Like the plague

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and going down found Jervas the barber with a periwigg which I had the other day cheapened at Westminster, but it being full of nits, as heretofore his work used to be, I did now refuse it, having bought elsewhere. So to the office till noon, busy, and then (which I think I have not done three times in my life) left the board upon occasion of a letter of Sir W. Coventry, and meeting Balty at my house I took him with me by water, and to the Duke of Albemarle to give him an account of the business, which was the escaping of some soldiers for the manning of a few ships now going out with Harman to the West Indies, which is a sad consideration that at the very beginning of the year and few ships abroad we should be in such want of men that they do hide themselves, and swear they will not go to be killed and have no pay. I find the Duke of Albemarle at dinner with sorry company, some of his officers of the Army; dirty dishes, and a nasty wife at table, and bad meat, of which I made but an ill dinner. Pretty to hear how she talked against Captain Du Tell, the Frenchman, that the Prince and her husband put out the last year; and how, says she, the Duke of York hath made him, for his good services, his Cupbearer; yet he fired more shot into the Prince’s ship, and others of the King’s ships, than of the enemy. And the Duke of Albemarle did confirm it, and that somebody in the fight did cry out that a little Dutchman, by his ship, did plague him more than any other; upon which they were going to order him to be sunk, when they looked and found it was Du Tell, who, as the Duke of Albemarle says, had killed several men in several of our ships. He said, but for his interest, which he knew he had at Court, he had hanged him at the yard’s-arm, without staying for a Court-martiall. One Colonel Howard, at the table, magnified the Duke of Albemarle’s fight in June last, as being a greater action than ever was done by Caesar. The Duke of Albemarle, did say it had been no great action, had all his number fought, as they should have done, to have beat the Dutch; but of his 55 ships, not above 25 fought. He did give an account that it was a fight he was forced to: the Dutch being come in his way, and he being ordered to the buoy of the Nore, he could not pass by them without fighting, nor avoid them without great disadvantage and dishonour; and this Sir G. Carteret, I afterwards giving him an account of what he said, says that it is true, that he was ordered up to the Nore. But I remember he said, had all his captains fought, he would no more have doubted to have beat the Dutch, with all their number, than to eat the apple that lay on his trencher.
My Lady Duchesse, among other things, discoursed of the wisdom of dividing the fleete; which the General said nothing to, though he knows well that it come from themselves in the fleete, and was brought up hither by Sir Edward Spragge. Colonel Howard, asking how the prince did, the Duke of Albemarle answering, “Pretty well;” the other replied, “But not so well as to go to sea again.” — “How!” says the Duchess, “what should he go for, if he were well, for there are no ships for him to command? And so you have brought your hogs to a fair market,” said she. [It was pretty to hear the Duke of Albemarle himself to wish that they would come on our ground, meaning the French, for that he would pay them, so as to make them glad to go back to France again; which was like a general, but not like an admiral.] One at the table told an odd passage in this late plague: that at Petersfield, I think, he said, one side of the street had every house almost infected through the town, and the other, not one shut up. Dinner being done, I brought Balty to the Duke of Albemarle to kiss his hand and thank him for his kindness the last year to him, and take leave of him, and then Balty and I to walk in the Park, and, out of pity to his father, told him what I had in my thoughts to do for him about the money — that is, to make him Deputy Treasurer of the fleete, which I have done by getting Sir G. Carteret’s consent, and an order from the Duke of York for 1500l. to be paid to him. He promises the whole profit to be paid to my wife, for to be disposed of as she sees fit, for her father and mother’s relief. So mightily pleased with our walk, it being mighty pleasant weather, I back to Sir G. Carteret’s, and there he had newly dined, and talked, and find that he do give every thing over for lost, declaring no money to be raised, and let Sir W. Coventry name the man that persuaded the King to take the Land Tax on promise, of raising present money upon it. He will, he says, be able to clear himself enough of it. I made him merry, with telling him how many land-admirals we are to have this year: Allen at Plymouth, Holmes at Portsmouth, Spragge for Medway, Teddiman at Dover, Smith to the Northward, and Harman to the Southward. He did defend to me Sir W. Coventry as not guilty of the dividing of the fleete the last year, and blesses God, as I do, for my Lord Sandwich’s absence, and tells me how the King did lately observe to him how they have been particularly punished that were enemies to my Lord Sandwich. Mightily pleased I am with his family, and my Lady Carteret was on the bed to-day, having been let blood, and tells me of my Lady Jemimah’s being big-bellied. Thence with him to my Lord Treasurer’s, and there walked during Council sitting with Sir Stephen Fox, talking of the sad condition of the King’s purse, and affairs thereby; and how sad the King’s life must be, to pass by his officers every hour, that are four years behind-hand unpaid. My Lord Barkeley I met with there, and fell into talk with him on the same thing, wishing to God that it might be remedied, to which he answered, with an oath, that it was as easy to remedy it as anything in the world; saying, that there is himself and three more would venture their carcasses upon it to pay all the King’s debts in three years, had they the managing his revenue, and putting 300,000l. in his purse, as a stock. But, Lord! what a thing is this to me, that do know how likely a man my Lord Barkeley of all the world is, to do such a thing as this. Here I spoke with Sir W. Coventry, who tells me plainly that to all future complaints of lack of money he will answer but with the shrug of his shoulder; which methought did come to my heart, to see him to begin to abandon the King’s affairs, and let them sink or swim, so he do his owne part, which I confess I believe he do beyond any officer the King hath, but unless he do endeavour to make others do theirs, nothing will be done. The consideration here do make me go away very sad, and so home by coach, and there took up my wife and Mercer, who had been to-day at White Hall to the Maundy, it being Maundy Thursday; but the King did not wash the poor people’s feet himself, but the Bishop of London did it for him, but I did not see it, and with them took up Mrs. Anne Jones at her mother’s door, and so to take the ayre to Hackney, where good neat’s tongue, and things to eat and drink, and very merry, the weather being mighty pleasant; and here I was told that at their church they have a fair pair of organs, which play while the people sing, which I am mighty glad of, wishing the like at our church at London, and would give 50l. towards it. So very pleasant, and hugging of Mercer in our going home, we home, and then to the office to do a little business, and so to supper at home and to bed.

I have not left my house
in a year I will not
be killed by plague
or war I avoid them like
an infected kiss
what weather we have
I do not know how likely
is the heart to sink or
to sing


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 4 April 1667.

Clueless

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

W. Pen and I to White Hall, and in the coach did begin our discourse again about Balty, and he promises me to move it this very day. He and I met my Lord Bruncker at Sir G. Carteret’s by appointment, there to discourse a little business, all being likely to go to rack for lack of money still. Thence to the Duke of York’s lodgings, and did our usual business, and Sir W. Pen telling me that he had this morning spoke of Balty to Sir W. Coventry, and that the thing was done, I did take notice of it also to W. Coventry, who told me that he had both the thing and the person in his head before to have done it, which is a double pleasure to me. Our business with the Duke being done, W. Pen and I towards the Exchequer, and in our way met Sir G. Downing going to chapel, but we stopped, and he would go with us back to the Exchequer and showed us in his office his chests full and ground and shelves full of money, and says that there is 50,000l. at this day in his office of people’s money, who may demand it this day, and might have had it away several weeks ago upon the late Act, but do rather choose to have it continue there than to put it into the Banker’s hands, and I must confess it is more than I should have believed had I not seen it, and more than ever I could have expected would have arisen for this new Act in so short a time, and if it do so now already what would it do if the money was collected upon the Act and returned into the Exchequer so timely as it ought to be. But it comes into my mind here to observe what I have heard from Sir John Bankes, though I cannot fully conceive the reason of it, that it will be impossible to make the Exchequer ever a true bank to all intents, unless the Exchequer stood nearer the Exchange, where merchants might with ease, while they are going about their business, at all hours, and without trouble or loss of time, have their satisfaction, which they cannot have now without much trouble, and loss of half a day, and no certainty of having the offices open. By this he means a bank for common practise and use of merchants, and therein I do agree with him. Being parted from Sir W. Pen and [Sir] G. Downing, I to Westminster Hall and there met Balty, whom I had sent for, and there did break the business of my getting him the place of going again as Muster-Master with Harman this voyage to the West Indys, which indeed I do owe to Sir W. Pen. He is mighty glad of it, and earnest to fit himself for it, but I do find, poor man, that he is troubled how to dispose of his wife, and apparently it is out of fear of her, and his honour, and I believe he hath received some cause of this his jealousy and care, and I do pity him in it, and will endeavour to find out some way to do, it for him. Having put him in a way of preparing himself for the voyage, I did go to the Swan, and there sent for Jervas, my old periwig maker, and he did bring me a periwig, but it was full of nits, so as I was troubled to see it (it being his old fault), and did send him to make it clean, and in the mean time, having staid for him a good while, did go away by water to the Castle Taverne, by Exeter House, and there met Sir W. Batten, W. Pen, and several others, among the rest Sir Ellis Layton, who do apply himself to discourse with me, and I think by his discourse, out of his opinion of my interest in Sir W. Coventry, the man I find a wonderful witty, ready man for sudden answers and little tales, and sayings very extraordinary witty, but in the bottom I doubt he is not so. Yet he pretends to have studied men, and the truth is in several that I do know he did give me a very inward account of them. But above all things he did give me a full account, upon my demand, of this judge of the Admiralty, Judge Jenkins; who, he says, is a man never practised in this Court, but taken merely for his merit and ability’s sake from Trinity Hall, where he had always lived; only by accident the business of the want of a Judge being proposed to the present Archbishop of Canterbury that now is, he did think of this man and sent for him up: and here he is, against the ‘gre’ and content of the old Doctors, made judge, but is a very excellent man both for judgment and temper, yet majesty enough, and by all men’s report, not to be corrupted. After dinner to the Court, where Sir Ellis Layton did make a very silly motion in our behalf, but did neither hurt nor good. After him Walker and Wiseman; and then the judge did pronounce his sentence; for some part of the goods and ship, and the freight of the whole, to be free, and returned and paid by us; and the remaining, which was the greater part, to be ours. The loss of so much troubles us, but we have got a pretty good part, thanks be to God! So we are not displeased nor yet have cause to triumph, as we did once expect. Having seen the end of this, I being desirous to be at home to see the issue of any country letters about my mother, which I expect shall give me tidings of her death, I directly home and there to the office, where I find no letter from my father or brother, but by and by the boy tells me that his mistress sends me word that she hath opened my letter, and that she is loth to send me any more news. So I home, and there up to my wife in our chamber, and there received from my brother the newes of my mother’s dying on Monday, about five or six o’clock in the afternoon, and that the last time she spoke of her children was on Friday last, and her last words were, “God bless my poor Sam!” The reading hereof did set me a-weeping heartily, and so weeping to myself awhile, and my wife also to herself, I then spoke to my wife respecting myself, and indeed, having some thoughts how much better both for her and us it is than it might have been had she outlived my father and me or my happy present condition in the world, she being helpless, I was the sooner at ease in my mind, and then found it necessary to go abroad with my wife to look after the providing mourning to send into the country, some to-morrow, and more against Sunday, for my family, being resolved to put myself and wife, and Barker and Jane, W. Hewer and Tom, in mourning, and my two under-mayds, to give them hoods and scarfs and gloves. So to my tailor’s, and up and down, and then home and to my office a little, and then to supper and to bed, my heart sad and afflicted, though my judgment at ease.

this lack of notice is a sin
going to chapel with the ground
full of people

who might have believed
in one true exchange
which they cannot have now

and we out of fear
preparing ready answers
and little tales

and the old doctors return
to see death providing
scarfs and gloves


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 27 March 1667.

Quarantine Walk

still from Quarantine Walk
This entry is part 3 of 24 in the series Pandemic Season

 

Watch on Vimeo.

quarantine walk
stopping at the sound
of a jet

I can’t stop marveling at how quiet it’s become under lockdown. In normal times I find the close horizons of this narrow hollow in the hills a bit claustrophobic, but now that there’s so much less noise echoing around in it from adjacent highways, the nearby quarry, and factories and businesses in town, it feels more spacious. A pair of local Canada geese fly over at dusk and I hold my breath, listening to their wingbeats. I no longer envy animals that live underground their superior soundproofing.

last week’s rain
that hush
in the moss

***

Process notes

I think of the relationship between the prose and haiku portions of a haibun as a conversation, or better yet, antiphony — call-and-response. When it becomes a film/video, two other elements, image and sound, join in for what might hopefully resemble four-part harmony. What’s fascinating about this from the creative side is how the editing proceeds, with each element continually getting tweaked in response to the others. Even if, as is often the case with me, the video arrives first and calls up the text, where to cut and how much to process it can still change up to the last minute, as the haiku morph and I adjust the prose to make everything fit into the span of a minute. Our internet in Plummer’s Hollow continues to degrade as the pandemic crisis intensifies; best to keep the upload as small as possible.

The haiku here assumed their final and shortest form after I got a few more hours of sleep and rose in the middle of the night when the internet is fastest. There’s something about the wee hours that favors concision. Ultimately, I take my inspiration from the moss, which crowds so much into so little space. It carpets the mountain’s steep slopes where the ravages of the first clear-cutting, more than 200 years ago, might as well have been yesterday as far as the soil is concerned. No matter how great the chasms that open between them during a drought, moss plants always manage to heal all wounds and join up again in a harmony that must be perfect — how else could such a teeming mob maintain such silence?

