Thursday Apr 02, 2020
Ep. 6 Why are Nightingales and Skylarks SO Poetic? A conversation with Simon Barnes (Part 1)
Simon Barnes, the award-winning sportswriter, revered birder and Chair of 2020 and 2021's Keats-Shelley Prizes, tells us about his love of birds and birding and why songbirds were so important to the Romantic poets.
- Read about 2021's Keats-Shelley Prize.
- Read about 2021's Young Romantics Prize.
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This conversation was inspired by 2020's Keats-Shelley Prize theme of Songbird.
Simon Barnes is unique in the world of literature. How many revered sports writers are also revered nature writers too? Off the top of my head I can think of one: Simon Barnes himself. For many years the chief sports of the Times, he covered seven Olympics, five World Cups, a Superbowl and the World Chess Championship. His profiles included everyone from David Beckham to Red Rum, his publications range from novels about Hong Kong to a biography about England off-spinner Phil Edmunds.
- For more about Simon Barnes visit: simonbarnesauthor.co.uk
What elevated Barnes above his peers was prose that could pithily encapsulate the drama simmering underneath the surface action: ‘With Sampras the beauty was subtle, the tactics and execution obvious. With Federer, it was exactly the other way around,’ as he wrote in his 2018 career-spanning retrospective, Epic. As is shown by his reading from his excellent The Meaning of Birds, Barnes has brought similarly acute sensitivity to his accounts of the natural work - and of birds and birdsong above all.
This is one reason we approached Simon to be the Chair of 2020's Keats-Shelley and Young Romantics Prizes - for poetry and essays. Our annual theme was 'Songbirds', to mark the composition 200 years ago of PB Shelley’s To a Skylark and the publication in book form of John Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale.
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This podcast was written and presented by James Kidd. The KS Podcast theme tune is ‘Androids Always Escape’ by Chris Zabriskie. Visit http://chriszabriskie.com/
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