Poetry as Leaves
‘If Poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree,’ said John Keats, ‘it had better not come at all.’ But why leaves? Not bark? Not fruit? It is, I suppose, a metaphorical halfway house between the idea of poetry as integral to the poet, like a skin, and poetry as a detachable offering by the poet, like an apple (‘here, take my poem, I don’t need it any more: enjoy it and may it nourish you!’ Did any poet ever say anything so ridiculous?). I wonder if Keats, on the contrary, is getting at the notion that poetry sustains the poet; that one’s poems perform a sort of photosynthesis for one’s own soul?