I put myself in dunce school last month when I realized at last, the connection between the great English romantic poet John Keats (1795-1821) and the character in the wonderful film “Dead Poets Society” played by Robin Williams, Mr. John Keating. How could I have not made the connection sooner? Keats is the great poet of love and the English teacher that Robin Williams plays in the film is forever reading poetry to his boys in the preparatory boarding school and exhorting them to live, love and seize the day (the entire ‘carpe diem’ motif ). This is all quite wonderful. A friend turned me on to Keats poem, “La belle dame sans merci” which wiki states has been analyzed to death and can be interpreted in many ways and scholars do not have a clear consensus as to what it means. Is this just like our lives, our love, our sexuality? All so mysterious, uncertain, open to misunderstanding, and such? We are a mystery unto ourselves. Ergo, how much more difficult is it to understand another person then?
Below, his house in Hampstead in England. I used to love seeing plaques like this on my walks through London when I visited.
When I first was alerted to Keats’ poem by a friend, I bollixed things up, re: his life thinking he had died at the age of 25, never having known love. Well he did die young (correct on that) but he also did have a love relationship with one Fanny Brawne. Being very romantic myself, given to flights of fancy I imagined myself as John Keats redivivus. It was easy and natural for me to transpose my figure into the lonely knight on the hillside wooing the Lady without mercy of the poem I mentioned above. Last month when I was researching Keats I came across so many wonderful quotes from him about love and knew instantly, this was a poet after my own heart. Which is why I have so many quotes, images, pictures in this post. Enjoy! Who knows why romance, love, sex, relationships have escaped my life for too much of my time on earth as an adult.
Below an excellent movie I am told on his life, by one whose opinion I trust. Check it out!
Tonight I am going out dancing. If I come home that means the night was a huge success. If I wind up in the hospital (for any reason) that means it was a failure. It is that simple and stark. Confronting a big fear is not easy. Now the words of Lao Tzu come back to me; “Be compassionate towards yourself.” Coming out was probably the hardest truth I ever had to face about myself, my life, my sense of who and what I am. When I came to that realization there was this moment in time when everything froze. Sheer terror, everything stopped, awful thoughts in my head swirling. “Is that so, is this me, is it true I am bi?”
There was this maximum amount of tension, of a frightful clash inside my psyche. Total inertia within me and a force at work to break on through. What I imagine childbirth is like for a woman, or passing a gallstone (thankfully have not had that painful experience). Those moments, seconds, minutes of unbearable anguish until a decision is reached.
Then you make up your mind and realize your heart is still beating, the ceiling has not collapsed upon you, you still are very much in the land of the living.
Below, for me part of the making it real was telling people one by one, by email-phone-in person about being bi
Fear gave way to love. To self acceptance, peace with oneself, then eventually compassion towards who and what I am all about. In Feb. 1987 I was in Quebec city, during the winter carnival walking around with a woman I was madly in love with. I just adored her and was plenty nervous (and frightfully cold also). Dear gentle patient sweet reader, do you think Fear is the opposite of Love? Fear is when we do not act. I think of the words of the Italian footballer Salvatore “Toto” Schillaci, “the important thing in life is to participate”.*** We do not express ourselves, engage in life, we are inert-frozen (as I was literally looking at those ice sculptures with my Lady Friend in Quebec). I think of how Dante Alighieri puts Satan in hell: frozen in the ice at the very bottom. There are no fires in hell, rather in his conception there is stasis, an immovable object, zero warmth of any kind.
Love makes us bold, gives us strength-courage. Coming out has truly been the healthiest thing I have ever done for myself. Plunging into dancing might be the second, because I am continually reminded now that I looked at terror and fear head on, and was able to slay my own personal dragon. If I was governed by fear for so long in my life then I want to spend the final almost half century triumphing over it, crowing and gloating over it. The words of st. Paul “Death where is thy sting?” cometh to mind.
Blog post soon about the Gargoyle club in the Soho district of London, England, ca. 1920s.
Plenty of artistic bi characters were present.
Also, want to write something about re-inventing oneself. Coming out this summer was very much that.
I have now commenced to live a second life.
Above a way of life after my own soul. This reminded me of the little ditty (see below):
“Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There’s always laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Below, from the Keats movie. Just a beautiful, sensual image to bring joy to you and me.
As Freud quipped, sometimes a pipe is just a pipe.
Definitely check out ‘Dead poets society” if you do not know this offering. Still cannot believe Ethan Hawke is the same person as the “Before” trilogy (with the lovely Julie Delpy). You want romance, something to set your heart aflame, see those 3 movies. Remember watching it over the years and thinking the roommate character of Ethan Hawke (played by Robert Sean Leonard) Neil Perry was awfully cute, charming, endearing. Another red flag that went off in my loins that I totally missed. Could I have been more asleep all those decades concerning being bi? i think not.
Does anyone know the lilting Shaker spiritual “The Lord of the dance”?
First came across it in the early 1980s and have enjoyed its beautiful melody and verses ever since.
Have a friend who just adores (as do I) the great British actor Robert Donat, so when I sent her this link of Donat reading Keats she was ecstatic (as was I).
Does it get much better, one of your favourite poems read by a fantastic actor?
Dancing was fantastic last night. Had a fabulous time.
The hours last night dancing were fabulous beyond belief. The verses below truly strike a chord within me. Quite fitting.
***Schillaci had an odd career. He only scored one goal for Italy outside of his 1990 World Cup performance (his 6 goals in the Mundial brought him the Golden boot award, for top scorer). Italy was host that year for the World Cup, but was eliminated on penalties in the semi-final by Argentina, which sent your humble scribe into a total funk for days.