John Keats, Fanny Brawne, and “Bright Star”
Bright Star, the new film written and directed by Jane Campion, opened in the Chicago area yesterday. Bright Star weaves a story of the romantic love and poetic longing of John Keats and Fanny Brawne during the last three years of Keats’ too-short life. Campion’s script was, according to today’s review in the Chicago Tribune, “inspired by the exceptional Andrew Motion biography Keats,” which we published in paperback in 1999.
Motion’s biography is an interesting choice for a filmmaker. Andrew Motion is a poet above all; he served as Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1999 to 2009. He has numerous books of poetry to his credit, as well as criticism and several other biographies. Keats is a poet’s biography of a poet; it is steeped in the words of the poet, shaped primarily by Keats’ letters and punctuated by Keats’ poems. It is as textual as you can get.
Keats has come down to us, Motion writes, as a poets’ poet: the champion of truth and beauty, a sensualist, the archetype of the Romantic poet, who poured out words in a frenetic rush, writing all the poems we know him for in the space of a month or two. But Motion gives us another side of John Keats. Unlike previous biographers, he pays close attention to the social and political worlds Keats inhabited—a young man, trying to climb up from his working class origins, shaped by radical political ideas as well as by notions of truth, beauty, and romantic love.
We have an excerpt from the book which discusses Keats, Fanny Brawne, and Keats’ poem to her, “Bright Star.”