An interview with Carly Stevenson, the Audrey Guide to our first collection of poetry on the Audrey app, Keats: selected poetry.
Can you tell us a bit about your background with John Keats, and why you love him and his writing so much?
Carly: My first meaningful encounter with Keats happened when I was an undergraduate student. I was vaguely aware of his poetry before then, but I didn't know anything about his life or the context in which he was writing. He was simply the writer of 'To Autumn', which remains his most anthologised poem to date. Studying Keats made me appreciate his craft in a way I hadn't before. Like many readers, I was particularly touched by his letters, which offer an insight into his rich inner life. Keats's epistolary voice enriched my understanding of his poetry and enabled me to gain valuable insights into his writing process. We tend to think of letters as private documents, but Keats was aware of his public persona even in his personal correspondence. I think it's impossible to read Keats's letters without feeling an enormous sense of affection for the man behind the poetry.
Another significant moment in my personal Keats timeline is the first time I watched Jane Campion's 2009 biopic Bright Star. Some Keatsians argue that this film only shows us a particular side of Keats, but nevertheless, it is an achingly beautiful tribute to his poetry and his relationship with Fanny Brawne.
2. How did you choose which poems to include in this selection?
Carly: The poems in this selection showcase Keats's range, in terms of subject matter and his experimentation with poetic form. I have included sonnets, odes, long narrative poems and a ballad to give readers a taste of Keats's varied oeuvre. There are many thematic similarities between the poems and I encourage readers to make those connections in my notes. This selection is intended as an introduction to Keats and my hope is that readers will feel inspired to seek out more of his poems once they have listened to this audiobook.
3. How was the process of creating the Audrey guide?
Carly: Creating this guide was a wonderful experience as it has allowed me to share my enthusiasm for Keats with a broad readership. One of the things I love about Audrey is their commitment to making classic works of literature more accessible and engaging. As a guide, it is my job to help readers get the most out of the texts, which means providing insights and opportunities for further reading that you might not find in conventional audiobooks. I particularly enjoyed the freedom of the guide template, which allows guides to bring together images, videos, links, voice notes and written notes to create a multimedia platform for the reader. I wish Audrey was around when I was an undergraduate student!
4. For anyone who doesn't think reading or listening to poetry is for them, what would you say to persuade them?
Carly: Poetry is for everyone. The Romantics believed that poetry should be written by and for ordinary people, not just the literati, and I couldn't agree more. I think we need to dismantle the idea that understanding poetry requires a specific set of skills. All you need to do is listen. Analysis can come later. Or not. The choice is yours.
Download this selection of Keats's poetry with Carly's complete guide and the full selection of Lotte Budai's illustrations now, exclusively on the Audrey app.
Read our Q&A with Lotte here.
Carly Stevenson is a writer, teacher and PhD student from Sheffield. She is currently working on her thesis, which focuses on John Keats and the Gothic imagination.
You can find Carly's writing in the 'Earth' and 'Vampires' issues of Cunning Folk magazine.
She also runs the instagram account @keatsletters where she shares excerpts from his famous letters.