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Keith Leach Scottsdale / United States, Male, 52
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    Keith Leach's last comments on poems and poets

    • POEM: Invictus by William Ernest Henley (2/1/2011 1:42:00 AM)

      Mr. Merrill,
      At best you have said I exaggerate. At worst you say I am arrogant and over confident. Please allow me to explain. In retrospect I should have stated I see several points of view, including Michael B's. I had to stop working in medicine far too early in my career. The greatest joy in my life were the years spent helping people regain their sight. I cannot put in to words how rewarding that makes one feel. When I lost the privilege of helping others, it wasn't my ego that suffered. It was my emotional health. I had to stop working five years ago and have endured twenty-nine surgeries over the last twelve years. I only share this with you so you understand my perspective on this particular issue.

      Your comment also mentioned you appreciated some background on the poem. I would like to add a bit more. It may be meaningless, or it may be exactly what Henley was writing about. Knowing a fair amount about 19th century surgical techniques I believe the second line of Henley's poem may have been quite literal. In 1875 when limbs were amputated a stump was not routinely prepared as it is today, as prosthetic devices were not commonplace. In all probability, given the fact Henley suffered from Tuberculosis of the long bones of the leg, the surgeons would have removed the bone closer to his knee than the surrounding tissue. Hence once the surrounding muscle, fascia, vessels and nerves were removed, not cut as far back as the tibia and fibula, the skin closure would result in a concave recess, or pit. Post-operatively his leg would have been placed in a sling suspended by two poles to reduce swelling.

      Henley goes on to mention things that would lead me to believe he was living the life of a man learning how to walk again. Certainly falling along the way, but always picking himself up, dusting himself off and persevering.

      Michael B's point was very clear. It was simply tasteless. He was offended someone else took poetic license with Henley's work. Point well made. Could he have gotten his point across without offending several people? Certainly. He meant to offend. He said so. He wanted to get a rise out of people and he did just that. I believe everyone has a right to their own opinion, and to choose how to express their opinion. However, as you stated 'word choice is important'. This is an open forum read by people of all ages. Do you honestly feel Michael B's comments are appropriate for a ten year old to read? I am not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination. What I am saying has nothing to do with the Bible or religion. I wrote my first post for three reasons. Firstly, to tell people a little bit about the author, if they did not already know. Secondly, to say a little bit about what the poem meant to me. And lastly, to chime in, along with many others, that I felt Michael B's comments were in poor taste. If that leads you to believe me to be arrogant, so be it. I detect a bit of hubris in you by the way you sit in judgment of other people's posts by saying 'I have no problem with...', 'and that Hell Yes said what he said', 'I'm also fine with...'.

      I have explained my previous post and clarified my statements. I do appreciate the fact you found the background on the poem helpful. I hope my reply clarifies things for you. As you previously stated and I restated, on a site like this, one must choose their words carefully. If there is one word which most aptly describes me, it would be humble, not hyperbole and certainly not hubris.

    • POEM: Invictus by William Ernest Henley (1/31/2011 8:20:00 PM)

      Mr. Merrill, I would like to clarify a few things for you, as at best you have said I exaggerate, at worst I'm arrogant and over confident. Perhaps instead of saying 'I literally see all points of view', I should have said I see two important points of view. I had to give up a career in medicine for the last six years battling a disease still undiagnosed, yet causing me to endure 29 surgeries in that period of time. Prior to my illness I had the immense pleasure to help people regain their sight. That is a tremendous feeling I cannot put into words. Having that privilege taken from me early in my career was devastating. Not to my ego, but to my emotions.

      Making the transition from practitioner to patient is probably different for everyone. For myself, it led to a lot of depression until I stumbled upon Invictus. When I read Invictus for the first time it made me think about 19th century medicine and what the second line of his poem might have meant. During that period of time there were no prosthetic devices, so when one underwent an amputation the surgeon would not prepare the limb and build up the tissue as a stump like we do today. The surgeon would remove the tissue, vessels and nerves, cut the bone closer to the torso than the remaining skin, close the wound and what would remain after was a concave surface, or pit. Then, in Henley's case, the leg would be suspended in the air by a sling held by two poles to reduce swelling.

      As for the rest of the poem, it sounds as though Henley may have been describing his trials and tribulations revolving around learning to walk again. Obviously that's only my opinion.

      My issue with Michael B. is very simple. Mr. Merrill, I see his point, I disagree with the way he made his point. I must preface this by saying I am not a religious man. However, in his rather graphic portrayal of the Last Supper, I didn't find any connection between Invictus and his Penthouse-like description of what may have transpired that evening. I felt and still feel everyone is entitled to their opinion. He was lashing out at someone for exercising poetic license with Henley's work. Point well made. He meant to aggravate people. He was exercising his right to free speech, but myself and several others found it rather distasteful. But Mr. Merrill, if you honestly believe this site to be the appropriate venue for the exchange of ideas and commentary that go beyond vulgar, please keep in mind people of all ages access this site. My initial post was meant to do three things. Tell people a little bit about the poet, maintain a modicum of civility and let Michael B. know myself and others felt he could have made his point just as easily with more taste.

    • POEM: Invictus by William Ernest Henley (1/26/2011 8:41:00 AM)

      I've read many of your criticisms of the comments left by fellow admirers of this poem, which is sad. I don't know how many of you know under what circumstances this poem was written, but I feel it germane to mention before anyone else blows a gasket over a masterful piece of literature. Henley wrote Invictus from his hospital bed in Scotland shortly after undergoing a below the knee amputation at the age of 25. He required the amputation due to his tuberculosis spreading to his foot, and then progressing up his leg. He went on to live until the age of 53.

      Like Anthony M., this poem helps give me hope. I have a disease worse than rheumatoid arthritis, and to boot it made me give up my career as a health care provider. I literally see all points of view. The beauty of art, in any form, be it literature, painting, sculpture, whatever, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So when I read a comment like the one Michael B has written, I just shake my head and say no wonder he's afraid to give his entire name on this website. He's willing to try and incite everyone reading this forum, but still such a coward that he must remain anonymous. Shame on you. No one was trying to rewrite Henley's work. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, even you. Please, just keep it civil.