Poetry from Luke Kennard

Award-winning poet, Luke Kennard shares seven poems from his upcoming collection ‘Notes on The Sonnets’, written in response to Shakespeare’s sonnets and to be published in April 2021 by Penned in the Margins. The number of each poem relates to the equivalent sonnet in Shakespeare’s cycle.


Without meaning to we’re taking photos of each other taking photos of each other again. We’re outside the kitchen window getting high around a tin table until all I can talk about is a Rubik’s cube where every face is made of another smaller Rubik’s cube, but it would only work if they’re spheres. Then I get quite agitated and demand someone fetches me the pepper grinder because of the terpenoids, and I like the way the word terpenoids feels in my mouth so much I just keep saying it, terpenoids terpenoids terpenoids. Unblessed in the evening air, unblessed. There’s such an obsession with wrinkles sonnets 1-74 it’s as if the whole sequence had been commissioned by a luxury skin care salve. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t have children so that they’d look like me; it feels weird even having to point that out. Although, you say, head cocked, reflected in the window I just photographed the people photographing themselves through, it’s actually quite important being pretty, isn’t it? More than we care to admit? I like having attractive friends. I laugh because you do. That’s a low-key outrageous thing to say. No it’s not. Anyway, everyone’s attractive. There is a warmth in just leaning against the windowsill with you I’d like to revisit. I won’t.


I would also like my skin to be thought, but it isn’t. I have to carry it places, whereas thoughts have wings. A sub-party has started in the porch. We all have teleportation fantasies, but the quantum channel is always destroyed. So you could do it once and never come back. In such a way, in wishing it were otherwise, all science-fiction corresponds to our desire to renounce all responsibility for our actions. Crime fiction our desire to delegate. Criminality is bureaucracy in its purest uncut form. There is, though, some distant molecule forever altered, though you wouldn’t know it, turning up on your doorstep like an unsolicited submission. A drastic, last-ditch signal. So you can go back once and try again but do exactly the same things differently and exactly the same things the same because you already went back. Teleport to the last ditch. The ribbons above the window say Distraction is Perfidy. If the dull substance of my thoughts were skin we’d walk along the skin-lined thoroughfare and pause under a fleshy, pulsating tree, I’d say, In all this hideous world you found me.


Moiety: two parts. Taxation. In property law, for instance, you own half your maisonette and lease the other half from someone else. The moiety in your brother’s eye. Some molecules are water-loving. Some molecules are water-fearing. In anthropology moiety means one of two distinct groups within a tribe.

I interned as an interloper and now I care / about things which should not concern me, broke the key off in the lock, spent the deposit. Here are the two parts of your country, here are the two distinct tribes within each half, here are… In French it just means half. In theology you own one of your eyes and the other belongs to God.


The way hangovers mature, in your 30s, into a kind of existential mould. I want the kind of success and happiness for you I want for my own children. I want you to feel loved and known or known and loved or, failing that, because really who can expect such extravagance, I want the ache to be transfigured into something you can use. Otherwise, knowing that you exist, that at this moment you are waiting for a train, that you have had to start the same page again because you weren’t concentrating, that you are tired, that if someone asked you something they would get to hear your voice. I love the channels dammed with exhausting half-thoughts. Funny how the latte has become one of the laziest class signifiers, as if every dead high-street didn’t contain at least two Costas.


We’re mixing gin with lemon Fanta and talking about the problem with posterity, about which we all have our own ideas whilst harbouring secret desires for a Collected in ten, twenty, thirty years’ time. Nobody wants to admit to being part of the problem because believing that you are part of the problem is profoundly uncomfortable. Also some things are just embarrassing; some things are just between you and yourself, but to write is to tell someone to go long and hurl that part of yourself towards them. Frequently I’d curse God and die but then privately I’d say, ‘I am so, so sorry, God, I’m so sorry.’ Nobody ever puts away childish things because 1. There are so many of them, and 2. There isn’t adequate storage space. The way, in front of friends, I might have said, ‘Yeah, that toy cat is so stupid!’ and tossed it down the stairs. Then later, alone, I’d cradle the toy cat in my arms and whisper, ‘Please forgive me. Please. I’m so sorry.’


Chesterfield’s Act of 1750 introduced the Gregorian calendar, already used by the majority of Europe, to Great Britain, losing us eleven days. In order for us to get into sync, 1751 was only 282 days long. Up to that point, the year began on March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation. This is why, to this day, the tax year begins on April 6th, which, on the Old Style calendar, is March 25th. That’s wild, right? So the darling buds of May are actually shaken by the rough winds, in the 16th century, during the month of June, i.e. Summer. I don’t know if this is as important as it feels, but it feels important insofar as we might compare one another to a necessary adjustment which has unintended repercussions far beyond the administrative.


I had to urgently drive three cars a distance of approximately 12 miles. I forget the destination or the reason for the time pressure – someone was sick, someone was cold, there were children crying, we were in danger of missing something very important – but I felt it profoundly and for whatever reason I was the only one responsible for transport, perhaps the only one with a driving licence. It seemed to me at the time that driving one car the entire 12 mile journey and then having to run 12 miles back to the remaining two cars, then drive the second car the complete journey and then having to run 12 miles back to the last car, half dead with exhaustion, the taste of blood whenever I coughed, in order to drive the third and final car the complete 12 miles, having run and driven a total of 60 miles would be inefficient, if not impossible, both in terms of time and preserving my limited stamina. So I got in the first car and drove it as far as I could whilst I could still see the other two cars in the rear-view mirror (say about 2-300 metres? I’m between Metric and Imperial; kilometres mean nothing to me and neither do yards). I parked up the hill by a dry stone wall. I left it in a layby, the first car, ran back and collected the second car, drove it down the hill and parked it behind the first, then I ran back to retrieve the third car and parked it with the others, ready to begin the process again. Each time I was driving I was tempted to go farther, but I would drive the car as long a distance as possible so as not to feel like it was a waste of time having even started it, but as short a distance as possible so that running back to the other cars would be quick and not too difficult, the three chunky sets of keys clanking in my pocket as I ran, not entirely convinced that my plan was the best one but unable, which is not to say incapable, but yes, unable, to come up with an alternative.

About the contributor

Poet, critic, novelist and lecturer, Luke Kennard has an array of impressive awards. He won an Eric Gregory Award in 2005 for his first collection The Solex Brothers. His second collection, The Harbour Beyond The Movie, was shortlisted for the 2007 Forward Prize for Best Collection, making him, at that point, the youngest ever poet to be nominated. In 2014 he was named as one of the Poetry Book Society’s Next Generation Poets. His debut novel, The Transition, was published by Fourth Estate in March 2017. The novel was a BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime. His recent collection, Cain, was shortlisted for the International Dylan Thomas Prize in 2017. He was The Poetry Society’s Canal Laureate from 2016 -17 and is the judge of the New Poets Prize for 2020, organised by The Poetry Business.

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