Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Busy Days

"The poet most later poets measure themselves against is not Shakespeare, Milton or even the other Romantics, but Keats..."

Just finished reviews of David Zieroth's The Fly in Autumn and Barry Dempster's Love Outlandish for the winter edition of The Malahat Review. Really enjoyed the assignment and hope it proves helpful to readers. I'm now dipping into Jason Guriel's Pure Product and Carmine Starnino's This Way Out. Both are vigorous critics in their own right, and have turned out some pretty good poetry, too. Let’s find out how these collections fare, shall we?

Some great books to read: H.T. Kirby-Smith's The Origins of Free Verse provides an in-depth survey of free verse that stretches back as far as the King James Bible and Pindar's Odes; Charles Hartmann's Free Verse: A Prosody is considered one of the premier attempts at uncovering the organizing principles that underpin 20th century free verse. Finally, In Fine Form by Kate Braid and Sandy Schreve is a really useful book on poetic forms, nicely detailed and lots of great examples (e.g. the Sestina, Ghazal, Sonnet, etc). Highly recommended.

Finally, a word about Bright Star, the film by Jane Campion (e.g. The Piano). Don't be deceived; this film is not about John Keats. It's about Fanny Brawne, Keats' lover. Campion's film might have provided any number of interesting views from which to view John Keats. Instead, she opted for an overworked romance revolving around the palpitations of an obscure 19th century seamstress. The film lacked any semblance of character or biographical plot development and was reportedly driven by a secondary ambition that arose during Ms Campion's research: to elevate Ms Brawne's contribution to the work of Keats. Stronger cases have been made for Dorothy Wordsworth and Zelda Fitzgerald.

The one touching moment was when Keats' friends rallied around him at a critical moment in his disease and frantically searched for ways to get him to Italy where he might recuperate. A great opportunity missed by the director, but as I say, Keats and his legacy were of no interest to her. The poet most later poets measure themselves against is not Shakespeare, Milton or even the other Romantics, but Keats, a fact British poet Andrew Motion might have impressed upon Ms. Campion in their pre-production consultation.

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