So, I've been ordered to keep mum on The Hunger Games (Editor's note: There's a Mega-Review forthcoming, don't worry), but I cannot lie and pretend it isn't the only thing on my mind at the moment. In fact, it had enough of an impression on me that I'm feeling the need to see it again, if only to absorb it properly, as soon as possible. I'm not sure when I will be able to stop thinking about it every 30 seconds, but I do know that when a film does that, it is a good film.
And now I shall say no more about it.
Anyway -- whilst I was hungering for the game last night, I was also thinking about Keats. Being an English major, I've taken several literature classes this year and enjoyed them very much. But I have also realized that I have what we might term an Embarrassing Poetry Problem.
Which is this: I have no idea how to read the bloody stuff.
The reason I'm an English major has something to do with reading James and the Giant Peach when I was six -- my first novel -- and watching my world expand. It has something to do with finding books like Harry Potter and Emma and Enna Burning and Hons and Rebels and The Book Thief during my teens that changed my views completely. It has something to do with my lifelong obsession with creative writing, and the beauty of a well-structured novel, and the spark that makes characters come to life. But it doesn't have anything to do with poetry.
The trouble is that I've never read it for fun. I don't know how to approach it. I've been reading novels all my life, but poetry is just something that has never interested me. I think part of it is that most of the time, poetry lacks a real story, and story is the entire reason I read. And when it does have a story -- when it's something like Pope's "The Rape of the Lock", for example -- it often has so many metaphors and allusions that it takes real, arduous work to make sense of it. It isn't the sort of thing you can understand initially, unless you are a very close reader. And I've always prized clarity and simplicity in writing, so this goes against all instinct.
"Use your five senses," people say. "See what you feel. Look for imagery. Watch the meter."
And I've tried this. And I did get somewhere. Earlier this year I found that I liked Spenser for his Faerie Queene epic and some of his quirky poems about mythical beasts. And I liked Blake for his pure Englishness and amusing little rhymes. But these have been very much the exception, and I like these poets for exactly the same reasons I like novelists. Their stuff is quirky and clever, or else sweeping and dramatic, and that's the kind of thing I've always read.
Keats, on the other hand, is a different story.
People I really, really respect like Keats. Stephen Fry, for example, is a sworn Keats fan. J.K. Rowling has referenced him. The couple of other English majors I've mentioned my trouble to have all gasped, "You don't like Keats?" I want desperately to like Keats. In fact, I want to like him so badly that I've decided I will, eventually, in exactly the same way I forced myself to like coffee. I'm just not exactly sure how. You can't drink old poetry in the mornings with just a little less milk and sugar than the day before.
Here are the first few lines of his "Ode to a Grecian Urn":
|THOU still unravish'd bride of quietness,|
|Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time,|
|Sylvan historian, who canst thus express|
|A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:|
|What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape||5|
|Of deities or mortals, or of both,|
|In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?|
On first glance, my brain goes "THIS IS DULL."
Then I remember that I want to enjoy it, so I look very closely at it and think, "well, 'foster-child of Silence and slow Time' is a nice phrase. Actually it's a very nice phrase. But I'm not sure what it means. Hmm."
And apparently there's only so much not-understanding that my brain can take, because -- generally -- after a few minutes of this, I will put the Keats down and go bury my nose in Jane Austen instead.
I think what I'm looking for is some kind of link -- a reason to care, I suppose, since there are rarely well-rounded characters to care about. The feelings expressed in old poems are all very well and good, but I like context for feelings; a clear-cut situation as to their origin. And beautiful sunsets, clouds and daffodils are nice, but I am an incredibly unobservant person and do not have much observational ability even in my head. I know there's a link somewhere -- there must be, as Keats and his fellows are so well-liked by the Stephen Frys of the world -- but I can't seem to find it just yet, and that makes me sad.
So I've decided this is going to be a step-by-step process. Rome wasn't built in a day, after all, as I'm sure the Roman poets would attest. For now I shall appreciate nice phrases and work on not being bored by the rest. With a little luck, I'll be a Keats fangirl before the year is out.