one book on my (self-propagating) reading list is Keats: A Biography by Andrew Motion. it’s surprisingly multi-purpose, actually, exhibiting considerable potentials as a bullet-deterrent (though i highly question its efficiency to protect more than one vital organ at a time), or to stun an assailant, or as an emergency door-stop.
anyways, i got inspired to check the book out because the immortal words of John Keats seeped into me again, recited heart-breakingly by Ben Whishaw in Bright Star, whose production involved Motion as a consultant. i first met Keats in British Literature course in undergrad. tasting the lines of Ode to a Nightingale i vacillated between being swept away by the sweet inebriation distilled in his syllables and feeling mildly psychotic because i am–Keats was–professing an ardent love for a potential carrier of the Influenza A virus of the Orthomyxoviridae family.
poetry is unorthodox like that. we take a particle of the world, examine it, whittle it, recreate it, splatter it with blood or veil it in gold, and most of the time the lines at the end of the day don’t make a lot of sense. “i don’t really get poetry,” a friend said once, “i just [like the movie] because the words sound pretty.”
poetry used to have a stricter form and meter, but even that’s very diluted now. poem-construction has no formula and uses far too many words to describe one minuscule detail, yet if it sounds contrived and heavy, if it doesn’t seem “like a moment’s thought” the poem deflates and dies a very pitiful death. either way, poetry really doesn’t make much sense.
sometimes i wonder how i can reconcile being in the sciences while simultaneously enamored with the humanities. there are thousands of tendrils of feelings and longings bursting out of me at any given moment but i compulsively censor them with sensibility and clarity of fact and logic just so i won’t lose myself. it’s like choosing two parts of me and trying to decided which one is the more truthful.
and life can be messy like that. we could weave a garland of ideals and drape it with splendor, or stratify it with formulas and quantify it into neat little tables–new year’s resolutions, ten-step processes (to lose weight, to have better sex, to be more attractive, employable, powerful), normalize performance into numbers using tests, but sometimes i wonder if we are not missing the point. it’s not any of that. it is all of that.
and maybe poetry is verily this, that which makes no sense but needs no explanation at all. we know it is “[poetry] by the symptoms it causes”.
and as it so happens, Ben Whishaw is the endearing brainiac Q in Skyfall. i love a man who can cause mischief in his pajamas, drinking a cup of Earl Grey.
addendum: he will appear in Peter and Alice, at the Noël Coward Theatre in West End, alongside Dame Judi Dench. anyone volunteer to smuggle me into England? i will lose some weight so i won’t be blatantly overweight inside a piece of checked luggage.