unreal images of familiar frontiers

In a world that feels like a constant continuation of a global winter, the world of Victorian Britain grows more and more familiar.

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  • Poetry - On Houses

  • Notes - Lecture on the History of the House, by Claire Schwartz

  • Essay - John Keats and ‘Negative Capability’

Poetry - On Houses

Houses have faces,

Grinning in the dark, their noses in everyone’s business, unsolicited.

Houses bring life

And take your younglings away, into the woods, chop chop chop and off with yer head, ne’er tae be seen again. Was it Partan Bree, Tattie Droddle or even Cullen Skink? Best eat it near Callander at the Lochside then. Godspeed, and give the postman my best, will you?

Houses bring death

So it is on us to be weary of ghost stories along the coast.

Notes - Lecture on the History of the House

Sometimes, when I don’t know what to write about in above’s poetry section, I visit one of my favorite places in the inter-webs - The Poetry Foundation, where I always find an abundance of inspiring poems. Today: the poem Lecture on the History of the House, a prose poem (or lyrical essay if you like) written by Claire Schwartz. To not spoil the experience of reading this gem of a poem, I will simply tell you: it is in the same way about growing up in a house as it is about the history of language itself (hence the title, I guess). It is a back and forth between bits of knowledge and lyrical meditations about living inside a house. To say it in the contemporary way of contextualizing the poem inside a global selection of digital goods: If you like Anne Carson’s poetry, you surely like Lecture on the History of the House, by Claire Schwartz.

Because you needed a fence to limit your loneliness. / Because haunting needed a form / What is wild? That which cannot be measured.

Essay - John Keats and ‘negative capability’

It is no secret we are living in strange and uncertain times. Similar to our days, so was the time of John Keats'. Dying from tuberculosis at an age of just 25, he never grew old or saw the success of his writing. Most of this writing was done during the Regency Era, a time when the very popular King George III. became unable to reign and therefore had to be replaced by his very unpopular son, the later King George IV. The young king did everything to be hated by the public: he spend every last nickel on luxurious projects and had very public affairs while living apart from his wife Caroline of Brunswick. At the time of his coronation, he was addicted to opium. This all, during a time when the whole of Europe was still reeling from the Napoleonic Wars. By the way, if you want to learn more about George IV. and his wife, there is a wonderful episode from the podcast Noble Blood titled "What Eye Has Wept for George IV?".

John Keats' life did not look more cheerful. His parents died when he was still young, leaving him to live in the custody of his grandmother. The will of his parents awarded him with a great sum of money, but his guardians did not make him aware of this fact, leaving him in great financial troubles throughout his life.

According to Poetry Foundation's Glossary of Poetic Terms, negative capability is the poet's ability to be in "uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason". This gives the poet the ability to forsake truth and rather identify with the object they question. Negative is not meant pejorative but rather meant as the potential of a person to be identified by what one is missing. It is a great irony that Keats had to die before he achieved true negative capability. All through his short-lived life he questioned himself, making him ultimately unable to fulfill his dream. When he died his tombstone read: "Here lies one whose name was writ in water." His legacy should prove it otherwise.

Post Note

Negativity, begone! Sadly, this is not always achievable. Sometimes we have to live with it, give it space in the multiverse that is our life. Create a room, right next to your compassion and love for yourself and your friends and family. Because next to these cornerstones, even uncertainty cannot cloud the joy that everyone of you brings into the world. Let this instead foster, and shrink away the negative feelings that cloud our everyday life.

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