Our fourth nominee for a Nuannaarpoq Award is:
John Keats (1795-1821)
Parameters: 18th-19th centuries, British, real, human, male, now living elsewhere
Nuannaarpoq qualities: authenticity, creativity, enchantment, happiness, freedom, imagination, kindness, life, moments, playfulness, resilience, sharing
Although this is probably heresy, I fell for Keats not through his poetry but through his letters. He is one of the greatest letter writers I’ve come across: warm, witty, playful, sharp and loving. It is also principally through his letters that I concluded he was an early nuannaarpoqian.
First, his sheer exuberant enjoyment of things, including taking us on a Dionysian stroll around a garden which culminates in the deliciously alliterative ‘lolling on a lawn’. But note, he never takes happiness for granted but embraces it when it comes. He mentions elsewhere that troubles can hit us as at any time; this is someone who nursed – and lost – his mother and his younger brother, both due to TB, the disease which later killed him.
He has a strongly independent streak, being ‘obstinate as a robin’, and spirited resilience – I chose resilience as a quality of nuannaarpoq because I believe it’s a ‘necessary but insufficient’ condition for being able to take extravagant pleasure in being alive, despite the many brickbats life and the world can lob at us; I love his shake-your-mane attitude to rid himself of life’s bullets.
Another theme in the nuannaarpoq armoury is, perhaps unexpectedly, sleep. Since it restores body and mind and is a prime locus for dreaming, it seems to me something we take for granted when it’s good, but which affects most of us, sooner or later, when we’re deprived of it. I was struck by two sleep-praising comments of Keats, one making the connection between sleep and sanity, and the other linking sleep and health, including that haunting reference to ‘quiet breathing’, in a person who witnessed and suffered the loss of it when succumbing to TB.
Lastly, this lovable man picks up pebbles to give to his beloved. As you know, I am a committed pebble pusher.
Surely, these qualities, pebbles and all, qualify Keats for a lifetime Nuannaarpoq Award. And if you wish to compare his nomination to others, please click on the big Awards icon, or on individual nominations below.