The Epic Poet knows the importance of negative capability.
Or rather, the Epic Poet knows that his interpretation of the meaning of negative capability is important. The actual definition of the concept escapes him. He knows it has something to do with John Keats,
but that is as far as he got in that undergrad lecture; from then on he was distracted by making eyes with the young poetry adjunct.
Nevertheless, to the Epic Poet negative capability means the ability to do as much as possible with the least amount of effort. It is about going through life without appearing to lift a finger. This might offend some people’s American sensibility of a puritan work ethic, but not the Epic Poet. In fact, he knows no other way; he must live an effortless life. For his art.
The other day as the Epic Poet was leaving a grueling tour of a patron’s private library in the West Village he encountered, just on the street, a famous Russian dancer who was just finishing her American tour. The Epic Poet, aloof as usual, did not notice her until he saw a ballet shoe drop onto the sidewalk.
Never one to miss an opportune moment, the Epic Poet reached down to pick it up. When he noticed that it belonged to the dancer. He looked at her. He stood up. He was silent for a moment, for another moment, he was silent for almost a full minute. There they were: the danseuse and the Epic Poet staring at one another in gigantic New York City. After almost a minute had passed, the Epic Poet knew that in their silence they had overcome all of the usual rituals of petty courtship.
Of course, the sun was fading beyond the buildings in the West Village. It was the blood red orange. It was an Andalusian sun, full of duende. The Epic Poet looked at the dancer. He said, “Do you find the setting sun beautiful?” It took only those ten, almost iambic syllables. The rest is a story of St. Petersburg, Moscow, Paris and intensity.
This is the power of negative capability. As Keats must have known, it can turn a seemingly ordinary afternoon into a transcontinental affair. If this seems impossible to you, dear reader, know that the Epic Poet is brimming with negative capability. He knows no other way. It is, as he says, “my magnificent curse.”