Keats’ Poetic Content


-        Keats successfully explored a variety of poetic forms during his brief career: the sonnet, the ode, the epic, the elegy.

-        In each of these forms he experimented with different poetic devices in search of many effects.

-        In some poems he luxuriates in a dreamy escape from the depressing realities of his life by massing delightful sensations in highly sensual poems. In these poems he frequently pictures a happiness that the world can never give him.

-        In other poems he confronts the truth of human suffering with compassion and intelligence.

-        Keats possessed a speculative mind which energetically explored the paradoxes of existence even though he felt certain that he would never find any solid lasting answers to his questions.

-        He felt imaginative sympathy for opposing positions in any argument, so he could argue each side with equal eloquence. In his greatest poems, opposite visions of life seem poised in perfect balance.

-        Natural longing for a better world, a happier existence, or more perfect love are balanced by a recognition that life is finite and brief.

-        For him natural fulfillment may overcome the fact of our mortality.


Keats’ Poetic Voice:


-        Keats’ poetic skills rival Shakespeare’s. In his poetry the language achieves remarkable effects.

-        He uses a regular end-stopped line, but they are filled with concrete sensual details and musical effects.

-        Keats makes extensive use of rhyme, but he also uses subtler musical devices like assonance and alliteration. Assonance is a similar vowel sound recurring in a line or successive lines; alliteration is a similar consonant sound being used throughout a line.

-        Keats loved to make his lines as intense as possible but still exercise absolute control.  He said, “Poetry should surprize by a fine excess…” Frequently, his poems mass imagery and enriched language to describe objects in repose. His goal may be to juxtapose aspects of the eternal with the flash of passing life.

-        Another device that Keats loved to use was evoking two or more senses simultaneously in one image. For instance, throughout “Ode to a Nightingale” Keats compares the sound of the nightingale’s song to a variety of sensual responses: drinking deep a “draught of vintage”, flight to a realm of ‘verdurous glooms’, a magic window opening ‘on the foam of perilous seas’. He will mix senses in specific images as well: ‘embalmed dark’, ‘tender is the night’.


Creative Writing ala Keats


-        Write a description of an object in repose, like a tree or a hill, or the façade of a church or school. However, you need to use the most elaborate and active language possible in your lines.

-        Fill your description with verbals: use participles and gerunds instead of adjectives and nouns.

-        Try to use poetic devices like rhyme, alliteration and assonance in your poem.

-        See if you can intensify the sense experience by using words which evoke one sense in the service of a word from a different sense: “the embalming darkness”.

-        Describe the object, but allow it to come alive in your imagination and take you wherever it wants you to go.