Poetry in the times of Covid-19

The pandemic has inspired people to pause and reflect

Updated - March 26, 2020 01:20 pm IST

Published - March 25, 2020 05:31 pm IST

People all over the world are writing corona-inspired verse

People all over the world are writing corona-inspired verse

Much is being written about this virus that “binds us, but holds us apart”. People have taken to verse to express their new realities and the internet abounds with poetry — on this new lifestyle that has taught us not to take anything for granted, this new quietude we are very unused to.

#coronapoetry and covid19 poetry are trending on social media. Instagram has poets’ communities from around the world versifying by the minute about the challenges the virus has thrown up — isolation, quarantine, sickness and loneliness. Many, however, also look at it as an opportunity to slow down and savour life, one day at a time.

Irish priest, Brother Richard Hendrick’s poem Lockdown is one such. It went viral, as the world resonated with it. He speaks of the birds that have begun to sing again and of skies that have turned blue again. He shared it as a FaceBook post on March 13 and it starts thus:

“Yes there is fear.

Yes there is isolation.

Yes there is panic buying.

Yes there is sickness.

Yes there is even death.


They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise

You can hear the birds again....”

The BBC Radio broadcast it as a plea to pause, listen and reflect.

“Humans have always had their own ways to cope with disaster and literature and poetry have always been born out of great suffering,” says Bhaskaran Bara, artist, writer and poet. “Now, we have the facility to air our haikus and verses instantly as they occur to us.”

British poet Simon Armitage in a poem, (also titled 'Lockdown') remembers the villagers of Eyam in Derbyshire, who locked themselves up during the 17th century outbreak of plague:

“And I couldn’t escape the waking dream

of infected fleas

In the warp and weft of soggy cloth

By the tailor’s hearth...”

Actor Amitabh Bachchan wrote a few lines in Hindi, urging people to stay safe.

“In times such as these, we all have our coping methods. Poetry is mine,” says Aditya Jadhav, who runs a digital marketing company and poet. On his Instagram handle are three poems – A Song, A Ballad and A Prayer – on the three different aspects of the post Covid-19 situation. While ‘A Song’ is hopeful, stating that it took a calamity to make us appreciate simple things about life, ‘A Ballad’ is an ode to the healthcare professionals who work tirelessly. The last in the series is an impassioned prayer to the universe to lend us strength to tide over these troubled times:

“He captured the world, every village

every city

Invincible and dangerous than

anybody has ever been

But little did he know of the secret


The army of heroes clad in white and green...”

Any art can help you tackle the gloom, says Meena Shaktivanam, who has been putting up stories, songs and limericks on Instagram for children who have to stay indoors this vacation. Her Kunjiamoomma stories have been made for “corona times”, she says.

Poet Jeena Mary Chacko from Bangalore writes in her poetic FB post that the “Great Isolation” has taught her a few things about life:

“That I long for things to go back to normal. I long for my workstation, my routine, the white board, my purple markers and the wooden duster I keep in my desk....That life is persistent and relentless ....That uncertainty is the only constant.”

Ultimately, it is about taking a re-look at your priorities, says Kristin Flyntz in her poem, “An imagined letter from Covid 19 to Humans,” which was shared over 27,000 times on social media and is still being passed around. In it, she writes:

“Despite what you might think or feel, we are not the enemy

We are messenger. We are Ally. We are a balancing force

We are asking you.

To stop, to be still, to listen…”

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