October 31, 2022: 227 years ago today, October 31, 1795, John Keats was born!
To celebrate, Harvard University Press is publishing
A Greeting of the Spirit Selected Poetry of John Keats with Commentaries
By Susan J. Wolfson
This gorgeous cover, a detail from John Constable’s Harwich Lighthouse, alludes visually to the source of the book’s title, a comment Keats made to a friend about the life of imagination: “Things semireal such as Love, the Clouds &c which require a greeting of the Spirit to make them wholly exist—.” Susan Wolfson invites you to experience Keats in the way that he himself imagined the language of poetry: as a living event, a cooperative experience shared between author and reader
Keats’s career as a published poet spanned scarcely more than four years, cut short by his death early in 1821 at age twenty-five. Yet in this time, he produced a remarkable—and remarkably wide-ranging—body of work that has secured his place as one of the most influential poets in the British literary tradition. This book is an experimental hybrid: part selected poetry, part literary commentary, part biography. Each of the 78 selections is accompanied by a commentary on form, style, meanings, and informative contexts. The lively complexities of his verbal arts and stylistic experiments, his earnest goals and nervous apprehensions, and the pressures of politics and literary criticism in his day display a virtuoso poet, by turns lively, experimental, self-ironizing, outrageous, and philosophical. Selections include such well-known favorites as Ode to a Nightingale, Ode on a Grecian Urn, To Autumn, La Belle Dame sans Merci, and The Eve of St. Agnes, as well as less familiar poems, several in letters to family and friends never meant for publication. On every page, A Greeting of the Spirit meets the breadth and depth of Keats’s poetic imagination, from intellectual jests and satires to erotic bandying, passionate confessions, and reflections on mortality. Presented in their order of composition, the contents convey a chronicle of Keats’s artistic and personal evolution.