Lockdown

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up and by coach to Sir Ph. Warwicke about business for Tangier about money, and then to Sir Stephen Fox to give him account of a little service I have done him about money coming to him from our office, and then to Lovett’s and saw a few baubling things of their doing which are very pretty, but the quality of the people, living only by shifts, do not please me, that it makes me I do no more care for them, nor shall have more acquaintance with them after I have got my Lady Castlemayne’s picture home. So to White Hall, where the King at Chapel, and I would not stay, but to Westminster to Howlett’s, and there, he being not well, I sent for a quart of claret and burnt it and drank, and had a ‘basado’ or three or four of Sarah, whom ‘je trouve ici’, and so by coach to Sir Robt. Viner’s about my accounts with him, and so to the ’Change, where I hear for certain that we are going on with our treaty of peace, and that we are to treat at Bredah. But this our condescension people do think will undo us, and I do much fear it. So home to dinner, where my wife having dressed herself in a silly dress of a blue petticoat uppermost, and a white satin waistcoat and whitehood, though I think she did it because her gown is gone to the tailor’s, did, together with my being hungry, which always makes me peevish, make me angry, but when my belly was full were friends again, and dined and then by water down to Greenwich and thence walked to Woolwich, all the way reading Playford’s “Introduction to Musique,” wherein are some things very pretty. At Woolwich I did much business, taking an account of the state of the ships there under hand, thence to Blackwall, and did the like for two ships we have repairing there, and then to Deptford and did the like there, and so home. Captain Perriman with me from Deptford, telling me many particulars how the King’s business is ill ordered, and indeed so they are, God knows! So home and to the office, where did business, and so home to my chamber, and then to supper and to bed. Landing at the Tower to-night I met on Tower Hill with Captain Cocke and spent half an hour walking in the dusk of the evening with him, talking of the sorrowful condition we are in, that we must be ruined if the Parliament do not come and chastize us, that we are resolved to make a peace whatever it cost, that the King is disobliging the Parliament in this interval all that may be, yet his money is gone and he must have more, and they likely not to give it, without a great deal of do. God knows what the issue of it will be. But the considering that the Duke of York, instead of being at sea as Admirall, is now going from port to port, as he is at this day at Harwich, and was the other day with the King at Sheernesse, and hath ordered at Portsmouth how fortifications shall be made to oppose the enemy, in case of invasion, is to us a sad consideration, and as shameful to the nation, especially after so many proud vaunts as we have made against the Dutch, and all from the folly of the Duke of Albemarle, who made nothing of beating them, and Sir John Lawson he always declared that we never did fail to beat them with lesser numbers than theirs, which did so prevail with the King as to throw us into this war.

little money coming in
the people living only by shifts
have to howl

we are burnt by fear
blue in the belly
like a captain not at sea


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 22 March 1667.

Early days

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up pretty betimes, and to the Old Swan, and there drank at Michell’s, but his wife is not there, but gone to her mother’s, who is ill, and so hath staid there since Sunday. Thence to Westminster Hall and drank at the Swan, and ‘baiserais the petite misse’; and so to Mrs. Martin’s who I find in opposante and su hermana rising. So here I had opportunity para tocar tout sobra su body as I would, and did traher sus pernos out of the lecto and do hazer myself hazer. I sent for some burnt wine, and drank and then away, not pleased with my folly, and so to the Hall again, and there staid a little, and so home by water again, where, after speaking with my wife, I with Sir W. Batten and J. Minnes to our church to the vestry, to be assessed by the late Poll Bill, where I am rated as an Esquire, and for my office, all will come to about 50l.. But not more than I expected, nor so much by a great deal as I ought to be, for all my offices. So shall be glad to escape so. Thence by water again to White Hall, and there up into the house, and do hear that newes is come now that the enemy do incline again to a peace, but could hear no particulars, so do not believe it. I had a great mind to have spoke with the King, about a business proper enough for me, about the French prize man-of-war, how he would have her altered, only out of a desire to show myself mindful of business, but my linen was so dirty and my clothes mean, that I neither thought it fit to do that, nor go to other persons at the Court, with whom I had business, which did vex me, and I must remedy. Here I hear that the Duke of Richmond and Mrs. Stewart were betrothed last night. Thence to Westminster Hall again, and there saw Betty Michell, and bought a pair of gloves of her, she being fain to keep shop there, her mother being sick, and her father gathering of the tax. I ‘aimais her de toute my corazon’. Thence, my mind wandering all this day upon ‘mauvaises amours’ which I be merry for. So home by water again, where I find my wife gone abroad, so I to Sir W. Batten to dinner, and had a good dinner of ling and herring pie, very good meat, best of the kind that ever I had. Having dined, I by coach to the Temple, and there did buy a little book or two, and it is strange how “Rycaut’s Discourse of Turky,” which before the fire I was asked but 8s. for, there being all but twenty-two or thereabouts burned, I did now offer 20s., and he demands 50s., and I think I shall give it him, though it be only as a monument of the fire. So to the New Exchange, where I find my wife, and so took her to Unthanke’s, and left her there, and I to White Hall, and thence to Westminster, only out of idleness, and to get some little pleasure to my ‘mauvais flammes’, but sped not, so back and took up my wife; and to Polichinelli at Charing Crosse, which is prettier and prettier, and so full of variety that it is extraordinary good entertainment. Thence by coach home, that is, my wife home, and I to the Exchange, and there met with Fenn, who tells me they have yet no orders out of the Exchequer for money upon the Acts, which is a thing not to be borne by any Prince of understanding or care, for no money can be got advanced upon the Acts only from the weight of orders in form out of the Exchequer so long time after the passing of the Acts. So home to the office a little, where I met with a sad letter from my brother, who tells me my mother is declared by the doctors to be past recovery, and that my father is also very ill every hour: so that I fear we shall see a sudden change there. God fit them and us for it! So to Sir W. Pen’s, where my wife was, and supped with a little, but yet little mirth, and a bad, nasty supper, which makes me not love the family, they do all things so meanly, to make a little bad show upon their backs. Thence home and to bed, very much troubled about my father’s and my mother’s illness.

I drank to her sun
and to her body of water

me in my dirt and my rot
my wandering and my idleness

not yet declared by the doctors
to be past recovery

it was little yet
and bad to make a show
about the illness


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 20 March 1667.

Poetry Blog Digest 2020, Week 13

Poetry Blogging Network

A personal selection of posts from the Poetry Blogging Network and beyond. Although I tend to quote my favorite bits, please do click through and read the whole posts.

This week… holy hell. Poets I know are coming down with unmistakable cases of coronavirus. Many people’s worlds are turning upside-down. And more poetry bloggers continue to come out of the woodwork, so with priority given to them, again this week I’ve had to be a bit selective, though I think this may still be one of the longest editions of the digest to date.

Be careful out there. And don’t stop blogging!


So thirsty, suddenly. Lungs desiccant. Obsession: a glass of cold Coke.

Corona: disability activists fight being triaged out.

Drum: am I drowning, or just panicking

Corona: I can grade papers this afternoon, I can. I’m good, I’m ok.

Drum: sleep. Sleep. Sleep.

Corona: the light, it’s so yellow, it’s late summer yellow, is it August? Why can’t I hear the crickets—

Drum: slow expanse of breath, wide and deep.

Corona: high shallows pant and froth. Harsh circle of hospital illumination—

Drum: No. No. No. No. No hospitals. No.

Corona: viscera of yes a myrrh-drip from my fingers upon the drum.

Drum: expand. Expel. Expand. Expel.

