World Poetry Day: words of comfort written during the Covid-19 pandemic

Poems can provide comfort in times of crisis, including amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: Unesco

As we celebrate World Poetry Day today, it is only fitting that we take a look at some poetry collections that were put together in the midst of a pandemic.

These works speak of many different things, from real-life experiences and observations, grief and fears that keep us awake at night, to imaginary worlds steeped in reality and our vulnerability in dealing with the new and unknown.

But above all, they demonstrate the strength and resilience of the human spirit in trying times.

Held every year on March 21, World Poetry Day - endorsed by Unesco - celebrates one of humanity’s most treasured forms of cultural and linguistic expression and identity.

Viral Verses: Art In Exceptional Times, edited by Nicholas Linstead and Stephen Linstead

Professor Linstead from The York Management School in Britain started this poetry project after a close friend, Edward Crum, succumbed to Covid-19 last year. More than 50 poets and 30 illustrators from around the city and beyond, came together to create this collection of 120 poems - and 80 illustrations - on loss, struggle, hope and renewal. It features broadcasters and performers like Ian McMillan and Mike Harding, and exhibited artists like Anne Genner and Crawford and Jeannie Clarke. First-time published poets and illustrators are also included in this project.

Poems For A Pandemic: Voices From The Front Line Of A Global Epidemic, edited by Angela Marston

A retired Palliative Care nurse who has spent nearly four decades in the NHS and Hospice services, Marston contracted Covid-19 and wrote her first poem during her time of self-isolation. When she recovered, she rounded up a selection of poems from others who were affected by the virus, including nurses, doctors, pharmacists and food bank volunteers. This is a collection of poems written by frontliners and everyday heroes, aged 9 to 92.

Poetic Medicine In The Time Of Pandemic: A Collection Of Poems From Around The World, edited by Dawn Li

Entrepreneur, poet and educator Li was moved to organise a group of poets from around the world to write inspirational poems in response to the Covid-19 crisis, after she visited her birth country of China last year. With poets from China, the US, Australia, India, Britain and many more countries, this compilation of poems is a reminder of the importance of uniting for a common cause and inspiring each other to keep soldiering on.

Together In A Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond To The Pandemic, edited by Alice Quinn

When Quinn, the former director of the Poetry Society of America, reached out to poets across the US, asking if they had written anything during the quarantine, they were quick to respond with their thoughts and stories.

In this collection of poems by over a hundred poets, we find a diverse and intricate portrait of a fast-changing reality that is often scary and uncertain. We hear from poets who are separated from loved ones, dealing with loss, coping with lifestyle changes and reflecting on societal inequities and injustice, among other things.

The Great Realisation by Tomos Roberts, illustrated by Nomoco

While this is not a collection of poetry, this poem by poet and filmmaker Roberts is included in this list as it has been making waves all over the world. It started not as a book, but as a video uploaded on YouTube (Probably Toomfoolery channel) at the end of April last year, a delightful and compelling four-minute “bedtime story” performance that brings us through the dire straits of humanity in pre-pandemic times and how the global crisis changed perspectives and priorities.

This project was initially meant as a way to entertain his younger siblings during the lockdown, but after overwhelming response from the public, the poem was published in September last year as a children’s picture book, a “story of hope, for a time of change”.

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poem , poetry , world poetry day , pandemic , covid-19 , books


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