By Rajan Sharma

To isolate, or not self-isolate,
That is no question: Whether ‘tis nobler
In the mind to remain inside for the
Well-being of our friends and our neighbours,
Or set aside all public health advice
And by ignoring, harm them? So stay — and sleep,
Some more; and by a sleep to say we slow
The virus and the thousand daily shocks
The NHS will face: ’tis a consequence
Devoutly to be wished. To stay, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream — ah, there’s the rub —
Imagine! What dreams may come, before we
Once more throw open our strong-bolted doors!
Now is time to pause. Consider,
The virtue of lockdown to prolong life:
For heavy is the head that bears the crown
Of blind Covid’s indiscriminate shafts,
The shortness of breath, the unceasing cough,
The blazing fever, the enflamèd throat,
Even diverse gut-churning effusions,
While some show no symptoms at all; why then
Risk transmission through avoidable travel
When you could read, or write, or pass the time
With a binged box-set? Why do frontline forces
Toil and sweat with limited resource
But that the love of life beyond contagion,
Th’unseen ferryman speeding our way t’wards
Th’undiscovered country, resolves their will,
To raise high their shields in this hour of need
Above and beyond the call of duty?
Thus conscience does make heroes of us all;
And thus the native blue of isolation
Is dappled o’er by thoughts of brighter days,
And these shaded paths we now distant tread
Shall lead us back to Nature’s favour, and
Into each other’s embrace once more.

RAJAN SHARMA is a London-based actor, writer and theatre-maker.  Recent years have seen him touring internationally as writer-performer of The Mariner’s Song, an acclaimed narrative poem navigating ancient myth, family history and life at sea (WINNER – Theatre Weekly Award at Perth FringeWorld 2020, Australia; also featuring amongst the 10-Must-See Spoken Word Shows and Three-to-See Poetic Shows at Edinburgh Fringe 2019)

Honouring the rhythm and structure of Shakespeare’s original text was a challenging, yet enjoyable poetic exercise (and I’d argue there’s enough of his literary DNA still in there to warrant him a co-author credit!). Participating in an online group with fellow actor-poets over lockdown has also resulted in us pooling resources under the collective banner Turnstile Poetry to create and publish our own zine, ‘Oranges in Amsterdam’, due for release in August.  In these respects, I have found the reading, writing and sharing of poetry to be vital, for keeping creative and maintaining a positive outlook over recent months.

CORONOLOGUE, Performed for Hillingdon Libraries

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Poetry and Covid-19 ARCHIVE (This website archives the over 1000 poems submitted by over 600 poets, and viewed by over 100,000 from over 125 countries during the Covid-19 pandemic, June 2020-June 2021). Thank you to all who took part in the Poetry and Covid project.

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