NW3 2RR : 10 Keats Grove. Home of John Keats
October. Constable paints Branch Hill Pond. Glowering grey heron skies.
From Wentworth Place, Keats takes his melancholia for a walk.
The village, the Heath, boundaries shift. Two men, unconnected, pass.
Four stanzas three (he removes one fearing dead men’s bones).
Gone is the ship, the reason for travelling to Lethe.
The artist paints. The poet walks. Skies darken, light fades.
An Ode to Keats
When I received my NW3 2RR postcode, and realised it was a house in London where John Keats stayed for less than two years, I felt really apprehensive. You see, I do love certain poets like TS Eliot and John Burnside, but Keats was a bit of a mystery to me.
So I did some reading, I soon began to examine his only full calendar year in Hampstead, 1819. Not knowing Keats poetry, I homed in on his Odes written that year; I was particularly intrigued by the missing first stanza of ‘Ode to Melancholy’ which he removed before publication in 1820. I also discovered that John Constable visited Hampstead Heath in 1819 to paint. It struck me that two significant artistic talents were shape-shifting around same North London landscape.
A sense of place has always been important to me, I am increasingly drawn to the the writing of Robert Macfarlane and other writers who espouse psychogeography; an appreciation of words, boundaries, literature and liminal places. I knew I wouldn’t have the chance to visit Hampstead in person; so, having established a few facts, I looked for tangential inspiration.
I’ve had a physical set of Oblique Strategy cards* (Third Edition) designed by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt, for some years – and this seemed like an ideal creative project to deploy them on. So I proposed a Sestude structure; 6 lines of 10 words, plus two.
I drew one Oblique Strategies card at the start of each line to provide a point of departure; then, emboldened by some Herefordshire cider, I wrote quickly, simply. Cards like “Make a blank valuable by putting it in exquisite frame” gave me prompts; that one guided the creation of line three. I let the whole rest overnight, then revised the 7 lines gently.
The end result is as you see it.