Letter to Walt Whitman

May 9th, 1816

Dear Mr. Whitman,

I’m pleased to tell you that I very much enjoyed reading your work, and find we have many common interests.  Recently, as a former student of medicine, I look for inspiration and ideas to help develop my career as a poet and fuel my passion for poetry.  You sir, have just provided me so.  I also found the differences in your writing as an American, and mine as an Englishman to be interesting.  Your work is very impressive; not only in its structure, but also in the themes and ideas you’ve chosen to write about in your works such in “Leaves of Grass or “Songs of Myself.”

Your theme of consciousness I found to be the most intriguing.  A person only as access to one conscious, their own, and as is evident in your poetry, you’ve told your stories based on the conscious or from first person point view.  I find using the conscious to be the most revealing and personal method of relaying thoughts and feelings in poetry.  Consciousness is a natural thing, and I believe you’ll agree with me when I say that it is also a thing that cannot be restrained or cultivated.  I myself have considered writing more about the conscious, and hope to use your and past and future work for inspiration.

The significance of nature and natural occurrences is also very important to me, and I’m very glad to find that it’s important to you as well.  I believe mankind (rich or poor) has become too absorbed within their daily routines and work, and has forgotten to take a moment, however brief, and admire the beautiful and pure natural surroundings that God has provided us with, even if the admiration for nature may not be to as much of an extent as you have demonstrated. Our love for nature is definitely something we have in common; I specifically discovered my love for nature and freedom during my walking tour of England.  Although I have to admit, you are truly “THE lover of nature,” since I’ve never happened upon someone who appreciates nature as much as my fellow poets and myself or possibly even more.

Perhaps the most memorable aspect of your work I find is its “openness”. As you yourself said, “I will go to the bank by the wood, and become undisguised and naked; I am mad for it (nature) to be in contact with me.”  However, I do have to bring up one concern of mine while reading your work.  While writing about nature, didn’t you ever feel that your focus on human pleasure and sexual urges was a bit far-fetched?  I admire your boldness and understand the reasoning behind “pleasure” being natural, but I know for certain that here in England, if I were to write too much about human urges, my readers would be displeased, and my credibility as a poet may even be lost. Nonetheless, I believe your “openness” will turn out to be a big step for literature’s future, whether it’s in the right or wrong direction I cannot really say.

I’m curious to know if the aim of expressing man’s exposed desires and urges is to make a political statement?  It is not too common for me to come across a poet in our time and age who wishes to initiate political change specifically through those means.  Despite the fact that I am not too familiar with politics and have chosen to not dabble within society’s political matters, I appreciate that you oppose being confined by our society’s rules and restrictions.  This bring up another point of yours, equality.  I agree, that in order to be truly free, we must accept every being as an equal individual, “for every atom belonging to me, as good belongs to you.”  The concept of owning others for the purpose of waiting and attending to a person’s every need I find unfathomable.  I assume I reached this conclusion based on the fact that I’ve never experienced working or living with people considered to be “beneath” me and find the aristocrats to be vain, but I wonder how you encountered your concept of equality?  What was it that inspired you or  when did you realize that this is a world where everyone should be accepted and live as an equal individual?

Once again, I had a lovely time reading your work and look forward to reading more of your work in the future and hearing any of your thoughts.  Any advice you may have for me would also be greatly appreciated. Your work is very inspiring and I wish you good luck in your endeavors as a writer =)

Your Admirer and Fellow Poet,

John Keats


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