Friday, December 09, 2011

Poetry Friday: Keats and Me

Yesterday's Poem of the Day from the Academy of American Poets was Keats' "In Drear Nighted December." (You can subscribe to the Poem of the Day email here.) Thankfully I don't live in a cold climate. I have been cold enough with our temperatures dipping down into the lower seventies the last few nights. Brr. But what interested me most about this poem was the last stanza.

In drear nighted December
by John Keats

In drear nighted December,
Too happy, happy tree,
Thy branches ne'er remember
Their green felicity—
The north cannot undo them
With a sleety whistle through them
Nor frozen thawings glue them
From budding at the prime.

In drear-nighted December,
Too happy, happy brook,
Thy bubblings ne'er remember
Apollo's summer look;
But with a sweet forgetting,
They stay their crystal fretting,
Never, never petting
About the frozen time.

Ah! would 'twere so with many
A gentle girl and boy—
But were there ever any
Writh'd not of passed joy?
The feel of not to feel it,
When there is none to heal it
Nor numbed sense to steel it,
Was never said in rhyme.

I liked Keats' suggestion that this feeling - the idea of forgetting and simply not missing times of happiness in the past, the way nature seems to do - is one that hasn't ever been expressed in poetry. He says that's because human beings are always missing the past. "The feel of not to feel it." What a great line. That made me think about other feelings that poetry may not chronicle.

I have often had experiences that felt as though they were unique to me, something that nobody could ever express in writing. One of the delights of reading, whether prose or poetry, is finding kindred spirits who have expressed those thoughts and feelings I thought were mine alone.

Not much has been expressed by me in writing lately, since I'm knee-deep in grading. Yesterday, though, I wrote this poem:


Sometimes you're trying to sleep
And there's a poem buzzing around the room,
Whining in your ear,
"Get up and write me,
You know I won't be here any more if you wait until morning."

And sometimes you're trying to read your students' papers
And there's a poem jumping up and down
Shouting, "Write me now,
Put that down and pay attention!"

And sometimes you're trying to wash dishes
And a poem bubbles up from the water,
Splashes your face,

And sometimes, you sit down to write a poem,
And those poems that have been bugging you
All night and all day,
Whining, shouting, giggling,
Are quiet.

They have nothing to say now
That you have turned your attention to them.
But - quick! Look out the corner of your eye
And sometimes you can see one
Playing hide and seek.

Ruth, from

I'm looking forward to the Christmas vacation for many reasons, and one of those reasons is that I'll have the chance to do some writing. Meanwhile, I soldier on, grading and grading and grading.

Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.


maria horvath said...

"Look out the corner of your eye
And sometimes you can see one
Playing hide and seek."

Words of prose can be just as pesky.

That's a wonderful poem, Ruth.

jama said...

Enjoyed your poem, Ruth. Especially love the poem bubbling up from the water, splashing your face and giggling. :)

Good luck grading those papers!

Tara said...

I love the way you animated poems - they have an energy one can't ignore...writer's blok or not!

Robyn Hood Black said...

"Get up and write me,
You know I won't be here any more if you wait until morning."

So true! Thanks for the thoughts on Keats and for your poem, which I'm glad you wrestled long enough to "pen" down (sorry - couldn't help that!).

Linda at teacherdance said...

It's interesting how we can come across a line, a whole poem (like the Keats) & bring forth such a response. Perhaps you wouldn't have even had the same feeling a year ago, but now-it spoke. I love your poem, writer's block or not, & am happy you found time among the gradecards to write.