About Keat’s Negative Capabilities

February 9, 2010

I’ve been reading Oliver’s chapter dealing with: “Diction, Tone and Voice”.  I should confess that the part about “Negative Capability” is the one that puzzled me the most. After reading how this originated with Keats  I decided to research about the term and I found this:

 Keats believed that great people (especially poets) have the ability to accept that not everything can be resolved….that the truths found in the imagination access holy authority. Such authority cannot otherwise be understood, and thus he writes of “uncertainties.” This “being in uncertaint[y]” is a place between the mundane, ready reality and the multiple potentials of a more fully understood existence” (Wikipedia: Negative Capabilities)

 Somehow, this topic strokes a fiber deep inside me.


 Negative Capability is as Oliver (quoting Keats) states: –“when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason—(Oliver pg 83).


My failure to reach a verdict on the reason why our search for knowledge  — as means to understand  our reason to be in this world,– is somehow justified and shared by others.

“In the beginning darkness was upon the face of the deep.”

We all are born in darkness.

As we arrive into this world,

we have no idea what is that we are supposed to do.

So we turn to knowledge.

We try to learn what our purpose in life is.

By learning we try to shed “light” into our lives.

We learn to interact with each other.

We learn a trade. We learn to learn.

But the void is there;

No deed, no work, no thought, sheds sufficient light.


Is it “knowledge” really, our way to enlightenment?


Blackness sets  in.

Hope is dim.

Life stays still.

We walk in darkness,

the road in place.

The  light is dimming,

we find no trace.

The crowds  are thinning,

always retrieving.

The winds are sifting

There is no end.


Blackness sets in.

Hope is dim.

My life stays still.


  1. Comments: Beatriz, I’m glad you’ve discovered a kindred spirit in Keats and Oliver. Oliver is an excellent poet. And Keat, well, was remarkable. IS remarkable. But I do wish you’d spent more time mulling over this idea of “negative capability” and why you think it is important for you as a writer. I’m surprised that you have discovered that this idea of living in uncertainties is shared by others. It has often been shared by poets and other artists, philosophers (all the way back to ancient Greece)and even scientists. I love that your poem deals with this subject. But I can’t help but wonder how your poem might begin to shape itself under your hand if you were to explore some of these ideas further. You bring up a sentence and find an agreement, and I think that is beautiful. But the sentence is a deeper one. I think you know that, or you wouldn’t be writing poems about it. Read Keats and see if you can find what you believe he believes in his poetry. Read Einstien’s Dreams ( a novel by Alan Lightmen). Explore both Chaos Theory and String Theory. Read Oliver and see if you can find what you believe she believes in her poetry. And, then, write another poem: one that is not about this subject. One that is about something else entirely, but in which the discerning eye might find something to hint at an understanding of the elements we’ve been discussing

  2. […] Beatrizartjournal's Blog Just another WordPress.com weblog « Working with Quotations Marks Noise (Original version) » Darkness January 31, 2010 https://beatrizartjournal.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/about-keats-negative-capabilities/ […]

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