As if being World Animal Day wasn’t enough, October 4 is also National Poetry Day. Celebrate with a day of free readings and signings from top poets at Royal Festival Hall, but if you can’t make it down, we’ve picked out the best places to make a poetic pilgrimage to around the city. Given that London has given us some of the most important poets in the English literary canon (not to blow our own trumpet).
Keats House, Hampstead
This gorgeous house in Hampstead was home to the Romantic poet John Keats from 1818 until 1820, and is said to be where he wrote his most famous poem ‘Ode to a Nightingale’, as well as falling in love with the girl next door, Fanny Brawne, before dying of tuberculosis in Italy. The house has been preserved as it was in the 1800s and is now a museum to Keats’ life.
Shakespeare’s Globe, Southwark
Need we say more? The best poet and playwright in the whole damn world worked in London, and everybody loves him so much that they rebuilt his theatre. Home to a fantastic exhibition on Shakespeare’s life, and the famous 16th-century style theatre where you can pay just £5 to get a ‘real experience’ of watching a play standing up, and even get realistically rained on ‘like they did’ when it rains.
Westminster Bridge, Westminster
What could be better than reading a poem in the place it was composed? And given that this one is slap bang in the middle of London, it’s not even too difficult to get to. Wordsworth wrote ‘Upon Westminster Bridge’ while passing over the river one morning in 1802. It’s a fantastic ode to the breathtaking views of the city skyline that can be seen from the bridges, and will ring true with most Londoners.
Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey
Take a moment (on your way back from Westminster bridge, obviously) to marvel at the great writers our humble island has produced, from Geoffrey Chaucer to Ted Hughes. And get to see where Wills and Kate got married as a little bonus.
The Poetry Cafe, Covent Garden
Poetry is not just historical, of course. The modern poetry scene is lively and thriving, and the Poetry Society’s headquarters in Covent Garden is a fine place to get involved. It regularly hosts literary events, including a poetry open mic night which attracts both well known poets and allows amateur poets a chance to try out a reading. AND it’s a lovely cafe serving delicious vegetarian food with plenty of places to read your favourite poems.
The London Poetry Library, Southbank
And if just want to celebrate the day by reading some poetry, the London Poetry Library on level five of the Royal Festival Hall is the place to start. With a huge collection of contemporary poetry, including some rare editions and audio visual material that you can read overlooking the Thames, or take home. Victoria Gray
For the latest poetry listings, see timeout.com.