very act of broadcasting them to the world! :lol:
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Postby Malia » Mon Aug 21, 2006 10:44 pm

AhDistinctly wrote:This site is an absolute treasure trove! And as with any good dig site, a wealth of little sparkly bits are to be found the deeper the spade is set. Imagine my delight at finding the Keats Recordings thread!

Conversely, I recoil from the knowledge that whatever observations I may make are likely to be reiterations of long-since concluded discussions found in other threads.

Still, I carry on, as the Belcerebons, if only to drown out the sound of my own internal musings by the very act of broadcasting them to the world! :lol:


AhDistinctly, I can't speak for everyone else, but I wouldn't be bored or upset if you bring up discussion points that might have already been touched on. Though we might have discussed them before, we don't have *your* opinion on them and no two people have exactly the same opinion on any subject--your thoughts would bring a new angle to discussion and might even breathe some new life into those old topics :)
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Postby AhDistinctly » Wed Aug 23, 2006 12:19 am

Thanks, Malia! :)

I've picked up my Keats book and CD from the library. Incredible! The book has a 1899 copyright. Looks as old as that -- and more. I can't think of a more fitting way to read -- and such a contrast to reading poems off a computer monitor.
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Postby Saturn » Wed Aug 23, 2006 12:27 am

AhDistinctly wrote:such a contrast to reading poems off a computer monitor.


You can't beat the smell, feel and look of a good old-fashioned book :D
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Postby Credo Buffa » Mon Sep 04, 2006 4:42 am

I haven't had the opportunity to welcome you, AhDistinclty (great username, by the way!)!

When I first read Keats, I was pretty young, so simply "understanding" Keats was a big step in my learning to appreciate his work. Luckily for me, the first poems I read were "When I have fears," "On first looking into Chapman's Homer," and "La Belle Dame Sans Merci," all of which are, relatively speaking, quite easy to follow. Those poems helped to prepare me for others, in particular the Odes.

As I've gotten older, I've made it a point to re-read my favorites in different places and under different circumstances. What I mean by that is that, as my esteemed peers on this forum have all stated, everyone reads differently based on their own backgrounds. The fascinating thing about life is that it is constantly changing, so our experiences are consistently changing our perspectives, and thus the way we read and the kinds of things we get out of what we read. I try to make it a point to re-read my favorite poems specifically when I feel like something in my life has affected my understanding. For instance, I re-read "Ode on a Grecian Urn" while I was sitting in the room with the Parthenon frieze at the British Museum. I also re-read some of my favorites after visiting the Lake District, because it was such a powerful experience that I knew that my understanding of Keats (and Romantic poetry in general, particularly Wordsworth) would be forever altered even in just the tiniest way.

I hope that makes sense. I know it's sort of rambling.
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Postby AhDistinctly » Wed Sep 06, 2006 10:19 pm

Credo Buffa wrote:I haven't had the opportunity to welcome you, AhDistinclty (great username, by the way!)!

Thanks, Credo! As you are from my "neck of the woods," I've had a lot of fun reading your various weather reports. If you get homesick, I'd be happy to report on the current wind chill or heat index -- or the temperature in Embarrass!

Credo Buffa wrote:I try to make it a point to re-read my favorite poems specifically when I feel like something in my life has affected my understanding. For instance, I re-read "Ode on a Grecian Urn" while I was sitting in the room with the Parthenon frieze at the British Museum.

What a wonderful idea! I love the image of someone doing something so completely "untourist-y" at the British Museum!

Credo Buffa wrote:I hope that makes sense. I know it's sort of rambling.

Not in the least rambling. More like you taking us ON a ramble!
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Postby Credo Buffa » Thu Sep 07, 2006 3:00 am

AhDistinctly wrote:As you are from my "neck of the woods," I've had a lot of fun reading your various weather reports. If you get homesick, I'd be happy to report on the current wind chill or heat index -- or the temperature in Embarrass!

Wow, you really are up there!

How 'bout them Twins? :wink:

Meh, nevermind, save all that for the random discussion thread.

It's sort of hard for me to think of the British Museum as touristy, somehow. Yeah, it's obviously one of the sights of London, but since it's such a big place with so much to see, it seems that if you're going to go at all, you should really have an ultimate goal and interest, don't you think? Mine just happened to be trying my best to see the museum as Keats would.
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