The Poetry Society in partnership with the Keats Foundation and Keats House celebrated the birth of poet John Keats today with a service in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey. In an annual event, fans of John Keats gathered at the Abbey to read a selection of his poems and lay a wreath by the Keats memorial in Poets’ Corner (high on the wall above Shakespeare). The Reverend Jane Sinclair, Canon in Residence welcomed poets to the Abbey, giving thanks for John Keats and all the poets who “perceive the world afresh”, “‘enthrall and provoke us to thought, reflection and wonder” and cause us to “explore the richness and diversity of our common nature”.
The programme is put together by Poetry Society Director, Judith Palmer, and this year featured Keats’s poems ‘The poetry of earth is never dead’ read by Kate Noakes, ‘When I have fears that I may cease to be’ read by Chris Hardy; and an extract from Keats’s February 1818 letter to his friend Reynolds read by Katy Evans-Bush including his famous contention “We hate poetry that has a palpable design upon us”, “Poetry should be great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one’s soul, and does not startle it or amaze it with itself – but with its subject”. Mab Jones also read from a letter Keats wrote on his 23rd birthday, exactly 200 years ago, on 31 October 1818, in which he entreated his brother George and sister-in-law Georgiana: “Be as happy as you can. Think of me, and for my sake be cheerful.”