Pandemic: A Community Poem

This year has been a year like no other. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world, with some 40 million people having contracted the virus to date and in excess of 1 million people having died.

In April 2020, as the pandemic spread from country to country, Muse-Pie Press sought to create a world-wide community poem by inviting every poet who had ever been published by the Press to contribute one line of poetry. The intent being to capture the experiences, thoughts and reactions of those living through the pandemic.

Based in New Jersey, USA, Muse-Pie Press has been publishing poetry since 1980 and currently produces the online journals: Shot Glass Journal, the fib review and Bent Ear Review. I was fortunate to have a poem appear in Shot Glass a few years ago.

Having received 220 submissions from poets in 16 countries, Muse-Pie’s publisher, R. G. Rader, crafted the community poem. The resulting poem is written in seven parts, using all the contributed lines and with no extra lines added. You can read the full poem here.

The poem is one to which everyone can relate:

here – in a sense – we all are
How to measure our days on Pandemic Time,
the calendar scarred with cancellations
we close windows against the rain in a house that’s now our world

The contributions range from the personal to the philosophical; being at various times pragmatic, emotional, political and poetic:

even the sky is masked, whispering of rain
Strangers stay strangers, no faces, just eyes.
I see only her eyes and the silence of fear

. . .

if you close your eyes, can you hear the sea-shell hiss of silence
Solitude consoles the more memories enfold.
I am taking up patience
waiting by the window for the world to restart

The line of poetry I contributed was written in iambic tetrameter: so small, this world I thought I knew. In the context of the poem, it appears as follows:

Those paired honkings are geese flying to the river,
not guests at the door
At the doorstep, an offering, homemade honey lemon tea
so small, this world I thought I knew

After 220 lines, the Muse-Pie Press community poem closes in this way:

What we need now is glow — The sort of night that embers make …
Stand at the window, reach out beyond walls
Be strong, then go about the work of angels.

The Muse-Pie Press website also includes an audio recording of R. G. Rader reading the complete poem. The recording, which runs some 20 minutes, truly brings the poem alive and is very moving indeed. I recommend a listen. The audio can be accessed here.

As the isolation and loss of life continues around the world, this poem provides a record in real-time of the thoughts and emotions of those living in a COVID-19 world. Thank you to Muse-Pie Press for producing Pandemic: A Community Poem.