Poetry by Keats, Genius is Loving Your Mistakes

Good Essays
First, re: Keats: his letter addresses something that I've been wondering about "genius." I'm reminded of this popular quotation from Ulysses: "A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery." If Genius (I love that it's capitalized) is some sort of spectral or seraphic presence independent of mind, then it seems to visit or attach itself to only a few people every generation. Why is it so selective? This is a superstitious explanation for "genius," of course, and we know statistically that genius IQs really are rare. But I've been seeing this wonderful psychyoga instructor who is also a clairvoyant, and she insists that "everyone has genius inside them." This could be New Age, kumbaya claptrap, but I think she's right; therefore, Joyce (perhaps unwittingly) is talking about everyone (my professor used to say, "Love your mistakes!" at the end of every class). But how do people access genius so quickly (precocity/child prodigies) and so easily (the daily, random assemblage of great poems)?

Back to your poem: "if what one writes is an oracle / it may does it heal" is the line that made me suspicious of your motives, but I believe you when you say that you wrote this poem during that prolific eighty-day period. I like the momentary back-and-forth with yourself ("does it") and am reminded of Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art," where a stern voice interrupts parenthetically and forces her to complete the poem ("(Write it)"). A prophesy can be a comfort, but I think you're talking about self-delusion. "Not post- but meta-myth- / ic" refers to someone, perhaps an egoistic self-deluder, who has not permanently dispelled his myths ("post-mythic") but is aware of them and incessantly refers to them ...

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...ucky enough that the "good Genius presides over you," then you're probably obligated to take the work seriously. When one of my classmates became interested in poetry, her gift for it was obvious; the poems were exquisite, but gravely serious. At the mic during a poetry reading, she closed her eyes, affected an I'm-a-future-poet-leaureate voice, and said things like, "Desert is just one letter away from something sweet." I kept hearing the Joker say, "Why so serious?" That question inspired my dash-of-serious, otherwise looney nonsense poems. (One of my professors told me that literary critics generally try to "impose sense" on nonsense literature, which is irritating; can't nonsense have its own integrity?) I'm not saying that my poems are funny; they're probably excruciatingly stupid. But I can't write a poem with a straight face. (The good Idiot presides over me!)