Friday, September 18, 2020

Robert Sheppard: SIX poems from British Standards published as part of the Poetry and Covid Project (links, context and videos)

I began work on the book I am thinking of calling British Standards in pre-Covid 2020, but post-Brexit 'Independence Day'. Both ‘issues’ are important, but Coronavirus (to give it its more ‘poetic’ name, given that a ring of sonnets, usually seven or fourteen, like mine, is called a corona) dominates at various points (from March to August 2020, really).

I discovered the Poetry and Covid Project (see here quite late in their deliveries (but that meant my poems were oven ready, unlike Brexit, to add to the mix). I never wanted to produce ‘Covid’ Poetry or ‘Lockdown Lyrics’ but that is, inevitably, what these early parts of British Standards, in part, because of their socio-political focus, turn out to be.

I am pleased to say that three of the former and three of the latter have been selected for the website and they may be read here: (They say it's 'Five Poems' but there are actually six.)

The first section of British Standards, containing these ‘covid’ poems, was completed late March. For this, I transposed poems from Wordsworth’s ‘Poems Dedicated to National Independence and Liberty’, and retitled them ‘Poems of National Independence’. I write about that sequence here:

Then followed ‘14 Standards’, the lockdown poems, which are arranged non-chronologically, something I’d pre-decided for formal reasons, but which reflected the timeless quality of lockdown quite well! I write about this section here: . There are links to online publication of other poems too, via these links. 

Here is a video of me reading (chanting) the Wordsworth transposition, ‘O Friend! I Know Not which way I must look’, written on 13th March.


Here is a video of me reading the first ‘Standard’, an overdub of ‘To the River Tweed’ by William Lisle Bowles, written on 27th April but revised on 13th May. 👍 👍👍👍


The Project, funded by the AHRC, and led at Plymouth University, by Anthony Caleshu, and led at Nottingham Trent, by Rory Waterman, (thanks, guys) asks the question, ‘What role is poetry playing during COVID-19?’ They explain:

Our project proposes the writing, exchange, publication and discussion of poetry as a significant cultural response, benefiting the wellbeing of people from around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. We invite you to join the conversation, to submit your own poems or to nominate others which speak to the idea of contemporary and/or historical pandemics. 

Every day, we’ll be featuring a new poem from our inbox, and each month we’ll feature new writing from one of the world’s leading poets as they think through their predicaments, find in language a way to connect to others, and offer and seek solace and consolation.

Do have a look.

Also, as to my sense of what poetry can do, or not, see here, for an earlier sonnet from ‘National Grandeur’, and my commentary on this issue:

An unpublished poetics piece, ‘Shifting an Imaginary: Poetics in Anticipation’ deals with the question: ‘A compassionate world, inspired by the great sacrifices of NHS frontline staff? Or…’ 


 Where did you find that beer, Mark, during lockdown?