JJS, Corona

Well, here we are in Seattle, many of us locked in our domiciles for the foreseeable future. As someone in health care, I am considered an “essential worker” (it even says so on my badge!) so I don’t have the option of not going in to work. It’s such a wasted opportunity. As a life-long introvert, I could rock a good house-bounding. My whole life has been leading up to me being a proper-shut in, and now I can’t even take advantage of the legal mandate. I know that extroverts are genuinely struggling right now and I don’t mean to diminish their pain, but a small, mean, wounded part of myself is thinking, “Hmmph. Now you know how it feels to be the outlier, extroverts.” I’ve complained more than once on this blog about the constant pressure I’ve experienced to be more outgoing, to express myself, to speakup, to put myself “out there,” and other introvert horrors. Introverts have been dismissed and overlooked numerous times both in the workplace and socially, and I feel like this is our time to shine. We shall rise (quietly), our noses in books, silent heroes of the apocalypse, and the world will gasp in awe at our twin superpowers of Holing Up and Staying Put.

Kristen McHenry, Introverts Arise, Virus-Induced Science Hair, I Was Push-up Shamed

The only in-person conversation I’ve had with anyone other than my husband was when one of the workers from Officina ran over with a bag of groceries. With their dine-in options shuttered, they’re trying hard to stay afloat. He recognized me from my regular pop-ins to their market, where I usually buy fresh bread and pork sausages. Now they’re selling me produce straight from the prep kitchen that might otherwise go to waste: bags of parsley and broccolini, Idaho potatoes, huge onions, and a whole brined hen we’ll roast this weekend. 

Beyond that indulgence, we’re sticking to what’s in hand–pasta, rice, canned tomatoes, tinned sardines, bacon, and every imaginable kind of bean and pea. I got really excited because Cento is still shipping their basics. I have a huge jug of olive oil and a stash of white wine. When I was editing Vinegar and Char, I spent a lot of time thinking about the good, sturdy foods we deem essential in times of crisis. Yesterday, as I worked through preparing Made to Explode for W. W. Norton (the manuscript goes to the copyediting desk next week), I paused on this poem, an earlier version of which appeared in the Southern Foodways Alliance’s Gravy~

IN PRAISE OF PINTOS

Phaseolus vulgaris.
Forgive these mottled punks,
children burst 
from the piñata of the New World,
and their ridiculous names
of Lariat, Kodiak, Othello,
Burke, Sierra, Maverick. 
Forgive these rapscallions that 
would fill the hot tub with ham
while their parents 
go away for the weekend,
just to soak in that salt.  
Forgive their climbing instinct.
Forgive their ignorance
of their grandparents who
ennobled Rome’s greatest: 
Fabius, Lentulus, Pisa, Cicero
the chickpea. Legume 
is the enclosure, fruit in pod,
but pulse is the seed.
From the Latin, puls
is to beat, to mash, to throb.
Forgive that thirst. Forgive 
that gallop. Beans are the promise
of outlasting the coldest season.
They are a wink in the palm of God.

Sandra Beasley, Hill of Beans

Thank you for this food, gathered and grown
at unknown price by unknown hands;

brought from far places by those
who would rather be at home.

Thank you for these loved ones 
who step glad and unafraid

into darkness, take my hand,
and find the courage I could not.

Dale Favier, Daily Bread

This is a weird, weird time.

****

I have enough poems to put together a new manuscript, which has some of the best work of my life.  Mississippi has been nothing but inspiring for me. And I continue to be inspired by its wondrous and tragic sides. This morning I started four new drafts, which I think I’ll finish today. I mean, I have an abundance of time.

****

We are good. There are worse places to shelter in place. We miss Massachusetts but my hope is that by the time we’re ready to return in May, the state has hit their piece. Mississippi is a few weeks behind the curve (in many respects).

January Gill O’Neill, Never Say Never

Amongst all the isolation and angst of COVID-19, some good things are happening… I’m totally amazed that my video future perfect has been selected for five (5!) international video festivals already this year: REELPoetry (Texas); Newlyn Short Film Festival (UK); Carmarthen Bay Film Festival (Wales); FILE Electronic Language International Festival (Sao Paolo, Brazil)and Cadence Video Poetry Festival (Seattle).It was first screened at the 8th International Video Poetry Festival in Athens last year.

Although these all were planned to be live theatre screenings, most of them will end up being on-line, so stay tuned for info as it comes to hand.

Here’s my blurb for the vid – maybe a harbinger of where we are and where we are going…

“Words stripped of their ornamentation, pared back to monosyllabic cores… Are these the roots of language? Or are they the skeletal remains of a lost form of communication? Who is trying to speak here? What exactly are we being told? Perhaps a coded message. More likely, a cry for help…”

Ian Gibbins, future perfect screens around the world

In Alaska, schools are closed until May 1st [at least].  As with all teachers,  I’ve spent too many hours last week online, moving my English classes to an online platform that will hopefully allow my students to keep moving forward in the month ahead.  Tuesday will offer a better idea on how effective this plan is while both teachers and students adjust to this learning curve and either gather, assess and post work OR complete and submit assignments.  The online platforms in my house will be smoking come Tuesday.  My daughter will be taking her online courses while I monitor my online courses.  Interesting times!

So it was timely that the literary journal Whatever Keeps the Lights On published its special edition anthology, “Stolen Moments:  Poem Written at Desk Jobs” at this given time.  One, we’ve all been given this strange time to tend, reflect, and — at least in my home, read.  Two, I’m happy to share that I have a couple of poems in this issue, “How to Disappear” and “Tidal Zone.”  I’m grateful the editors gave these two a home in their pages.

Kersten Christianson, Whatever Keeps the Lights On

This is my tribute to Stuart Quine, the haiku poet, who died, aged 57, this week, from coronavirus. Others who knew Stuart better than me are far more qualified to write a full appreciation of Stuart’s qualities, so this is necessarily only a heartfelt, brief tribute, rather than a thorough obituary, of a lovely bloke who also happened to be a fine poet. […]

Stuart was largely known for his inventiveness with the one-line haiku form, though his haiku career is book-ended by his use of the more traditional three-line form. He was also a fine tanka and haibun poet, and a perceptive reviewer.

Here are some of Stuart’s lesser-known poems which I’ve liked over the years:

outside the nightclub
drum’n’bass
shudders a puddle

(Presence 7 and The New Haiku)

as real as any dream cherry blossom

(Presence 54)

Such is life . . .
a pachinko ball
careering wildly
between bells
and lights.

(Presence 55)

the implausibility of it all
yet here I am stumbling home
through the rain

(Presence 55)

Stuart’s poems rarely needed any explication and these four all speak eloquently for themselves. Of them, I like the pell-mell tanka most of all, not least because it resonates so strongly now. A large proportion of Stuart’s poems contained his essence, his humility and often black humour, rather than simply being objective observations. Therein lies their power and the reason why his writing will still be read with admiration and fondness for many years to come.

Matthew Paul, Stuart Quine

Helen was a loose farmer — what bloomed
bloomed wherever; greenhouse customers
left notes and payment
clothespin-clipped to a board
by the broken door; eggs were sold
from an old refrigerator propped outside,
cartons stacked next to the change box.

So when the blood blossomed
in her brain as she drove to pick up
pig scraps from a restaurant,
she just pulled to the shoulder, planted
her foot on the brake and waited.
Twenty seasons later, hardy and startlingly
new, here again, her crocuses.

Grace Mattern, Helen’s Crocuses

Shakespeare wrote Lear, so what is your excuse? Right?

