Several years ago, I started working on a book about John Clare, an English second-generation Romantic poet. He knew of Keats (not terribly impressed) and as he was went mad, sometimes thought he was Lord Byron. I’d never given much though to the Romantics and had managed to work through a four-year degree on English Literature without taking a single class on them. Truth is they seemed rather dull and much too rhymey for my youthful taste.
As I’ve mentioned this book to friends and neighbors, unsurprisingly, I get a lot of arched eyebrows or blank stares. Not many of heard of him or have much of an interest in two hundred year-old poems. Occasionally, however, someone’s eyes would widen and they’d start swooning about how one of these poets and how their work inspired them or changed the way they approached the world.
For our first, of what we hope to be seasonal salons, I invited not only some Seattle poets, but also, many of these neighbors to come share why the Romantic poets so moved them. What is it about this era and the poems from it that still resonates today? Afternoon Romantics featured ten readers, each reading five minutes, from their favorite Romantic era writer or something from the time period that personally interested them. We had a wide range of writing and writers, and as it turned out, no Clare.