Isolation and Poetry

Moose footprints across the season’s endless snow

It has been by inch and trickle that the continued isolation and stress of COVID has covered the person I want to be. The person who has friends and laughs a lot and has time to walk on the beach. The person who feels hopeful and creative and connected.

Now we’re heading into another year of rampant COVID and I live in a community where vaccination rates and mask-wearing are low. Another year when I wistfully look at pictures of travel, readings, conferences, and art openings, but feel like I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I was the person who passed on COVID to someone who got really sick. It happens. People infect their beloved grandmothers or friends undergoing chemotherapy. Since March 2020, 836,000 people in the United States have died due to COVID.

I’m torn. Am I being too cautious? Should I just go ahead and catch COVID and get it over with? Am I a sheep? I used to be so much surer, and I still believe that critically reading the science and listening to respected medical professionals is the way to go. But I also sometimes feel like the last person who is actually doing so. And I haven’t seen my brother and sister since March 2020. I haven’t gone to an art opening or a reading. I haven’t flown anyplace. For one brief moment last June, I actually went to a restaurant. Once. I haven’t really even seen friends in person that often.

So, I’m back at this small corner of the web with some thoughts. A little life ring buoy thrown out into rough and dark seas. A lone candle in the window. A chance to talk about poetry a little, life a little. Perhaps to strategize on how to find my way back to a life when I truly felt like I was “being poetry.” I hope that I’m able to commit to being here with you.

I built my life raft in 2021 from poetry books. Here is the list that I read (or read again):

The Shadow Owner’s Companion by Eleanor Hooker
Late Wife by Claudia Emerson   
Quickening Fields by Pattiann Rogers   
Earthly Meditations by Robert Wrigley   
The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog by Alicia Suskin Ostriker   
Death Tractates by Brenda Hillman   
The Charm by Kathy Fagan   
Shirt in Heaven by Jean Valentine   
Ecodeviance (Soma)tics for the Future Wilderness by CA Conrad   
Vivarium by Natasha Sajé   
Love, the Magician by Medbh McGuckian   
A Responsibility to Awe by Rebecca Elson   
And So Wax Was Made and Also Honey by Amy Beeder (p )
Be Holding by Ross Gay   
The Earliest Witnesses by C.G. Waldrep   
Vertigo and Ghost by Fiona Benson   
God of Nothingness by Mark Wunderlich   
Self-Portrait with Cephalopod by Kathryrn Smith   
Rilke’s book of Hours   
Frank: Sonnets by Diane Seuss   
Conjure by Rae Armantrout   
Little Big Bully by Heid E. Erdrich   
Made to Explode by Sandra Beasley   
Bright Travellers by Fiona Benson   
Foxlogic, Fireweed by Jennifer K. Sweeney   
American Wake by Kerrin McCadden   
North True South Bright by Dan Beachy-Quick   
The Rain Barrel by Frank Ormsby   
To Star the Dark by Doireann Ni Ghriofa   
Indigo by Ellen Bass   
In a Hare’s Eye by Breda Wall Ryan   
Survival is a Style by Christian Wiman   
Goldenrod by Maggie Smith   
Lupercal by Ted Hughes   
If This is the Age We End Discovery by Rosebud Ben-Oni   
Twice Alive by Forrest Gander   
Bonfire Opera by Danusha Laméris   
Of Sea by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett   
The Denunciations by Donika Kelly   
Bindweed by Mark Roper   
Eat or We Both Starve by Victoria Kennefick   
The Century by Éireann Lorsung   
ScarTissue by Charles Wright   
The Glass Constellations by Arthur Sze   
The Nightfields by Joanna Klink   
A Net to Catch My Body in its Weaving by Katie Ferris   
The Light We Cannot See by Anne Casey   
Pilgrim Bell by Kaveh Akbar   
A Fish to Feed All Hunger by Sandra Alcosser   
Middle Earth by Henri Cole   
Nothing Always Comes Your Way by Nicole Stellon O’Donnell   
Odes by Sharon Olds   
As If by Magic by Paula Meehan   
Liffey Sequence by David Butler   
Riptide by Amanda Bell   
Falling Awake by Alice Oswald   
Quantum Lyrics by A. Van Jordan   
Dear Memory by Victoria Chang   
Eternal Sentences by Michael McGriff   
Of Ochre and Ash by Eleanor Hooker   
A Thousand times You Lose Your Treasure by Hoa Nguyen   
Inmates by Sean Borodale   
The Thicket by Kasey Jueds   
The Thunder Mutters edited by Alice Oswald
Wing by Matthew Francis   
Poetics for the More-Than-Hunan World, edited by Mary Newell et al   
Nobody by Alice Oswald   
A Coast of Trees by A.R. Ammons   
Oak by Katharine Towers   
Meadowlands by Louise Glück   
Beauty Refracted by Carol Moldaw   

  1. Drew

    Erin,
    Thank you for writing this. You’ve expressed what I am experiencing too. I just want to say: You are not alone. I have been doggedly reading the science and the rising numbers, and now feel that most everyone else has left the room to tune into some other show. It’s been too hard for too long, and most people have talked themselves into a less difficult reality.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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