Wednesday, April 14, 2021

ON THIS DAY 2020 I wrote this lacuna-pocked poem as a version of one of Coleridge's sonnets

ON THIS DAY 2020, as coronavirus took hold (indeed, was at its first peak) and what we thought of as THE lockdown unfolded, I wrote my response to it as one of my ‘14 Standards’ using selected Romantic sonnets (writing them deliberately out of order than the way they will eventually appear).  It was then published on the Poetry and Covid website, here: Six Poems (

But here’s the poem again, in case you missed it. It is a transposition of the poem named in its title.

To a Friend, Who Asked How I Felt, When the Nurse
First Presented My Infant to Me by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

At dawn’s first coffee        I scan my passport
to prove my self    through a sycamore
sun bursts    into the leaf-time of breathless spring
update your face in the mirror    it has angel’s form

It’s left without you    appears in this poem
a sudden father    dewy on his mobile
in a public callbox    for old time’s sake
imagine giving    birth in a pandemic

Priti disappointed    Bo’s thrilled and melted
that any thing    could be ‘powered by love’
she puckers the frigid    kiss of the State
for the    fever lips of the ‘economic inactive’

Watch the parasite        feed off beauty
who still thinks PPE is what rich kids    do at Oxford

14th April 2020

I have recently (early April) answered a questionnaire about the Poetry and Covid AHRC project that provided the website. I commented on it thus:

It has surprised me by the way it just keeps continuing on and on. There is something there, on the site, every day and, although I don't read it all, I re-Tweet about it, since I feel it must be important. For myself, I was writing a particular project, 'The English Strain', whose book two (now published as BAD IDEA) was an exploration of the madness of Brexit, through the sonnets of Michael Drayton. Book three (British Standards) followed on, making parodic (but not just parodic) versions of sonnets by Romantic sonnets. The hubris of Brexit hit the disaster of Covid head on: while Boris Johnson fiddled the National Anthem the country was burning. Naturally, the poems followed, out of necessity. It didn't choose to write Covid poems. At the time of writing, it is slightly horrifying to realise that I wrote the poems you published (six!) about a year ago. You caught me investigating the first, fatally-delayed, lockdown. I never expected these poems to make me feel better. I am sceptical of therapeutic aspects of art, since I believe that the openness of aesthetic engagement must be open to the possibility that art is bad for us (though I recognise that our pretending that it is a fiction is part of the defence against its possible ill-effects). I don't write to make myself feel better about anything; but I don't write to make anybody deliberately feel bad. After all, I hope these poems - relatively straight-forward by my usual avant-garde standards - are funny. Humour is on the whole good for you.  

As I say, this poem comes from the ’14 Standards’ part of British Standards, which you can read about here:

Pages: Robert Sheppard: 14 Standards from British Strandards is complete as one sonnet appears at the virtual WOW Festival 2020 (hub post)

British Standards is the third book of the ‘English Strain’ project. Pages: Transpositions of Hartley Coleridge: the end of British Standards (and of The English Strain project) (

You may read about the first book and second book here. Indeed, you may now buy them.

Book One, The English Strain is described here (on a post that was written before it gained its title!).

There’s another post on Book Two, Bad Idea here .

I am delighted to say that Book One, The English Strain is available from Shearsman; see here:

I am also delighted to say that Book Two, Bad Idea is available from Knives Forks and Spoons; see here: