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Poetry Landmarks

Keats House


(Associated Place)


Keats House was my first place of pilgrimage, on my first visit to London,
at the age of 18, nearly 25 years ago, when I was writing my own
heartfelt, if literarily-challenged verse. It's not quite as embarrassing
as confessing to owning John Denver albums to say that John Keats provided
me with the equivalent of a pop idol poster for my bedroom wall - even if
he was only a little over five-feet tall. It's a beautiful spot and also
evokes Fanny Brawne, his love, who I believe was living next door to Keats.
It was to her that his last, or one of his last sonnets, "Bright Star" was
purportedly written, on board the ship which brought him to Italy, where
the climate was supposed to help consumptives, but where he probably knew
he'd die, as he did - his "name writ on water". So, sonnets started to seem
pretty cool to me. Also, it was at this house in Hampstead where he heard
his nightingale, and where he saw the blood on his pillow which, as a
Doctor, he knew signed his death warrant. All of this is highly
romanticised of course, and possibly inaccurate, since I'm writing solely
from memory, which is notoriously and conveniently unreliable. And yet, one
might add on this score: how appropriate!"

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Poetry Society 2003
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