Even before this “corona moment,” poetry was having a moment. It seemed like The New York Times had an article every other day: Elizabeth Warren with a poet on her campaign staff, Astro-Poets @poetastrologers storming Twitter, Muslim Girls Making Change with voicing uncomfortable necessary truths…
Poetry has always been, in reality, for the people - despite all those dry poetry units many of us had in English classes and that horrible one course many of you probably suffered through in college, never to return.
Back when memorizing poetry was considered valuable in creating a common ground of shared experience and comfort for well-informed and well-rounded citizens, such experience and comfort was found in the aftermath of another traumatic crisis with a familiar refrain:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
And, really, what is “Keep Calm and Carry On” but a very short poem created to rally and fortify the people of London during the Blitz of World War II? Even Shakespeare’s writings and rowdy dramatic stagings were verse for the people during a time in human history when a great deal of change was afoot and the gaps between the “haves” and the “have-nots” were wide.
Poetry has an aura of the sacred and even the untouchable. As a poet working with both kids and adults, I hear “Oh, I’m not a poet! I can’t write poetry” and “Poetry is intimidating” more frequently than I wish. As with art, it is perceived that poets have some special skill, some eyes that see beyond this world. And that’s true in some cases. But in my experience, poetry is also everything and everyone. Life is poetic. People are poetic. Poetry is beauty and meaning, often packed in few words (the original Twitter)... or images or shapes or birdsongs or wadded up gum on the sidewalk inviting to speculate on its story. It is reflection and a space for truth and a sanctuary of solace.
So in this “corona moment” where our daily patterns and rhythm are inevitably shifting, poetry - reading it, writing it - can be a source of comfort, of contemplation, of shared experience. What if this newspaper put out and posted a “poem of the day” for the duration of this moment and invited us all to post video or audio of ourselves reciting that poem out loud? National Poetry Month is coming up in April, and many of the poetry events around Vermont have been postponed. But I know of one that hasn’t, and that’s how I’m doing my part for the community as the creator and host of the bimonthly Voicing Art Poetry Reading Series and Poetry of Nature Walks through The Poartry Project.
With our mission of “building loving worlds through loving words,” we at The Poartry Project consider ourselves responsible, loving and engaged citizen-stewards – first and foremost – who contribute through community, care and cooperation for the common good. While we live boldly and fearlessly through the power of the forces of love and of good and through deep understanding of the energies shaping our lives and world, it is the wellbeing of all that is ever in our hearts. So to do our part in this corona moment, we are making our upcoming April 18 Voicing Art Poetry Reading fully virtual, which is easy for us to do because we’ve had a livestreaming virtual option all along with 50% of our readers and listeners coming in virtually each time from as far afield as Australia. I invite the entire local, Vermont and global community to come together as we need to be apart through the gift of technology. To learn more and submit a poem, see poartry.org/voicing-art.
In the meantime, let us keep calm as we Vermonters always do, but not carry on. Let’s make this corona moment the moment we help create the world we know is possible, finally breaking out of the limiting inequalities and countless unkindnesses that poetry has always done the work of calling out.
Founder, The Poartry Project
Charlotte, Shelburne, Burlington and worldwide