Yesterday I wrote an op-ed on The Sopranos and another on manspreading. I will be writing about Buddy Holly for The Daily Beast. This afternoon I will discuss the Patriots and the baseball Hall of Fame on the radio. Today I wrote a fine piece on John Keats for Valentine's Day for The Washington Post. I am writing at a very high level. How long do you think you can keep me out, publishing? Can you do this, other writers and editors who are throwing up the blockade? Let's see you. What do you got?
The most sing-song of the odes, and the perfect Valentine’s poem, is “La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” which translates to “the beautiful lady without mercy.” You know what I’m saying, fellas. Or do you? For this is not a poem about a woman who done did a man wrong, but rather about a muse who, let us say, entangles with an artist to produce something larger than them both. It is also the most erotic poem in literature. They say that Onan has committed it to memory, much as I have.
O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms/Alone and palely and loitering?” asks a passerby to our down-in-the-dumps knight-poet, who then proceeds to tell a tale of a woman—a woman, spirit, a muse, a kind of post-human—who emerged from the bracken and co-joined with him. She hooks him up with tasty roots (by which we mean, she finds his root…well, you can do the math), and he makes a garland for her hair. “I set her on my pacing steed, and nothing else saw all day long/For sidelong would she bend, and sing/A faery’s song.” This is a horse that is more like a rooster, you might say.
The charged eroticism of these lines have something supple about them—they have the gravity of grace, too. This is vulnerability and risk, a giving of one’s self to another, an ecstasy of faith which may well not be rewarded in our conventional expectations of what a reward is. But is happily-ever-after the reward, or is the reward the earned knowledge that in this perpetually non-guaranteed affair of the heart—as all such affairs are—this person drank life to the lees and became more human in doing so?
After what I did last year as an artist...I am at a higher level this year. I can feel it. This is the strongest run of writing with which I have ever started a year. My muscles, my sinews, if we imagine an artist to have their forms of those, grow, and grow, and grow, and I am in this cage, as I grow, and grow, and grow, and they will not let me molt, they will not let me have skin that fits me. When does something give, and what is it, because I am right here out in the open doing what nobody is doing.
Kimball sent me a text yesterday that pulled a laugh from me, saying he hoped my nipples were better. Sly boots.
And speaking of Keats, this is good.