John Keats: “The Poet Has No Identity”

John Keats: "The poet has no identity" Human Voices Wake Us

An episode from 5/5/21: Tonight, I read part of John Keats’s famous letter of October 27, 1818, where he talks about the poet and the poetic character. Although, the kind of person he describes is alive and well in all walks of life, from high school to the board room to the celebrity who can’t wait to leave the party.

The full text of the letter is here, and the actual letter can be viewed here

He asks the questions: how much of a poet’s life is given up by their focus on poetry, by their people-watching and people-listening, by their lack of social skills? How much of their lives are left over when they become so consumed (whether attracted or repelled) with the lives and words of others?

Keats says, in part: “It is a wretched thing to confess; but is a very fact that not one word I ever utter can be taken for granted as an opinion growing out of my identical nature–how can it, when I have no nature? When I am in a room with People if I ever am free from speculating on creations of my own brain, then not myself goes home to myself: but the identity of every one in the room begins so to press upon me that I am in a very little time annihilated.”

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