The Keats-Shelley Podcast

Reading: Simon Barnes on John Keats, John Clare and nightingales from The Meaning of Birds (Keats-Shelley Prize 2020)

April 30, 2019

Bestselling sports journalist and nature writer Simon Barnes ponders one of Romantic poetry’s big questions: what’s the big deal with poets and nightingales? Reading from his book The Meaning of Birds, Simon examines nightingales in the poetry of John Keats and John Clare – and asks another question: which poet doesn’t know his nightingale from his nightshirt?

Simon Barnes was the Prize Chair of 2020's Keats-Shelley Prizes. The writer, journalist and birder was an ideal choice given our Prize theme of Songbird. This marks 200-year anniversaries of John Keats' Nightingale and PB Shelley's Skylark. For more information about Simon Barnes visit:

The K-S Podcast met Simon in London to discuss why (and how) birds sing, how to 'spot' birds and (trickier still) listen to birdsong, their links with Romantic poets in general, and Keats and Shelley in particular, and the many threats to their continued existence. There was also some football chat.

We are thrilled that Simon has also agreed to Chair 2021's Keats-Shelley Prizes - and complete the work that was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

For more information about 2021's Keats-Shelley Poetry and Essay Prize, click here.

For more information about 2021's Young Romantics Poetry and Essay Prize, click here.

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This podcast was recorded by James Kidd. The KS Podcast theme tune is ‘Androids Always Escape’ by Chris Zabriskie. Visit

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