As for that Keats poem, I am sure that there is something wrong with me that I don't just love Keats - I really know I am kind of supposed to - but that last one ["This Living Hand"] is the poem of his that does get inside me and move around. I think of it as some kind of perfect version of modern poetry...? and wonder what he could have done had he been allowed to live.I know just what you mean about Keats, Kerry. In fact, I think I was about 30 before I really loved any Keats poem, and well into my 30s before I taught one effectively. I'm not sure why, other than my lingering adolescent resistance to the lushness of his diction--or maybe just to the expectation that I should love him!
The only two Keats poems I've ever felt comfortable and confident teaching are "This Living Hand," which I pitch as a vampire poem (to my students' dismay, sometimes), and "To Autumn," which I like to teach in the context of other seasonal poems, looking at the various ways various poets treat each season in turn. (I like to pair it with "That time of year thou mayst in me behold," which trots out more typical topoi for autumn.) I focus on time in "To Autumn": the way Keats holds the usual equation of autumn-as-season-before-death at bay by suspending his syntax with participles and making autumn sound like summer (in stanza 1), by suspending a variety of actions and deploying spondees (in stanza 2); and so on. Lots of repetition and variation to talk about, too, stanza to stanza.
Help me, somebody! Any tips on teaching Keats, from anyone who really loves him?