Well. I suppose Shakespeare would have written Lear quarantined or not. Sometimes I find times of stress and uncertainty to be paralytics to my creativity–I can sit down at the page everyday, and still write nothing, because my brain is always background humming over the scariness of the world.

I have still been writing though because not even a worldwide pandemic can eclipse the grief I feel over Kit, and that is what I write about.

Renee Emerson, Writing in Quarantine

I’m not sure if this strange time had a proper beginning and I certainly can’t see its end.  This week I haven’t wanted to be online much even though there has been an explosion of people offering online workshops, readings and classes.  I’ve been slightly ill and still feel under the weather but I’m  sure (more or less but who knows??) it’s not Covid-19.  I’ve downloaded the Kings College, London, Symptom Checker App – now downloaded by over 1.5 million people – in the interests of research and treatment/ vaccine development.

It goes without saying that it is perfectly OK to not be online at the moment (I’m kind of talking to myself here, but perhaps I’m talking to you, too).  I’m still trying to find time every day for myself and my reading and writing.  I also try to walk by myself every day, or to be quiet even when I’m walking with someone else.  I really need silence and stillness which is harder to find now that the house is full.  I don’t mean to be ungrateful because I am glad that l have a house with a garden, and that my immediate family is here with me.

Something I did this week that felt useful was make sandwiches for the soup and sandwich run for people who are in need which is organised by the church I go to, and to continue to commit to support it.  It’s a Churches Together project in Trowbridge, a collaborative effort by all churches to make and distribute hot soup and a sandwich to those who need it from a pre-arranged place every day.  When I made and dropped of my sandwiches at the back of the church, I waved hello to our Parish Priest and a few Parishioners.  We had a shouty conversation, keeping our social distance. How weird not to be at weekly Mass.  There are services online but I really haven’t wanted to ‘attend’.  Perhaps I will in time.

Josephine Corcoran, Corona Diary: Possibly Week 3 – but are you counting?

Like everyone else on Planet Earth, the coronavirus landed in my life like a bomb. My months-long preparations for Women’s History Month went poof. Instead, I was now fretting about the availability of bread and toilet paper. In a matter of a few days, life as we knew it collapsed.

During the first week of isolation, I found that I lacked the focus for anything more challenging than scrolling through social media and pausing occasionally on stories that confirmed the feeling I had right then: no one knows what the hell is going on and we’re doomed. I thought of my goddaughter, who gave birth to a premature baby just as the world was waking up to the danger of coronavirus. I thought of my youngest brother, a high school teacher in New York City, who worries that he’s been exposed. I thought of my other brother, forced to cut his book tour short and return from California to his home in New Zealand. I thought of my friends and family members, many of whom are in the vulnerable category due to their age or physical and mental health, now furloughed, laid off, and isolated.

This morning my husband and I went to our local grocery store during its “seniors and vulnerable people-only” hours. The store’s employees were patient and kind. We tried our best to stay six feet away from the other shoppers. There was no toilet paper, but plenty of other things, including a bouquet of “Get Well” balloons floating above the check-out stand. This seems poignant in a way I can’t yet fathom. Everyone looked worried, and a few wore facemasks, some clearly homemade. There were no children or people under age 60. 

Erica Goss, Trying to Focus During a Pandemic

I haven’t got it in me to concentrate on learning a new language or watching YouTube videos on brain surgery for beginners. However, I did sign up for a Poetry Business Virtual Writing Workshop on Saturday.

I’ve always been a bit reticent about attending one of these courses, not least because it’s too bloody expensive to get to Sheffield and back and pay for the course, but also because I didn’t think it would be any good for me – not to cast aspersions on Ann and Peter than run the courses, it’s more that I didn’t think I’d create anything of any use/value or, more importantly, that I could actually write anything in the time you get given for these things.

However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. We were put at ease immediately, the whole event was well planned and kept pretty much within the timings. I assume because they’ve run so many of these events…I won’t say what happened on the course, but the exercises were interesting, the stimuli were all new to me and I met 15 other interesting people. I think there is some way to go in terms of the technology – Video calling still isn’t second nature to some.

I think I was ok, having spent plenty of time on the aforementioned Google Hangouts with work. However, I think there’s still a lot of the etiquette to be worked out with that. It’s hard to not cut over someone talking when you can’t see the non-verbal cues of face-to-face conversation. If you factor in various broadband/wifi signals, feedback and microphones it can be a bit disorientating.

At the end of it though, I have four poems that I would never have written, 2 of them I suspect will never make it anywhere, but 1 might. I can’t say about the other one yet. I have to let the excitement of a new poem wear off. I got some helpful feedback on the poem from earlier in the week. It’s currently called People Tell Me That Talking To Plants Is Good For Them.

Mat Riches, Biddy Baxter’s Bacchanalian Bidet…

Yesterday, it snowed, what seemed like quite a lot, but judging from what I can see from the 3rd floor vantage..not a lot on the ground. Such snowfall not unusual for this time of year, and the sort of thing that would want me to hunker down today rather than go out and walk around in it.. But even so,  I’m guessing the magnolias over near the catholic school where I catch the bus are starting to bloom about now and I miss watching them. I keep thinking about my mother, while perhaps one blessing is that she did not live to see this, to obsessively worry about me and my sister being out in the world (my sister more than I at this point as an essential worker.) . I’m sure my dad is concerned no doubt, but for my mom, her worry bordered on the pathological at times.  I dreamed about her for the first time in a bit..that I had written a book that upset her.  It was strange, as all dreams seem to be these days.  Most of them where I am somehow working to solve a problem of some sort. Or that there is something important I am forgetting to do–played out in various contexts and scenarios. If anything I am sleeping a lot, and I’m not sure if it’s good or bad. I go to bed at my normal time–around 2 am, but I keep waking up as soon as it’s daylight, scrolling frantically through my newsfeed for the latest horrors, then falling back to sleep until around 2pm.

Kristy Bowen, faking it

I saw 20 million infected bodies. I saw 2 million deaths. I saw my thirty year old body and I saw 2 million deaths and 20 million infected bodies. I saw the body of a baby goat float on the Sundarbans Delta. I saw a crow eating the body of a cow floating on the Ganges. I saw 20 million infected bodies. I saw a helpless horse standing beside a dead white horse on Esplanade. I saw 2 million deaths. I saw a dream I was six years old picking flowers. I saw a man feeding pigeons in front of a homeless man. I saw a tiger drinking water. I saw 20 million infected bodies. I saw a woman collapse on the streets of Paris. I saw my face in the mirror. I saw 2 million deaths. I saw my locked door. I saw government advisories. I saw the quarantine stamp on a woman’s wrist. I saw a bottle of Polish vodka. I saw 20 million infected bodies. I saw the Spanish Flu. I saw the man I love fall in love with another woman. I saw 2 million deaths. I saw myself fall. I saw my unborn child. I saw Hiroshima. I saw a dream that I was six years old again. I saw my hand write. I saw 20 million infected bodies. I saw Vermeer. I saw myself. I saw 2 million deaths. I saw a sheep chew thorns.

Saudamini Deo, Lockdown diary / 1

The world is turning,
we reluctantly spin with
it, dizzy and weak.

