Friday, August 5, 2011 | By: Brianna

Poetry Friday -- Bright Star

Today I decided that I would bring back Poetry Friday.  That I've been so dedicated to these past couple of weeks.  (And yes, that's sarcasm.)  I do enjoy reflecting on poetry, and I think it's valuable to my own writing if I create prompts based on that poetry, so here we go.

I found this poem using StumbleUpon (because I have a serious addiction and I need intervention very soon).  This time I'm reading "Bright Star" by John Keats.  The last time I really looked at this poem was in my junior year of high school in my British literature class.  And that was a long time ago.  So long ago that I really don't want to think about the number of years that I won't.

This poem is a sonnet, a traditional Elizabethan sonnet (because there's more than one type of sonnet.  Confusing?  Maybe.) with its 14 lines and rhyme scheme, and it must be in iambic pentameter as well, but I'm too lazy right now to count out the beats in the first line.  That's right.  Too.  Lazy.  And it's great.

I find it interesting that Keats emphasizes the steadfastness of the star mostly because the star is probably dead.  Maybe that's saying something about the reliability of the dead for the living to depend upon them, or perhaps it's just saying that this was long before any huge astronomical discoveries were made with regards to the stars.  Keats also spends much of his time clarifying what he means by wishing that he were the star.  He doesn't want to hang in lone splendor in the sky, but he wants to remain steadfast with his love.  And if he doesn't live right there with his love, he would "swoon to death."  Which brings me back to my point that the star the speaker is looking at is probably a dead star.  And perhaps you can compare the swoon to whatever makes a plain-old-ordinary-star into a "shooting star."  Because if Keats were away from his love (ie. a shooting star) he would "swoon to death."

Aw, and then there's that parallel drawn between the swell of the sea and the swell of the speaker's lover's breasts...and then there's all that about priestlike tasks and journeys of ablution, both of which are hugely religious...sheesh, this poem is packed with delicious goodies!

1.  Write a sonnet.  About anything.  But be sure to use your own language, because it's no fun to right in archaic language that'll misdate your poem.  You'd much rather date your poem by using words like "groovy" and "awesome," right?
2.  What (in spite of everything around it) remains unchanged in the world?  Write about that.
3.  Steal the line "No--yet still steadfast, still unchangeable" and use it in your own work.  Or take on that style of saying "no" but then basically agreeing anyway.
4.  Write a love poem, but don't let your lover be the subject of the poem.  Write about a wish that you have with regards to how you can more properly love them.  Like Keats says he wishes he was as steadfast as a star.  What characteristic (of a star or not) do you wish you had?

"Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art--
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite..."
- John Keats "Bright Star"


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