A visit to Keats House & a lesson for all writers

After I’d had such a fabulous time at ID studio in London watching ‘The Family‘ audiobook being recorded (and you can read my behind-the-scenes-blog here) I wasn’t quite ready to go home.

Keats House is somewhere I’d always wanted to visit but never quite got round to. With the sun shining and having heard lovely things about the garden, it seemed a perfect time.

Poetry is something I love to read. As a teenager, I’d often outpour my emotion onto paper but as an adult, I find novels somehow easier to write. I’m a big fan of the romantic poets and standing on the front doorstep, gazing at the house where John Keats wrote much of his work, was an emotional experience.

The house is smaller than it appears from the outside, split over three floors. When Keats lived here it was tinnier still, split into two separate dwellings. He wrote his poetry in the parlour and rented a bedroom.

Before my visit, I was familiar with many of his poems but I didn’t know much about his personal life. I learned that Keats was a medical student, and after receiving his apothecary license which made him eligible to practice as an apothecary, surgeon and physician he decided instead to follow his dream of being a writer.

He lived in poor conditions and constantly worried about money. Sadly he was due to receive over half a million pounds in today’s money in inheritance but it appears he was never told about the money and never claimed it. He moved into this house in Hampstead, originally called Wentworth Place as a lodger.

 

   

In his lifetime he published three poetry books, none of which sold well, and he thought he had failed as a writer.  That nobody would ever be interested enough to want to read his work. Keats is now regarded as one of the greatest poets of our time and it really struck me that, throughout time, markets have changed so quickly. An author may release a book that initially doesn’t do very well but, particularly in today’s digital era, it is never too late for that book to gain popularity. Keats thought his career was over before it had properly begun but his poetry has stood the test of time.

I’m on the cusp of publication of my fifth psychological thriller, ‘The Family‘, and Keats own publishing experience has been a valuable lesson for me. Every writer experiences highs and lows. Of course, I’d love my story to fly, but if it doesn’t there will be other novels afterward. We are all so much more than just one book.

Keats fell in love with Fanny Brawne who lived next door and the things he wrote about her made me smile. I don’t think in this day and age I’d be hugely appreciative if I was told my mouth was bad and good, my hands baddish and my feet tolerable. He also said ‘I shall domesticate her and then marry her.’

Tragically after their engagement Keats developed tuberculosis and despite moving to Rome for the warmer climate he died at the age of only twenty-five.

He was incredibly brave to give up a respected and well-paid career to follow his dreams and such a shame he never lived to see how adored he’d become.

 

 

Twas the night before Christmas

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Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

 

Written by Clement Moore

 

Wishing all my fellow bloggers a very Merry Christmas.

The Memory Store

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There’s a hidden box inside my mind, I call my memory store,

When days seem dull, I’m feeling blue, I revisit times before,

A kindness I’ve forgotten, an adventure, a good book,

Remind me that life’s full of colour; if you only look.

 

 

Written for Streams of Consciousness Saturday. Write the first thing that springs to mind following a prompt and post. No editing allowed. This weeks post is ‘store.’

Go, while you can

I want to travel the world,

I want to live by the sea,

In another place, I would become,

The person I was meant to be.

I want to go far away,

I want to leave that boy,

The one who broke my heart,

The one who stamped on my joy.

I unfurl my battered map,

Smooth creases with my hand,

Now where should I go?

Where is the promised land?

I squint through blackened eyes,

I dream of sand and sun,

I jump when the front door bangs,

I tremble when I see his gun.

I’ve never travelled far,

And now I never will,

A bang, a scream, a pain,

And then everything is still.

Written for Streams of Consciousness Saturday. Write the first thing that comes to mind following a prompt and post. No editing allowed. This weeks prompt is go.



Who’s laughing now?

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You called me Miss Piggy, just for ‘fun,’

You would steal my school bag to make me run,

You would grab my stomach, making it jiggle,

‘Stop crying fatty, it’s just a giggle.’

 

I binged and I starved in a bid to grow thinner,

Ignored growling hunger, refused to eat dinner,

I was admitted to hospital, fed by a drip,

Self image distorted, I was losing my grip.

 

My recovery was slow, my confidence gone,

But if you thought you could break me, well you were wrong,

My body grew stronger, my courage was steel,

You don’t get to choose how I feel.

 

I was spotted by an agent, ‘I think you’re so cute,’

Was trembling with fear at my first photo shoot,

Now I have staff, no-one calls me fat cow,

£20,000 a picture – who’s laughing now?

 

Written for Streams of Consciousness Saturday. Write the first thing that comes into your head following a prompt, and post without editing. This weeks prompt was ‘funny.’

SoCS – If I could start over

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I am climbing up the stairs, the creaking is my knees,
I can’t quite hear you, can you speak up please,
I really can’t read this, the print it is far too small,
I feel like I am shrinking, I no longer feel so tall.

My once firm body now hangs soft and saggy,
My skin is far too big, leathery and baggy,
I have lost my independence, I can’t nip to the shop,
The world is quickly changing, I wish that it would stop.

My mind it still remembers, the joy that I once had,
Of climbing trees, and swimming seas, when I was just a lad,
Falling in love with a beautiful girl and making her my wife,
Buying our first home together and building a new life,

Having our three babies, and watching as they grew,
Holidays and Christmases and picnics at the zoo,
My memory is full of happy times and love fills up my heart,
I wouldn’t change a single thing if I could go back to the start.

A quick bit of fun for this weeks Stream of Consciousness – I am far from a poet! Prompt – age.