Hello friends and poets, Björn here at the bar
We are in the middle of the most disruptive time yet, during my lifetime. I don’t know about you, but I am reading and following the curves of every country each day, trying to comprehend what is happening, but in many ways, we don’t really know a lot more than we did during the times when the bubonic plague hit us.
As an example, you all probably have heard about 14 days quarantine, which in itself is like a tautology since “quarantine” actually means fourteen days. After all these years it’s still fourteen days.
Today the health professionals wear masks against the microbes. So did they do during the pandemic influenza of 1918-1920 called the Spanish Flu.
In the past, the plague doctors wore beaked masks filled with herbs to protect against the miasma (the poisonous odor of plague), and an oilcloth coat against pestilence secretions.
We might have ventilators, we might have antibacterial soaps, but when too many are sick we are down to the old rules of separation and quarantine.
I have seen many of you already writing about the coronavirus pandemic (as have I) but today I would like you all to write about how this has changed us all (for better and for worse). How will the world look like on the other side?
Plagues and diseases have always been part of literature. For instance, Boccaccio’s Decameron is set in a quarantine situation which is one of the reasons why they feel safe talking about the explicit subjects that made it such a shocking book. Will we see a similar honesty hear.
I found this sonnet by Christina Rosetti describing the terrors of the plague.
‘Listen, the last stroke of death’s noon has struck—
The plague is come,’ a gnashing Madman said,
And laid him down straightway upon his bed.
His writhed hands did at the linen pluck;
Then all is over. With a careless chuck
Among his fellows he is cast. How sped
His spirit matters little: many dead
Make men hard-hearted.— ‘Place him on the truck.
Go forth into the burial-ground and find
Room at so much a pitful for so many.
One thing is to be done; one thing is clear:
Keep thou back from the hot unwholesome wind,
That it infect not thee.’ Say, is there any
Who mourneth for the multitude dead here?
Many of you might also have read The Plague by Albert Camus, which contains that sense of life being put on hold that I feel today as well. Or maybe Garcia Marques
Then you have the deaths and the sorrow that follows. Remember that it was only a few months since the first death made headlines. Now, unless it’s someone we know, we only count the numbers and try to project if anything is going in the right direction.
I think no matter what, this is the time to ask ourselves the existential questions of life and humanity. We might try blaming our leaders, but most of this will be down to ourselves and how we act, united in our solitude we try to find new normality.
Read this brilliant, brand new poem “Lockdown” by Simon Armitage published in the Guardian, on how he ties the current situation to stories from the past.
Today I would like you to take inspiration from the words like plague, pestilence, and pandemic, and write a poem to console us in this time of the Corona.
When you have written your poem, please publish it on your blog and link it up below. Visit the other poets, comment and be inspired.