TCS: Write Where We Are Now – Poetry of the Pandemic

.. Good Morning!

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Welcome to The Coffee Shop, just for you early risers
on Monday mornings. This is an Open Thread forum,
so if you have an off-topic opinion burning a hole in
your brainpan, feel free to add a comment.

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“We need the voice of poetry in
times of change and world-grief.
A poem only seeks to add to the
world and now seems the time
to give”

– Carol Ann Duffy

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At the end of March, 2020, Carol Ann Duffy launched Write Where We Are Now, an international poetry project with poems from major name poets and lesser-known ones, as a response to the coronavirus pandemic. The poems included were written through June 30, 2020.

Duffy and the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University brought together poets from around the world to write new poems during the coronavirus crisis. Poets were invited to write directly about the pandemic, or about the personal situation they found themselves in during lockdown.

To see the entire Write Where We Are Now collection of poems, click:
https://www.mmu.ac.uk/write/

But here’s just a tiny random sample:

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Hands

by Carol Ann Duffy

We clap at the darkness.
I hearken for the sound
of my daughter’s small hands,
but she is miles away…
though I can see her hands
when I put my head in my own.  


“Hands” © 2020 by Carol Ann Duffy

Carol Ann Duffy (1955 –) — Scottish poet and playwright, became the first woman, first Scot and first openly LGBT person appointed as Britain’s Poet Laureate (2009-2019). Her 1985 poetry collection, Standing Female Nude, won the first of her three Scottish Arts Council Book Awards. Mean Time (1993) won the Whitbread Poetry Prize. She also won the 1995 Lannan Literary Award for Poetry, and many other honors. In Duffy’s The World’s Wife, she gives us a collection of modern versions of the old tales, with an unsettling feminist twist.

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Mouth

by George Szirtes

What’s almost over 
is never over. The lies, 
extemporising  

and dancing go on. 
Nothing can be written down 
but is rewritten. 
 
I have been messing 
with my head, says one. This is 
a figure of speech, 
 
a mouth in the rain. 


“Mouth” © 2020 by George Szirtes

George Szirtes (1948 – ) — British poet and translator; born in Budapest, he came with his family to the UK after the 1956 Hungarian Uprising. He has translated the work of the Hungarian writers Ottó Orbán, Zsuzsa Rakovszky, and Ágnes Nemes Nagy. Szirtes was a co-editor on Bloodaxe’s Hungarian anthology The Colonnade of Teeth. His own poetry books include: The Budapest FileAn English ApocalypseReel, winner of the 2004 T.S. Eliot Prize; New & Collected Poems; Bad Machine, and The Burning of the Books, shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize in 2009.

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Cranes Lean In

 by Imtiaz Dharker

Cranes lean in, waiting for an all-clear
that will not come.

Forehead pressed to glass,
phone at my ear, I learn

to sail on your voice
over a sadness of building sites, 

past King’s Cross, St Pancras,
to the place where you are.

You say nothing
is too far, mothers

will find their daughters,
strangers will be neighbours,

even saviours
will have names.

You are all flame
in a red dress.  

Petals brush my face.
You say at last

the cherry blossom
has arrived

as if that is what
we were really waiting for.


“Cranes Lean In” ©2020 by Imtiaz Dharker

Imtiaz Dharker (1954 – ) — British poet, artist, and video filmmaker, born in Lahore, Pakistan. Her family moved to Glasgow when she was an infant. She describes herself as a “Scottish Muslim Calvinist.” Her poetry collections include Purdah; Over the Moon; The Terrorist at My Table; and Luck is the Hook.

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Brave Face

by Amanda Dalton

The day I saw your body at the funeral home  
I hated the plastic face of you, stretched 
somehow and varnished, mouth open, dummy  
eyes three-quarters shut, like a reject from Tussaud’s  
or a Stepford wife, and I could only think  
how you’d have made a better job of this –  
a touch of Dad’s stage make-up maybe, nicer scarf. 

Perhaps you’d have put your brave face on,  
set your jaw in the smile that used to buttress you.  
I always read your features like the map of an endlessly  
changing place and I’m glad these days, when the world’s  
on fire and everyone seems to be dropping like flies,  
that I rarely recall the plastic face, think of you  
mutable instead and laughing, wide-eyed. 


“Brave Face” © 2020 by Amanda Dalton

Amanda Dalton – British poet and playwright, currently an associate artist at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre, a Royal Literary Fund Fellow, and Visiting Teaching Fellow at Manchester Metropolitan University’s The Writing School. Her poetry collections include How To Disappear, and Stray. She lives in West Yorkshire.

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Armorial

by Billy Collins

The two crossed arms
on my overcrowded
family crest
are not heralds of anyone
approaching or leaving a castle.

Rather each is holding
a lit cigarette,
whose rising wisps of smoke
explain why the paired lions
are no longer rampant, but coughing.


“Armorial” © 2020 by Billy Collins

Billy Collins (1941 – ) — dubbed “the most popular poet in America” by Bruce Weber in the New York Times, he was a two-term U.S. Poet Laureate (2001-2003), and has published many poetry collections, including Questions About Angels; The Art of Drowning; Nine Horses: Poems; and The Rain in Portugal. It was Questions About Angels, published in 1991, that put him in the literary spotlight. Collins says his poetry is “suburban, it’s domestic, it’s middle class, and it’s sort of unashamedly that.”

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I Forget Which Day

by Maggie Reed

. . . . . . after Jane Hirshfield.

On the first day
I wasn’t sure it was the first day.
I wrote in my dairy:
               what I can do
               what we’ll have to cancel
               what may still happen.

On the second day
the scientists stuck together,
fed their lists to the politicians.
The scientists were faceless
on the second day.

On the fifth day
I listened to the birds.
Their news was all good –
                 the clean air
                 the quiet
                 the lack of human interference.
I listened to their joyous songs.

On the eighth day
I was silenced by the news
as it all sank in;
my death of fear,
or was it the other way round?

On the twentieth day
I heard about that man,
his squirming lies in a Westminster garden,
sitting in shirtsleeves, laughing at us
behind his blank, untouchable face.

On the thirtieth day
I hand-wrote a letter
to my friend, like the old days.
I got an emailed reply.

In my dreams I met
school friends on the stairs,
couldn’t find which room
you were in.

Through my window
I see neighbours I’ve never met.
Today we ask after each other
for the first time.

On day 93 we hear the graphs wheeze,
a giant whale, marooned on its own data,
spiked by fear, manipulated to rise
like the bread of heaven for relief –
too soon, too fast, a monolith
that the drowning world clings on to
in its hour of need, only to discover
its slippery side of lies, barnacle facts
chipped away, one by one,
till they lie at the bottom of the ocean,
shifting pointlessly with the changing tide,
while the great ship of government
charges across us all – oblivious.


“I Forget Which Day” © 2020 by Maggie Reed

Maggie Reed — UK poet born in Cumbria who now lives in West Malvern, with her husband, writer and fellow poet Martin Reed. Her poems have been published in Orbis, Poetry Birmingham, Unpsychology, and several times in The North magazine. She holds a Diploma in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes from the Metanoia Institute in London.

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About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for the past 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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