We hold on the next day,
the next curve on our way,
the blackbirds in spring.

Not what we know is
now. Now is not what we know.
Yet spring, yet flowers,

yet night, yet dreaming.

Magda Kapa, Isolation Time (Part 1)

Sunday: British Summer Time began. The first bird I heard was a raven.

It’s been a week of cold clear fine weather, perfect for walking.
We have little flour or yeast, and there was none in the two shops I went to this week. I made a rather heavy loaf from rye flour and pasta flour, half and half. The next loaf was made by the man of the house.

teach me he said
I want to know how to make bread
‘when you’re dead’ left unsaid
so I did
the boy done good

Then I turned out the cupboards in the hope of finding more flour.

We have no bread

in the depths of a cupboard
I found a bag of flour
shelf-life expired

there’s mould on the outside
and I think something’s living
inside the bag

but we have oatmeal and ginger
treacle and dates
let us eat cake

Ama Bolton, Week 2 of distancing

Wow, things are changing so quickly it’s hard to believe – for example, how people are getting themselves online – to teach, to meet, to try new things, but mostly I think to keep relationships going with family, friends, customers… when the going gets tough, the tough get tooled-up on tech. This coming week our esteemed Hastings Stanza rep Antony Mair has arranged for us to hold our monthly workshop via Zoom, which is clearly the conferencing app du jour. And last week my dear husband actually started a blog, to keep in touch with all his choirs, and had 92 followers within hours. Whaaaa?! He’ll be writing poetry next. […]

On the poetry front I am loving Sharon Olds’ Arias. It’s firing up my writing too. I’ve no idea what the effect is of the pandemic on poetry magazines, whether editors have too much on their plates dealing with the exigencies of life under lockdown to be thinking about the publishing schedule, or reading submissions or what have you. No doubt they’ll be inundated with poems now that we all have more time to write. And plenty on the subject of you-know-what. I wonder how much ‘pestilence poetry’ we can all take for the next few years as the theme filters through to publication?

Robin Houghton, As the world moves online

Spring continues its celebrations, despite our mostly silent roads and store fronts, despite humanity’s disappearance from their daily activities. The cherries bloom, the woodpeckers and towhees and stellar jays and hummingbirds are busy. It’s been a cold and gloomy week, but April is almost here.

The big excitement this week was the arrival of a new birdfeeder and the April contributor copies of Poetry Magazine. I’ve been writing and reading more, watching tv less. During the forty-degree, rainy March days of grim reports of deaths and pandemics, it becomes almost impossible to remember anything cheerful. I’ve been practicing my bird photography. I ordered watercolors. I still take pictures of trees.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Spring, Quarantine, Poetry, and All

All that is before us—

the engines of disease driving us mad, unfulfilled desires, loved ones dying,

politicians with demeanors like ingrown toenails with hangovers.

Still,

there are chorus lines of birds just outside the window, fresh flowers on graves, doctors and nurses, postal workers and supermarket cashiers.

Books to read and songs to sing.

Pets with wet and soulful eyes looking up at you like you’re the god of their world.

As I write these words, my city is so quiet, like the soft hum of a womb where we’re all waiting to be reborn.

Rich Ferguson, As the 5 am Heater Hums, So Does My Pen

I’ve been asking E. for a week now, what do I do with all these numbers?

Two years ago a colleague lost a baby in childbirth. It seemed to me like something that rarely happens now. It should be a scenario documented in a black-and-white photo.

But I learned than an average of 30 stillbirths a year is normal in this town. In any town this size, in this country. Statistically.

I thought if that had been a headline in the paper: 30 Stillborn in Stavanger this Year, it would have been terrifying news. Our realities are limited by what we put our attention on. And I suppose we pay attention day-to-day to what our hearts can hold comfortably.

So what do I do with all these numbers – these past two weeks when I have had too much time at the computer to jump between tabs and read the news too many times a day to count.

I know how many people are on a respirator at the local hospital today. I have no idea what that number means. I have no idea how many were on them in December. A year ago today. Or if that is even relevant.

I look at a map of Europe and we are dark orange where Italy is red. The chart below compares countries and numbers. People, percentages.

I have no idea what to do with these numbers – not intellectually – not emotionally. How do I hold these numbers?

It’s like grabbing at fish. With the same ambivalence about actually getting your hands around one.

What now?  What do I do with this?

Ren Powell, Two Weeks Not Knowing

The little boy David came as a blessing after the catastrophe of my father’s illness, and he is now Consultant Cardiologist at the Hammersmith Hospital, London. I’ve always been proud of this fact and have to try not to mention it too often, whilst he’s unassuming about his talents, and talks about his work as if it were ordinary to perform life-saving procedures week by week.  As brothers go, he is top of the admiration list at the moment, and I’m sure Jeremy and Matthew would agree.

He phoned me yesterday to explain his role in the front-line of patient care in London during the pandemic. He will be heading a team, working with acutely ill patients in a hospital which was cleared last week in readiness for a sharp rise in complex corona virus admissions. He told me that everyone in the NHS – doctors, cleaners, porters, nurses, midwives, physios, cooks, administrators – everyone who so much as sets foot in a hospital in the coming weeks is a hero, before s/he even does anything. The courage being required of them is hard to imagine. They are feeling fear, and carrying on, organising themselves for the tsunami, the battle, the overwhelm.

David and I said more than we usually do (and not nearly enough) about our appreciation of each other, just in case. I asked if he’d forgiven me for writing a poem about a previous telephone conversation (Running Advice, below). He replied, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” – this absolution is a relief.

Liz Lefroy, I Admire My Brothers

I don’t really plan to write about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and its worldwide consequences – or I won’t be doing so until I have something I really want to say.

However, UK readers of my blog will agree that the NHS needs support, especially right now. And to offer your support in a poetry-relevant way, you could buy the new anthology These Are the Hands: Poems from the Heart of the NHS (Fair Acre Press).

This anthology was published just a few days ago and was planned for the 60th anniversary of the NHS. Rather sadly, right now, it is all too relevant and important – even more so than usual. It was edited by Deborah Alma (who you may also know as the Emergency Poet and proprietor of the Poetry Pharmacy) and Dr Katie Amiel, and the foreword is by Michael Rosen. The poems themselves are by NHS employees, along with contributions from well-known poets.

Profits from the anthology go to the NHS Charities Together COVID-19 Emergency Fund. I hear it’s selling really well.

Again, you can buy it here: https://fairacrepress.co.uk/shop/these-are-the-hands-poems-from-the-heart-of-the-nhs/

Clarissa Aykroyd, These Are the Hands: Poems from the Heart of the NHS

Yesterday one of our program chairs shared that she doesn’t really have an adequate home computer.  If she doesn’t have adequate computer resources, how many of our students will?

Those were the thoughts that woke me up much too early this morning.  Each morning, a different set of panicky thoughts jolts me from sleep around midnight to 2 a.m.  For several weeks, I have rarely fallen back asleep.

