A Short-lived Poetic Romance

One day on my way to the library, I met a boy. The handsome but rather short boy stepped in front of me and smiled. Without any formalities but eye contact, he broke into a performance, and much to the amusement of students who were sitting in the foyer. He was reciting Keats’ Endymion, for me.

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

As a 17-year-old fresher, I stood transfixed with embarrassment and praying for some kind of miracle to save me. After what felt like eternity, he finished reciting, smiled and left. The highly-entertained crowd was still clapping as I, too, continued on my way.

“How did he know Keats was one of my favourites?” Embarrassment turned into excitement, I was flattered by the attention. When I got to the library, I abandoned all intention to study for an exam that was coming up the next day, and instead headed for the poetry section. As I cuddled up with Endymion, I realised he had recited the whole first stanza; 24 lines! I was impressed. And so, ensured the crush on a nameless boy.

Osteospermum / South African daisy

note: I’m in a serious poetry writing funk, right now. I’m writing everything else, but poetry. This makes me feel as unsteady as the ocean. So, I share this piece (an excerpt of a longer essay I wrote to answer why I write poetry) as way to remind myself that (for me) poetry is a spontaneous overflow…I can’t force it.

Khaya Ronkainen
Khaya Ronkainen is a writer, poet and blogger. Her blog focuses on poetry and creative nonfiction, and also features poets and their books.

26 Comments

  1. Poetry writing funk! I can so relate…. including writing everything else!! But I think it’s like renewal.. it will simply come back when the weather is right….

  2. Romance at the library is a secret fantasy of mine. I would love someone to recite Keats, or any poetry, to me. Thank you, Khaya, for this story!

  3. Khaya, wow! 😀😀 What a magical and uplifting greeting on your way to the library! Life is strange and this came just at the right time for you. You did well to head for the poetry section after, immersing yourself in Keats! (One of my favourites too!) Don’t worry that poetry is not flowing for you at the moment, as you say it is not to be forced but soon will find a channel through you again! Hugs xx ❤️

  4. This essay excerpt is so lovely! So sorry to hear about your poetry funk right now, though. Hope inspiration returns to you sometime soon!

  5. What a sweet story! And if that helped you arrive at a love of poetry, and even led to your making some yourself, I join in the applause for that boy.

    I think we all have periods where the Muse takes time off. Don’t worry – poetry always returns..

  6. This excerpt made me smile (and cringe in sympathetic embarrassment–I’m not a fan of being part of the spectacle). And maybe want to know what happened next. Hope your poetry finds its way back to you soon!

  7. I would have fainted if someone were to recite poetry, that too Keats’ Endymion to me! 💝 Love this romance-filled nostalgia 😀

  8. 24 lines on the spot! Well, that is certainly something to be impressed about. And I love the idea of poetry begetting poetry (or poetry writing).

    I hope your poetry funk says goodbye soon.

  9. I mentioned elsewhere that part of my mother’s schooling was to memorize selected poems. I’m sure that instilled my love for rhyming. I’m not sure today’s children know how to rhyme, but they do seem to be encouraged to write essays or personal journal pages. Poetry funks come and go. Your muse will return, no doubt!

  10. I’ve been in a similar funk. We must be patient. Poetry tends to hibernate sometimes.

  11. If i were to get a poetry performance of that sort, i would want Shakeaspeare “if music be the food of love play on…”
    But i remember (yeats ago) 😊 going on a vacation to Grenada with a girl pal, and a calypso singer composing a song for us at a night club. That was delightfully flattering

    Happy Sunday

    Much💝love

  12. Hope you can break out of your funk soon. I had a poet tell me once..write everyday, even if it isn’t good, even if it only lives in a folder because you never know when your best work may come. Love the story. Oh, if only more of our youth could quote Keats.

  13. O Khaya, I hope this is you, a true experience. Sooo sweet, sooo good. I wish it were me, I had the crushes but I never dated nor even revealed during my first college stint.
    ..

  14. A lovely interlude, Khaya. Your story made me thing of Grafton Street in Dublin the spring I was there and poets seemed to be everywhere. It also reminds me that Endymion is bittersweet: “and health and quiet breathing” meant so much to John, who died from tuberculosis in his twenties. (He loved Fanny but couldn’t be near her because of it.)

  15. Endymion is bittersweet, indeed. I got to understand more of the poem, and others by Keats, when I was studying poetry. I gained both pleasure and profound respect as I gained more insight into his works. He remains my favourite, and I know you love him too… 🙂 Thank you for reading!

  16. I’m glad to hear I’m not alone in this poetry funk, Rajani. I tell ya, I can’t wait for spring and an improvement in weather. Isn’t that it’s a season to inspire bards and minstrels with a birdsong…LOL!

  17. Hi Annika! It was a magical experience, indeed. And in those days poetry and literature in general were somewhat of great interest to teenagers. I guess it’s due to growing up with television. 😀 As for the muse refusing to cooperate, I’ve simply let it be. In the meantime, and while waiting for spring, I’m revising some of the poems I wrote years ago. So, all is not lost. Hugs back at you.<3

  18. Hi Jim, thank you so much for your lovely comment. I appreciate you reading. Yes indeed, this is my true experience. Those college years were sweet and playful; we had no social media so we entertained ourselves. 🙂 Btw, I never dated the boy because I soon find out I was not the only girl he was serenading with poems. 😀 We did though become good friends throughout the duration of our studies.

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