Fall 2011 • Vol. XXXIII No. 4 A Symposium on John Keats |

Myopic Keats

At fifteen, John Keats was apprenticed to an Edmonton surgeon, thus setting in motion a series of events which would fundamentally alter his poetic vision. After six years of medical training, first in Edmonton and later at Guy’s Hospital in London, Keats recognized that he was too much of a dreamer to be a surgeon. Though he evidently acquitted himself well during his training, his mind was elsewhere. Troubled, he told his friend Charles Armitage Brown, “My last operation was the opening of a man’s temporal artery. I did it with the utmost nicety, but reflecting on what passed through my mind at the time, my dexterity seemed a miracle, and I never took up the lancet again.” He made an early choice to forsake one calling, the practice of medicine, in favor of another, the practice of poetry. But medicine, its material facts, its vocabulary, and its sense of mortal consequence, left its mark. When Keats came of age as a poet, he carried that language with him; it enlarged and

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Ann Townsend is the author of Dime Store Erotics and The Coronary Garden (poems) and editor of Radiant Lyre: Essays on Lyric Poetry (with David Baker). She directs the creative writing program at Denison University and is a founding member of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts.

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At fifteen, John Keats was apprenticed to an Edmonton surgeon, thus setting in motion a series of events which would fundamentally alter his poetic vision. After six years of medical […]

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