This morning, I was rereading chapter 1 of Cynthia Bourgeault’s Mystical Hope as I prepared to sketch.  On p. 12, I underlined this text:  “The spiritual life can only be lived in the present moment, in the now.  All the great religious traditions insist upon this simple but difficult truth.  When we go rushing ahead into the future or shrinking back into the past, we miss the hand of God, which can only touch us in the now.”

I started making a list to describe “the now,” only to realize that much of what was in my head is worry about the near future.  Interesting.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Plague Fugue

Another restless night. At 01.20 I stood at the window watching the skyline. During previous bouts of insomnia, there was always something faintly comforting about the long, probing lights of planes flying into Luton Airport from the east and descending elegantly behind the trees. Others awake like me, but in transit from Sofia, Talinn, Lyon, Kutaisi, Reykjavik, Cork. The enigma of arrival.

But in the small hours this morning nothing disturbed the skyline. And my sense of solitude was strangely heightened by the sudden doppler whine of a motorbike speeding by one the road below. But, of course, the solitude is real. Yesterday we went for a walk. We crossed the fields and walked down the long slope of the lane. We were passed by just one car before turning onto the muddy track that took us past the farm and onto the bottom of the hill leading up to our house. As we walked alongside the meadow where the horses are grazed, half way up it a lone figure was slipping a bridle over the neck and head of a piebald shire horse. She turned as she gathered it into her arms and saw the three of us paused by the fence. With the solemnity of the stay-at-home edict still fresh in our minds, there was a curious hesitancy in the distant encounter. Then the woman raised her free arm in a strangely stiff and formal salute; we returned it in similar manner; she turned and walked towards the stable buildings and we continued on our way.

So suddenly we’re strangers in a strange land. And as the economic structure purées all standard procedure around us, the normal social protocols go into suspension. In one street an act of inexplicable cruelty and stupidity occurs; in a parallel street the self-sacrifical kindness of a stranger demonstrates the extraordinary generosity that ennobles humanity in crisis.

Dick Jones, LIFE IN A TIME OF CORONA 5.

last night I dreamed I was teaching Whitman’s last lesson I left a jellyfish red blood bloom in his bathroom then tried to clean myself his mother’s friends were there getting ready for a party and when I finally got my violin out and he got his violin out and I managed to right the wire music stand which kept slipping out of my hands I played a few notes then apologized because I knew I would never see him again

the dream woke me at 2:30 then again at 4:30 then I finally woke at 7:30 feeling anxious and sad are we all dreaming through it I feel such a strong connection to everyone I’ve ever known right now it feels other worldly it feels like religious science fiction but it is real

my csa box arrived today bringing sweet blackberries and carrots and celery and radishes and potatoes and a squash and oranges and kiwis and I was so grateful for it Page and I opened it like the first Christmas

Rebecca Loudon, Pig and farm report

All in all, the days I’ve been in have melded into a dreamy bubble. Days drifted by, or I drifted through them. Somehow, there was a large sense of drift. It feels wrong or dangerous to say that out loud, to share pretty pictures of my time in refuge. As I do, I feel superstitious fears rising up in me, based in irrational beliefs that if we draw attention to our good fortune, the gods or fate or spiteful humans will do something to ruin it. It feels callous or shallow to do so when others are suffering, and maybe it is.

Or maybe, instead, you might read my story and wonder, as I have been, why it can’t be everyone’s. It feels fundamentally wrong to me that I have had it as relatively easy as I have, when others are sacrificing so much–especially our healthcare workers, and those who stock our shelves and pump our gas and do the work we’ve all realized, in new ways, is essential.

I have been thankful over and over again that I have not had to work the past two weeks or worry about immediate income loss because it has allowed me time and space to process what is happening and keep my anxiety low-grade rather than acute. It has allowed me to do what our scientists and public health officials have been pleading with us to do: stay home.

I know life can never be entirely fair, but why, in a country with as much wealth as we have, has our public health system failed so dramatically and so many of us had to worry about how we’re going to pay rent and take care of ourselves if we get sick? It’s not that way in other countries, where lower-wage workers don’t live so close the bone, and where laid off workers and their employers are receiving more funds than ours will to keep their economies afloat. Why is it that way here?

And, if more people could have spent the past weeks the way I have–sequestered at home, not feeling the need to leave to pay bills–perhaps the virus could be managed and contained to reasonable levels in every state in our country (as we seem to be doing here in Oregon), reducing the tremendous and inequitable impact on not only our health care systems, but on our healthcare workers.

Coming up on the end of week two, it’s seeming to me that there is more than one type of impact curve that we could be flattening.

Rita Ott Ramstad, Coronavirusdiary #3: Soft monotony

Any optimistic or ‘positive’ approaches to the coronavirus pandemic should, in my opinion, be framed and motivated by an awareness of the interconnectedness of everyone and everything. In order for us to be well others need to be well too, and others will be well only if we are well too. It goes both ways- and this wellness is also dependent on the circulation of capital, and this depends on people’s ability to earn a living. The pandemic affects everyone- and this means it affects everything we humans do.

Finding the balance between critically engaging with what is happening and trying to maintain a semblance of normality is important, but not easy. Gramsci’s motto, “Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will”  calls for this ongoing interrogation of what happens whilst having trust in our ability to stand up to challenges pragmatically and strategically. There cannot be solidarity and empathy unless there is awareness of difference, and this implies an awareness of privilege, and of the fragility of that privilege.

In a time in which nearly everyone has the ability to broadcast publicly aspects of their private lives, and when many -but definitely not all- will be at home, some of which will be working from home- it’s to me essential that we try to reflect on the interconnectedness of everything- home, until recently the quintessential ‘private’ space, does not exist outside society, even if we never physically leave it.

Ernesto Priego, “Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will”: Empathy and Solidarity in the Times of COVID-19

The only way I manage even
a few hours of restless sleep
is to keep inventing a movie
inside my head I hope someday
some director will actually film—

unreeling across my closed eyelids
I watch strangers hugging
in restaurants, strangers hugging
in offices, in the middle of crowded
streets, hugging in grocery stores
and at gas stations—

this and only this allows me
to let go of the day’s dread,
this envisioning of humans
reaching out for one another,
with open arms and hearts,
these embraces after pandemic

Lana Hechtman Ayers, Embraces, a pandemic poem

As we are already not-quite-sick-of-saying: the garden has never looked lovelier. And we have played a lot of cards. And generally spent much more time around the table, convening for coffee and lunch as if pulled by invisible threads from different points in the house. We are so lucky to have a house. And a garden. I have spent a lot of time drinking from bowls, sometimes not even really drinking, just cradling the coffee as though it may never appear in my life again. The texting and emailing of friends, the re-connection with people over miles and years of separation, habitually and briefly fused at Christmas only for another year to go by with nothing having changed. Well, this is changing us. Slowly, but it is. A neighbour who has steadfastly refused to acknowledge me for years finally gave me a smile yesterday. We are doing a lot of laughing, and crying at orchestras who somehow manage to put on stunning music for free in their separate Toronto rooms just so we can cry and feel something deeply human while we do it (especially the triangle guy). The old battered thing, my diary (it isn’t a diary, really, I just call it that) makes a guest appearance and suddenly becomes a necessity. The poetry of James Schuyler, as if he ever went away. I have never taken such pleasure over hanging out the washing.

