Simon Armitage says he felt a duty to write about coronavirus and the ensuing lockdown.

The Poet Laureate, 56, has penned Lockdown, which begins with being unable to “escape the waking dream of infected fleas”.

Speaking on Desert Island Discs, he revealed: “I felt some kind of duty to write to the moment, to say something about now.

“And that wasn’t too difficult. The images and language were queuing up to be written about.

Lauren Laverne
Lauren Laverne (Ian West/PA)

“To have not have written about it, I would have felt as if I hadn’t really stepped up and met the challenge”.

Despite being a pessimist, Armitage, a former probation officer, said he feels optimistic about the future.

“Unless we see hope and some kind of enlightenment at the end of this, that we’ve learnt something, then we are just going to be wallowing in a very difficult situation,” he tells the show’s host Lauren Laverne.

“The weather has helped – the fact that trees are greening and flowers are opening in front of our eyes is helpful and has pointed towards a future.”

Speaking from his home in West Yorkshire, he also shares on the BBC Radio 4 show his relief that he did not get the Poet Laureate post 10 years earlier when he was first mooted for the job.

“William Hill (the bookmakers), I think, had odds on me. My dad lost a little bit of money,” he said.

“But it wouldn’t have been the right time.”

Sunday’s Desert Island Discs is on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday at 11am and on BBC Sounds.