‘I think I shall be among the English Poets after my death’ wrote John Keats to his brother, a characteristically tentative yet bold claim. 200 years after his death, the claim has come good. We remember Keats as scrappy, poorly, lively, principled – both the despairing lover of the girl next door, and author of some of the most sublime verse in the English language.
Keats200 is the bicentenary celebration of Keats’s life, works and legacy. Partnering with Keats House in Hampstead, The Poetry Society’s series of events and activities to mark the anniversary of the young poet’s passing will unfold through Winter 2020 and into Spring 2021. We’ll remind you of the Keats you love and introduce you to the Keats you don’t yet know.
For our younger audiences, we’re creating some new classroom ideas – a resource for A level students, and one for younger students focussing on the artefacts in Keats House. The museum’s holdings include Keats’ notebook from his medical studies, complete with doodled-flower marginalia; and the engagement ring he gave to Fanny Brawne – poignant, redolent objects which are bound to spark off some bright new student thought. We’ll also be running a Keats writing challenge on our Young Poets Network website.
A series of new commissions will ask some of our best-loved contemporary poets to pick a favourite Keatsian ode or sonnet, and to write a new poem in response. Although he was a Londoner born and bred, Keats covered a lot of the country on his travels, from Ben Nevis to Margate. Our Stanza groups are similarly distributed, and we will work with them on a nationwide programme of readings and activities.
As the programme unfolds, we’ll report back. At time of writing, we have …
- Hosted an Eve of St Agnes Read-Along Zoom where members of our Stanza groups took it in turn to read through the entire wintry romance, intensifying the Medieval Georgian atmosphere with candelabra backdrops, and tiara and ‘lofty plume’ outfits.
- Run two Members’ poems competitions on Keatsian themes – ‘Youth’, judged by Phoebe Power and ‘Waking Dream’ judged by Rachel Long. Check out the Winter and Spring issues of Poetry News for the results.
- Worked with Poems on the Underground on their latest series of poem posters for London’s tube carriages. As well as Keats’ ‘When I Have Fears That I May Cease To Be’ and an extract from ‘Endymion’, the set includes a stanza from Shelley’s Adonais, and poems by contemporary poets on themes dear to Keats. Details online from 1 February at www.poemsontheunderground.org and when stocks arrive, we will be able send you copies of the posters. Check our Poems on the Underground here for updates.
- Published a new resource for A level students, investigating ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ in depth.
- Set a writing challenge for our Young Poets Network. (There’s nothing to stop the 25+ poet from writing a poem too, although you won’t be able to enter the competition we’re afraid!)
- Commissioned Ruth Padel, Rachael Boast and Will Hancock to write new poems inspired by Keats. Read and see ‘Night Singing in a Time of Plague’, ‘To One Who Has Ceased To Be’ and ‘This Warm Scribe’ here.
Keats200 is led by three major partners – Keats House, Hampstead, The Keats Foundation and the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association – and is open to all individuals and organisations who have an interest in Keats or poetry. The bicentenary of Keats’s most productive years as a poet, and the period when he found inspiration, friendship and love, is an exciting opportunity to (re)discover and enjoy his works as well as engage with poetry and its ongoing relevance to us all today. #keats200