A Joy Forever

“This is a delicious celebration of all things Keatsian, from the ‘jeweller of odes’, to his extraordinary letters, and most of all, his joy in everyday wonders. Julia Bird and Mike Sims have created an exquisite contemporary world where Keats is king and every intimate moment with him is ‘water written’.”  – Pascale Petit

“This thrilling and original approach to the primo deus of verse sent the bottle of my life bubbling with the beakers of the warm south!” – Daljit Nagra

In 2013, over a drink, we challenged each other to learn John Keats’ ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ by heart. This conversation was the catalyst to our creation of A Joy Forever, a series of events, and now a new book, published by Paekakariki Press, based on the life and writing of Keats.

A Joy Forever events combine themed readings of Keats’ poems and letters with games, entertainments and food, taking place at literature festivals and historic houses. They are social and playful performances fusing our serious attention to Keats’ writing and history with more light-hearted approaches for curious audience members. We created an audience participation Tussie-Mussie cento based on the flowers in Keats’ poems (the Tussie-Mussie being a nineteenth century posy), Isabella’s Basil and Chocolate Cake, a bingo version of ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’, a Keatsian ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ a tableau vivant of ‘The Eve of St Agnes’ and new collaborative poems based on the 11-mile walks we took retracing the extant route from Keats’ house in Hampstead to his sister’s lodgings in Walthamstow and back.

In 2021, the 200th anniversary year of Keats’ death, Paekakariki Press created A Joy Forever in book form. Between its covers – a little hero worship, some games, recipes and pilgrimages, a favourite Keats poem or two, and some of our poems inspired by all of this. We hand-set the pages, Linda Hughes illustrated it, and all ye need to know is that it is a beautiful, truthful thing.

Hand-setting the titles. April 2021

ISBN 9781908133458 / Price £12.50 / Order here.