In what is surely one of the most unusual but at the same time coolest uses of Shelley's poetry, English fashion designer John Alexander Skelton deployed Shelley's Mask of Anarchy in his recent runway show. The circumstances are quite extraordinary.
It is my great hope that Frankenreads will open a doorway not just to the work of Mary Shelley but all of the Romantics - and Percy in particular. Percy’s political philosophy, his skepticism, his belief in the revolutionary value of empathy and his concept of a cultivated, revolutionary imagination have much to teach us about how to deal with an age of tyrants, massive concentration of wealth and fake news - an age much like his own.
In the early summer of 2017, I received a letter from the daughter of the noted Shelley scholar Roland Duerksen. Susan had read my article “My Father’s Shelley” and it had struck a chord. She wanted to connect me with her father, now 91 years old and living in New Oxford, Ohio. Roland is the author of two noteworthy and important books on Shelley: "Shelleyan Ideas in Victorian Literature" and "Shelley's Poetry of Involvement". His analysis is penetrating and nuanced, the style conversational and accessible. But it is his overall approach which makes him different, it is imbued with a humanity that reflects well both on himself and his subject. This much I knew, but I knew less about the man himself. I was thrilled that Susan had reached out to me, it was a chance to meet one of the great Shelleyans, but I had no idea whatsoever of the magic which lay in wait for me.
Welcome to my inaugural, year end "Shelleyan Top Ten" list. The eligibility criteria for an appearance on this list is pretty straight forward (and subjective!) First the event or occurrence must have contributed to raising the awareness of Percy Bysshe Shelley among the general public. Second, it also needs to have come to my attention - which is not omniscient (this means my list is not necessarily definitive!). Finally, I also have ranked on the basis of whether the moment was unusual or unexpectedly brilliant.
In any event, these sorts of lists are supposed to be fun and are designed to provoke debate and conversation. So let the discussion begin.
2017 was a busy year for Percy Bysshe Shelley and later this week I will publish my Top Ten Shelleyan Moments of 2017 - watch for it!! It was also a busy year for my website and its associated social media platforms. The website experienced 12,000 Unique Visitors 15,000 Visits and over 21,000 Page Views. These are huge numbers for a site dedicated to a poet who has been dead almost 200 years. Shelley was a highly motivated political creature who dedicated his life to changing the world. At some point he realized that he would never manage build sufficient momentum to do this in his lifetime. I think this was profoundly demoralizing. However, he recovered and I believe he started to write for future generations - in otherwords us. If those of us who love him do not join him in this enterprise, then we are letting him (and ourselves) down. So let's not. Join our community and help spread the word.
My point in drawing attention to these two modern poets is to remind us that one of the true fountainheads of radical opposition to tyranny and oppression was Shelley. And whether modern poets knowingly operate in that tradition, as Cottingham appears to, or not, they do function as the voice of the people and in that sense as our representatives; or as Shelley would have said, as our legislators. Eminem has drawn his line in the sand. Shelley has discharged his collected lightening. Arielle Cottingham has unleashed her hurricane. They are all philanthropos tropos: lovers of humanity. Let's join them at the barricades. Let Liberty lead us.