A few day ago the KLP published a list of some nineteenth-century tribute poems written to Keats, mostly with a focus on poems featuring Keats’s grave. Today we have another list! This one features some more recent examples (across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, but with an emphasis on the last few decades).
Although the Wikipedia entry for “Poet of the Poets” does not list Keats as an example of one who’s been called “the poet’s poet,” we nonetheless make the assertion here. Perhaps the is too strong—no need to have just one. But surely Keats remains a poet’s poet. Without having undertaken any sort of systematic quantitative analysis of the question, we can nonetheless affirm that it certainly feels like Keats receives more love from other contemporary(ish) poets than do many other nineteenth-century writers. Not too many recent poems about Robert Southey out there–sorry, Bob!
As with our previous list, this one is not meant to be comprehensive. There are plenty of other examples, for sure! We also include here primarily examples of poems that have a central or significant relationship to Keats. The list could easily plump and swell more, and still more, if we included poems that engage with Keats in more brief or minor ways. That said, we’re hoping to expand the list further with updates, so send us more examples via Twitter (@KeatsLetters) or email (email@example.com).
And if you want to explore the topic of Keats and modern/contemporary poetry further, you might begin by consulting a few of these sources:
- Jeffrey Robinson’s book Reception and Poetics in Keats: My Ended Poet. Includes an appendix featuring many poems written to/for Keats between 1821 and 1994.
- Two essays by Eric Eisner: “Disaster Poetics: Keats and Contemporary American Poetry,” in Wordsworth Circle (2013), and “Drag Keats: Mark Doty’s Cockney Poetics,” in European Romantic Review (2017).
- Several chapters from Keats’s Negative Capability: New Origins and Afterlives, edited by the KLP’s own Brian Rejack and Michael Theune (Liverpool UP, 2019). Thomas Gardner writes on Jorie Graham; Arsevi Seyran on Elizabeth Bishop; and Robert Archambeau and Eric Eisner each write chapters on negative capability’s place in twentieth-century American poetry and poetics more broadly.
- The KLP’s series “Contemporary Poets on Negatively Capable Poems,” Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. Featuring commentary from Virginia Bell, Katy Didden, Jerry Harp, Matt Hart, Gary Hawkins, Anna Leahy, Shara McCallum, Jennifer Militello, and Murat Nemet-Nejat. On poems by Amiri Baraka, E. E. Cummings, Vievee Francis, Kenneth Koch, John Milton, Sylvia Plath, Erika L. Sánchez, Anna Swir, and Orhan Veli.
And now, the list! Not all poems have links, and not all links will take you to the full text. But you can at least start on your journey with the info we provide here.
Some Recent-ish Poems Written to/for/about Keats
Kaveh Akbar, “The Palace,” New Yorker, April 2019
[Anonymous], “A Brown Aesthete Speaks,” (often misattributed to Mae V. Cowdery–published in The Crisis, September 1928)
David Baker, “Posthumous Man,” Southern Review, Spring 2007
Hera Lindsay Bird, “Keats is dead so fuck me from behind,” The Spinoff, November 2016
Marianne Boruch, “Keats is Coughing,” Poetry, April 2017
John Ciardi, “A Trenta-Sei of the Pleasure We Take in the Early Death of Keats,” Poetry, 1986
Julio Cortazar, Imagen de John Keats [ok, not poetry, but such a fascinating text—see recent articles by Olivia Loksing Moy and Marco Ramírez Rojas, who also published the English translation linked above]
Amy Clampitt, Voyages: A Homage to John Keats, 1984
Tom Clark, Junkets on a Sad Planet, 1994
Cid Corman, “After Reading Keats’ Letters,” Poetry, June 1956
Countee Cullen, “To John Keats, Poet. At Spring Time,” Color, 1925
The first stanza of Countee Cullen’s poem, from the collection Color, via Google Books
Carrie Etter, “Almandine,” The Liberal, Autumn 2007
Albert Goldbarth, “Keats’s Phrase,” Poetry, Feb 2012 [the “phrase” is negative capability]
Jorie Graham, “Scirocco,” Erosion (1983)
The first five stanzas of Jorie Graham’s “Scirocco,” from Erosion, via Google Books.
Debora Greger, “The Rome of Keats,” Poetry, October 1984
Tony Harrison, “A Kumquat for John Keats,” 1981
Garrett Hongo, “A Garland of Light,” Sewanee Review, Summer 2019 [In an interview for the Sewanee Review, Hongo talks about this poem and the interrelated poetic legacies it weaves between Keats, Robert Hayden, and Hongo: https://thesewaneereview.com/articles/3q4-garrett-hongo]
Jane Kenyon, “At the Spanish Steps in Rome,” New Criterion, 1989
James Kimbrell, “To Keats in October,” Poetry, September 2000
David Kirby, “This living hand,” Rattle, March 2017
Denise Levertov, “Memories of John Keats”
Mark Levine, “John Keats,” Enola Gay (2000)
Philip Levine, “Keats in California,” Poetry, Oct/Nov 1987
Philip Levine’s poem “Keats in California,” via JSTOR.
John Logan, “On the Death of Keats: Lines for Those Who Drown Twice,” Poetry, October 1966
Corey Marks, “For Keats, After Keats,” Paris Review, Summer 1999
Edgar Lee Masters, “Keats to Fanny Brawne,” Poetry, January 1921
Jack Mathews, “The World’s Oldest Authority on Keats,” Poetry (Nov 1980):
Stanley Plumly, “Posthumous Keats,” Poetry, June 1983 [**And there are many more by Plumly! Including, “Constable’s Clouds, For Keats,” “Keats in Burns Country,” “Keatsian,” “Early Nineteenth-Century Poetry Walks,” “My Noir,” “To Autumn”**]
Adrienne Rich, “In Memoriam: D. K.,” Time’s Power (1989) [an elegy written for David Kalstone in 1986, in which Rich invokes Keats—a many-layered assemblage of literary remembrances]
Joyelle McSweeney, “Toxic Sonnets: A Crown for John Keats,” Toxicon and Arachne (2020).
Frank O’Hara, “Again, John Keats, or the Pot of Basil,” 1963.
O’Hara’s enigmatic short poem, via Google Books
Karl Shapiro, “A Room in Rome,” Poetry, April 1988
Angelos Sikelianos, “Yannis Keats,” (1915) translated from Modern Greek by A. E. Stallings, Poetry, June 2011
Louise Morgan Sill, “To Keats,” In Sun or Shade (1906)
Anne Spencer, “Dunbar,” 1922
Anne Spencer’s “Dunbar” (1922), via Poetry Foundation.
Frederic Will, “After Keats,” Poetry, November 1965
Robert Wrigley, “Nightingale Capability,” Shenandoah, Fall 2012
Dean Young, “I See a Lily on Thy Brow,” Skid (2002)