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Keats (Poetic Lives) by Robert Mighall

Keats (Poetic Lives)

by Robert Mighall

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198537,190 (3.25)18

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is a book to be savoured more by lovers of poetry than the biographical reader. The details of Keats life still remain enigmatic to me, and although he only lived to 25 years of age, the essence of his character eluded the book. The poet's verse provides the structure for this biographical sketch, together with commentaries on his work. However the Keatian scholar would find this work too cursory whilst the uninitiated would struggle somewhat with the density of the references. I would recommend this more to those wishing to dip into his verse in a biographically reflective manner. ( )
  kiwidoc | Feb 14, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
In 25 too-short years Keats accomplished what only a handful of other English poets have, true and lasting immortality. As a biography, Robert Mighall's concise little volume provides the facts of Keat's short and tragic life in a straight forward and readable manner. This is not, however, the strength of the book. Its strength lies in the author giving a biographical and literary context for Keat's poetry which is generously quoted throughout the work. This the the first volume of the Poetic Lives series that I have read. If the rest are as good, I will be picking them up as well . ( )
  Broadwater43 | Jul 14, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is the second book in the Poetic Lives series I've read, and once again, it goes to disprove the notion of the Death of the Author -- in this small and effective volume, Keats's life and his work are intertwined. This is more of a Keats anthology than a biography; while the biography and the poems were more balanced in the Coleridge volume, here Keats takes center stage. I'm never going to complain about having more Keats to read, but I'm glad to be reading this after Andrew Motion's Keats biography, so that I already have a fuller picture of the poet's life. Still, it's excellent for students and newcomers, and a lovely dip back into the poetry and the biography for the more knowledgeable. ( )
  chelseagirl | Jul 13, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
John Keats died from tuberculosis at age 25, and almost nothing is known of his childhood. Yet somehow this biography is still short on details. At several points, Mighall will mention a name and tag it with the phrase "who was Keats' closest friend at the time." Unfortunately, we get almost no hint as to why the two men became close. We read that Keats once thought about becoming a journalist "on the left," but we read nothing about what his political beliefs are. Keats' famous idea about poetry known as "negative capability" only garners two mentions, and neither of them provide much in the way of elucidation. The only area of Keats' brief life that does not receive short shrift is direct quotations from his poetry. Even this, though, is a weakness. Mighall is so generous with his quotations that he includes many poems in their entirety. With a short ode, that makes perfect sense, but I don't believe "Lamia" is worth printing in full (it takes up 20 pages in a biography that is only 155 pages long). The problem is that the people who might be interested in reading about Keats' life already are likely to know his poetry, and those who are looking to explore his poetry are unlikely to turn to a biography. So while we have pages and pages of Keats' poetry, we are left with little or no knowledge about Keats' relationships, habits, and hobbies. It is disappointing when a biography is missing so much that makes biographies interesting. ( )
  wrmjr66 | Jul 3, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Poetic Lives: Keats by Robert Mighall offers a scholarly yet warm look at the life of John Keats. It starts, interestingly, with his grave in Rome which doesn’t bear his name but the cryptic words, “Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water”. Mighall then takes us through the seasons of Keats’ too short life with chapters appropriately titled “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter”, to end full circle with his death.

The Spring of his life was not a blithe, untroubled time for Keats as a boy. The untimely death of his father, Thomas, with his mother, Frances, remarrying unhappily (and then disappearing altogether for many years to flee that marriage), left John and his siblings in the care of his maternal grandparents. He was a scrappy child who threw himself headlong into everything, including a fistfight to defend a kitten from being bullied (he won against a much larger butcher’s son). An indifferent student, he suddenly caught fire near the end of his school years and devoured everything he could lay his hands on, winning many academic prizes.

Mighall gives samples of Keats’ fledgling poems from this period, explaining them within the context of his life circumstances while exploring their relative lack of sophistication from an academic perspective. I enjoyed this approach very much indeed.

The subsequent chapters of Summer, Fall and Winter follow a similar format with the biographical details of Keats’ life used to flesh out and inform the maturity evolving in his poetry. Mighall is excellent discussing poems such as The Eve of St. Agnes, Ode to Psyche, Lamia, Ode to a Nightingale, helping the reader to understand the poet’s growth and philosophical musings.

Tuberculosis stalked his life and finally claimed Keats himself, at an appallingly young twenty-five. He left no offspring but only deep friendships and, thankfully, stunningly beautiful poetry. Robert Mighall gives it its due, with some fine writing of his own. He doesn’t whack us over the head with his scholarly capabilities but opens Keats’ work out to us, with respect.

As for the book itself, the Hesperus Press edition is a pet: just the right size to hold, with a fine feel to both the paper and the cover. I am pleased to tuck it into my poetry shelf beside my volume of Keats’ poetry, as a reference.

One small, tetchy note: on page 91 there was a typo which should have been caught (“the state un which a poet” should have said “in”). Not a biggie but a book like this deserves to be perfect.
11 vote tiffin | Jun 22, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 184391302X, Paperback)

One of the leading figures of the English Romantic movement, and an inspiration for many future poets, John Keats' works such as "Ode to a Nightingale," "To Autumn," and "Ode on a Grecian Urn" are among the best-loved poems of all time. In this new biography, Robert Mighall charts the life of this brilliant poet, from the premature deaths of both his parents, to his early writings and unkind treatment from critics, his travels and friendship with the Shelleys, and his untimely death at the age of 25. Interspersed in his life story are extracts from Keats’s poems to offer a unique insight into both the man and his work.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:34 -0400)

BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY: LITERARY. In this new biography, Robert Mighall charts the life of this brilliant poet, from the premature deaths of both his parents, to his early writings and unkind treatment from critics, his travels and friendship with the Shelleys, and his own untimely death at the age of twenty-five. Interspersed in his life story are extracts from Keats' poems to offer a unique insight into both the man and his work.… (more)

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