Poetry in a time of crisis
Poetry is a friend that we can turn to in uncertain times. It can open up our mind to new thoughts and possibilities, it can illuminate emotions that we were already feeling, it can provide welcome distraction and relief from a hectic world. Since the COVID-19 crisis has taken hold in the UK, many writers have been sharing fantastic new work. Rebecca Tantony, The Bath Festival’s Poetry and Spoken Word Programmer, has collated four new poems that are reactions and reflections on the world today.
How to survive a lockdown
by Tom Sastry
The moments you have outside
are not for noticing everything. That’s too much
but a different dust will fall in your hair
and afterwards you will name it.
Find something that seems to answer you
but never shuts you up. An animal is best
but a picture or something made of cloth
will do. This is your God, needy
as you want it. Remember, a mug of tea
is holy. Remember, your bed
adores you. Remember, the sky is waiting
and creatures fly in it, on this clear
and limitless day. Do not ration yourself
to reasonable or proportionate grief.
You cannot afford modesty.
A movement at the window means the world
can reach you. A second means it knows your name.
It’s heard good things. If there’s a third
call it love. You were keeping that word
for something. Something has found you.
by Beth Calverley
In the kitchen
with its window – a sheet
of unmade sky,
she slumps in her pot,
limp, dramatic, all joy lost
to the anxious night.
Go on, move: pour her a glass
from the tap, wet her throat,
and turn to drink one too.
The earth, a hot,
breaks its grip.
Look round – hello!
that was quick!
She’s up, dressed, ready to live.
All her loving fingers reach.
Another instant and my face
is in her body,
my hands on the table,
a prayer of green.
You’ll find me like this,
at the halt of the world,
bent double into endless leaves,
breathing in peace.
by Carl Burkitt
My world is getting smaller
but everyone’s in my front room.
My nephew’s on the dining table
bouncing on a trampoline.
My niece is planting cucumbers
hovering above a keyboard.
I saw an executive on the bed,
a director on the toilet, an officer by the toaster.
House parties want me to dance down a lens.
I’ve got my therapist in my ear
as I sit on my own sofa.
The faces that made me are squashed together
lying across my palm.
My world is getting smaller
and the entire universe is trying to climb in.
Clapping for the NHS
(for my boyfriend Tom)
by Dean Atta
Did you hear them
clapping for you
last night on your way to work?
I woke to an empty bed,
again. Blackout curtains, for you
to sleep through the day.
You’ve had another night
of uncertainty. I’ve had another night
of you away from me.
I do what I can to pass the time:
FaceTime my mother
and we cook the same dinner.
Host an online open mic.
Read the books I’ve been wanting
to read for months.
You’ll be back on dayshifts
next week but the light of day
will not provide us with
the certainty we so crave.
Everyone tells me you are brave.
I know you are afraid.
And that’s okay,
my love, that’s okay
With thanks to Rebecca Tantony for collating these poems. To hear more from Rebecca, follow her on Instagram and Twitter: @RebeccaTantony
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