Project Team

Poetry is always valued in times of crisis

It provides succour, a means to think through our predicaments, a way to connect.

During the current Covid-19 pandemic, poetry has been drawn on by politicians, medics, teachers, protesters – all manner of people, in myriad guises and circumstances – in an attempt to grapple with and communicate hope, fear, loss, confusion, loneliness, heightened emotion.

‘Poets Respond to Covid-19: Collaborative UK and International Poetry Project’ is funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (2020-2021).


Principal Investigator: Professor Anthony Caleshu, University of Plymouth (Anthony.caleshu@plymouth.ac.uk)


Co-Investigator: Dr. Rory Waterman, Nottingham Trent University (rory.waterman@ntu.ac.uk)


Research Assistant: Sam Kemp, University of Plymouth (sam.kemp@plymouth.ac.uk)

Project Abstract

Our project proposes the writing, exchange, publication and discussion of poetry as a significant cultural response, benefiting the UK (and global) public’s processing, healing, and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our approach includes editing an anthology of 30 poets (15 UK / 15 other countries) responding to COVID-19, and an accompanying interactive website enabling collective public participation/engagement with poetry. CI and PI will situate poetry as a mode of response to COVID-19 in a multi-format essay speaking to our contemporary moment and within the context of other historical poetries of crisis (published in a peer-review journal, and also the anthology/website). The website (edited by PI/CI) will mitigate distancing and isolating effects of lockdown, inviting people to engage in forum discussions of COVID-19-related poetic performances and Q&A sessions. It will also provide a curated platform for public-submitted poetry responding to COVID-19. Target audiences include those suffering bereavement, physical or mental health issues, and those in need of ‘wellbeing’ (in line with the long-published research regarding the therapeutic value of reading and/or ‘reflexive’ writing of poetry). The print book (published 01/2021) formulates an immediate, static artistic response to COVID-19. The website will be edited for 12 months from the contract’s proposed start (06/2020), enabling dynamic ongoing responses, exploring the impact of the virus as it requires ever-changing modes of engagement. The website further proposes value in its legacy-archiving and its exemplary use of digital technologies, enabling discourse (in this case, poetry) to be freely accessible during this crisis and future lockdowns.

We Believe in the Power of Poetry…

…to help people comprehend the crisis, and situate themselves within it, as a means to reintegrate, reconnect, rethink and rearticulate our humanity, and overcome division. After all, to fight this war and its multifarious battles, we must as a species learn to work together, overcoming differences, accepting plurality and heterodoxy, embracing one another’s needs as well as our own. We propose that poetry can take the shape of the necessary ‘collective thinking, reasoning, and imagination to create a healthier world’ during this crisis (as the Boston Review put it in April 2020), not as an act of groupthink but as a collective endeavour of mutual understanding, support through imaginative connection, and good faith. Does poetry matter? Yes. It matters to people, not just scholars and students, even though it is not as regularly embraced as some other artforms. People call on it when they need it most, across virtually all cultures and divisions.

Our project fulfils…

…the need to impact the documentation, creation, and analysis of poetry responding to Covid-19 via our project’s three prongs. These are intended to address and mitigate adverse effects to cultural and social wellbeing, in the UK and globally. They are:

This website, dedicated to fostering public conversation about poetry as a response to Covid-19. Submissions to Ovid to Covid, our webzine, are open internationally to anyone wishing to submit poems related to the pandemic or its consequences. It also provides a place to reflect, discuss, respond, and provoke conversation around Covid-19. The website will be updated continually with videos, interviews, and other media. It is for everybody, and belongs to its users.


A major anthology, bringing together 15 UK poets of international standing to write ‘collaborative’ anglophone poetry alongside 15 poets from other countries around the world. This will be published in January 2021 by Shearsman Press, and more information is available on this website. 


About Poetry and Covid

An essay co-authored by the two project leads, Professor Anthony Caleshu (University of Plymouth) and Dr Rory Waterman (Nottingham Trent University), analysing and evaluating the role of poetry during Covid-19, and contextualising this in relation to poetry’s place in past pandemics. This will be published in three formats: as a preface to the anthology, as a piece on this website, and as a scholarly article.

Get Involved…

Thank you for your interest in this project. We hope you find it useful and engaging – and to some extent, that depends upon you! So: please explore the website, submit your writing, or respond on the forums – and contact us directly, should you wish to do so, at poetryandcovid@gmail.com.