Tag Archives: pandemic

Lockdown Sonnets

It is a huge pleasure to introduce this month’s guest poet: Hamish Wilson whom I met four years ago when I attended a workshop at Garsdale.

Having taught in schools for 31 years, Hamish moved to Cumbria in 2016 to set up and run The Garsdale Retreat, http://www.thegarsdaleretreat.co.uk, a residential creative writing centre. This has allowed him the time and space to develop his own writing career.

The Garsdale Retreat

He has had poetry published in two anthologies: This Place I Know – A New Anthology of Cumbrian Poetry (Ed. Darbishire, Moore, Nuttall/Handstand Press, 2018) and Play (Ed. Taylor, Williams/PaperDart Press, 2018) and was shortlisted for the following competitions: WoLF poetry competition in 2017 and 2018 and Write Out Loud’s Beyond the Storm (Poems From the Covid Era) in 2020. He has also had poems in Culture Matters and The Morning Star.

In 2019 he performed Parallel Lives, (a sonnet sequence with live music, film and photography, exploring the creative lives of John Lennon and Dylan Thomas) at The Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal.

Written in 2020, Lockdown Journal is a sonnet sequence which explores his experience of the pandemic between 28 March and 21 April, reflecting on daily life in Garsdale as well as the wider world.

I asked Hamish to select three sonnets from Lockdown Journal as a way of marking the second anniversary of the pandemic.

Saturday, 28 March, 2020

The road is quiet. The weekend bikers
who came back with the curlews, have not returned.
This first weekend of Covid lockdown’s like a
languid bank holiday without the burn

of off-comers. Spring greens on regardless,
daffs trumpet; lambs skip, suckle; horned Highland
cattle shadow on the fell; lapwings test
their stuntman wings, plummet to earth (as planned).

At home, virtual visitors ease the time
with supportive texts, puzzles, You Tube vids;
parodies of songs, coronavirus rhymes,
zoom-conferencing and Happy Hour bids.

The News At Six brings contact nationwide,
a thousand UK people now have died.

Friday, 10 April, 2020

Days which bleed to other days still make their mark,
Good Friday’s on regardless and they fear
we’ll enjoy it with dangerous outdoor larks.
We’re shown deserted beaches, seaside piers

which forecast what they hope the weekend brings;
‘Your front door’s safer than a protective mask…..’
cut to bench taped like a crime scene, chained up swings:
stay-at-home’s fine-enforced now not an ask.

Up here, where social distancing’s the norm,
our walk on Blea Moor fell is not policed –
the only drone, a distant train, informs
we’re not alone and breaks the blanket peace.

A sky lark ascends, arpeggios on high,
coal-black speck of dust in the empty sky.

Tuesday, 21 April, 2020

Larks, invisibly high, white noise the sky,
we climb the tussocked sea towards the cairn,
the railway shrinks to Hornby, lapwings cry
like broken squeaky toys. Spring warmth returns.

In shirt-sleeves, we zig-zag slow to summit,
pause to watch a matchbox car surprise
the Coal Road, before we reach the sunlit
limestone and meet a ram skull’s hollow eyes.

The news is billed as good as we’re prepared
with twenty thousand beds to match the needs
of future patients in intensive care.
The experts tell us now we can succeed

to break the rise in deaths, to turn the tide.
Up here, we see our house, our tiny, tiny lives.

Lying in bed with my life – poem

Credit: Myriams Photos via PIxabay

Can’t you sleep either? After a dark year,
many old friends gone, I thought I heard you sing
outside the window
inches from my ear. Who are you singing for
this time of night? Did I dream you?

This is the first stanza of Ruth Padel’s poem Night Singing in a Time of Plague. You can read the full poem on the Poetry Society’s site here. It is a response to John Keats’ poem Ode to a Nightingale. The poem was commissioned as part of the Keats200 bicentenary – a celebration of Keats’ life, works and legacy.

We are close to the first anniversary of the pandemic. The borders of the Netherlands remain closed to visitors from the UK. I have been sleeping less well for weeks now. Here is Kathleen Kummer’s poem, also about the difficulty of finding sleep.

Lying in bed with my life

I am lying in bed with my life.
It is one of those sleepless night when I chafe
at its bulk alongside me. It will fill the hours
with my clan of northerners and sundry others.
I shall speak for them all, the living and the dead.

I know the words, which I’m good at repressing
when they were my own and unkind. I shout Cut
if the scene is unbearable, switch on the lamp
to get rid of it, a shame, as I might still have seen
my mother’s harebell-blue eyes and the family
wearing each other’s hats at a picnic.

The curtain at last turns grey and grainy,
and my life rolls up fast with a click inside me.
I’m reminded of that when my daughter says
I don’t suppose you’ve got a decent tape-measure?