Anthony Wilson, Any Common Desolation

If, after your breathtaking reading and the subsequent standing ovation, a friend pulled you into a curtained window seat and asked, “How are you really?” or “Are you able to write these days?”, what might you answer?

So far, I would say, I am physically healthy. My mental state is stable. I have adopted a “one day at a time” approach to moving through these weeks and months. I am trying to actively practice gratitude each day, lest I fall into the trap of bemoaning all the canceled events and missed opportunities. I am getting used to my own face staring at me as I record videos for my students. I realize that I miss them, and this is bittersweet; I will be very happy to be back in my classroom again.

When I’m not busy with school-related work, I putter. I completed a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle, and my crossword game is growing fiercer; I have been considering cross-stitching. Writing comes in sharp little bursts, then eludes me for days. I am trying to be patient, to find a voice that’s louder than the one telling me all the things I “should” be doing. I am finding a new rhythm, as we all are, and trying to remember that this, like everything, is temporary.

Lesley Wheeler, Virtual Salon #4 with Elizabeth Hazen

On a smaller personal scale, everything that’s on going right now seems so momentous, but I haven’t been able to write about it. I edit unfinished poems, but I can’t write more than a few notes about the self-isolation. I have one poem I started just as this began to take hold where the virus is beginning to work its way into. It was supposed to be just about the drama of beginnings and endings at a hospital, but I can’t help to see the impact of the virus in the stanza. In everything, I read, watch, think about the virus seems to overwrite itself. 

I started scribbling the previous paragraph last night, far too deep into the wee hours and followed up by rewriting another half-finished poem about home isolation. So I guess it will find a way to write itself. I can’t approach it head on. I’m uncertain of where to start, worrying whether my view is worth speaking. I feel so insignificant, locked away, protected by the privilege of being able to wash my hands, stay off work, protect my family. Our lives feel on the verge of a huge change and I’m just holding my breath, waiting to see what will happen, how we will be affected, what will remain.

Gerry Stewart, Corona Virus Week Two – Facing Isolation

As we shelter in place, I see that many of my friends and online acquaintances are having trouble sleeping. And some are dealing with surges of depression and anxiety. My heart goes out to everyone in this. I go through periods of change in my sleep patterns, and, yes, I am in one now. My usual solution when I find myself awake in bed, and sense I am unlikely to go back to sleep, is to accept this and get up and go downstairs to read on the couch, where I fall asleep reading.

The new twist is that I may doze while reading on the couch, well before bedtime, and 1) just stay there or 2) go up to bed, find myself awake, and come back. This morning my husband greeted me with a kiss (ack! too close! social distancing! but we know we’ve already been too close and can’t do anything about it now!) and the comment, “You are becoming one with that couch.”

I arrange myself in various ways to 1) avoid a crick in the neck in the morning 2) have the bookmark fall into the right spot when I fall asleep and the book closes. Today I finished Rebecca Solnit’s Recollections of My Nonexistence, which I wrote about yesterday. (Was it yesterday? I know I am not alone these days in losing track of what day it is.) I’m sure I’ll share more about it, but this seemed particularly pertinent this morning:

So much of the work of writing happens when you are seemingly not working, made by that part of yourself you may not know and do not control, and when the work shows up like that your job is to get out of the way.

Kathleen Kirk, Sleeping in Place

The most-read article in The Guardian today is a letter from Italian novelist Francesca Melandri to her fellow Europeans, and to the United Kingdom. In it she says “we were just like you,” and traces the pattern I’ve alluded to here: the progression from the arguments between those who say “it’s just like the flu” to those who know it’s not, to the early novelty of self-isolation, the focus on food, the fleeting attraction of apocalyptic books and films, the obsessive fascination with online connection and video meetups, the online fitness workouts and virtual cocktail hours, the fights with our elders to try to get them to stay home, the ways we buoy each other with songs from balconies and rooftops, the dark humor, the growing awareness of domestic abuse and the divisions of class — and the gradual falling away of the superfluous and superficial, the transparency of our friends’ and families’ behavior, the sleeplessness and anxiety, and the sense that nothing is going to be the same ever again.

So, yes, writers write, some better than others.

The advice I’m giving myself today, from decades of writing and editing, and after thinking about the words of Cave and Melandri and others, is: write what you know, and then ask yourself if it feels necessary to say out loud.

Sometimes the best thing a writer can do is listen.

Beth Adams, Hermit Diary, Montreal. 11. What to say?

The cave diver has lost his way,
there is no way back
from the caverns filled with tears.
Beauty gyrating in his lamp suspended,
as he floats forever in this cathedral.
Replaying the old songs.
Rebreathing the air.
Hold me tight and
listen.

Jim Young, Look

We keep trying to imagine the future, knowing that what we should hold on to is the present. Perhaps, as writers, we know how to handle the silence. Personally, I think I’m learning how to manage my time in a different way, to keep to some sort of productive routine, trying not to panic when I look out of the kitchen window and see constant queues outside the supermarket. And when I do feel that sense of anxiety, I go back to reading Thoreau and try to keep it all in perspective: ‘I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.’

Julie Mellor, Life in the Woods

Infection

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and to the office, where all the morning; at noon home to dinner, and then to the office again in the afternoon, and there all day very busy till night, and then, having done much business, home to supper, and so to bed. This afternoon come home Sir J. Minnes, who has been down, but with little purpose, to pay the ships below at the Nore. This evening, having done my letters, I did write out the heads of what I had prepared to speak to the King the other day at my Lord Treasurer’s, which I do think convenient to keep by me for future use. The weather is now grown warm again, after much cold; and it is observable that within these eight days I did see smoke remaining, coming out of some cellars, from the late great fire, now above six months since. There was this day at the office (as he is most days) Sir W. Warren, against whom I did manifestly plead, and heartily too, God forgive me! But the reason is because I do find that he do now wholly rely almost upon my Lord Bruncker, though I confess I have no greater ground of my leaving him than the confidence which I perceive he hath got in my Lord Bruncker, whose seeming favours only do obtain of him as much compensation as, I believe (for he do know well the way of using his bounties), as mine more real. Besides, my Lord and I being become antagonistic, I do not think it safe for me to trust myself in the hands of one whom I know to be a knave, and using all means to become gracious there.

night having been let out of
a cold cellar

the ground favors us
as more real

I do not think it safe
to trust my hands


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 16 March 1667.

Isolated

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

(Lord’s day). Having my cold still grown more upon me, so as I am not able to speak, I lay in bed till noon, and then up and to my chamber with a good fire, and there spent an hour on Morly’s Introduction to Musique, a very good but unmethodical book. Then to dinner, my wife and I, and then all the afternoon alone in my chamber preparing a letter for Commissioner Taylor to the City about getting his accounts for The Loyal London, by him built for them, stated and discharged, they owing him still about 4000l.. Towards the evening comes Mr. Spong to see me, whose discourse about several things I proposed to him was very good, better than I have had with any body a good while. He gone, I to my business again, and anon comes my Lady Pen and her son-in law and daughter, and there we talked all the evening away, and then to supper; and after supper comes Sir W. Pen, and there we talked together, and then broke up, and so to bed. He tells me that our Mr. Turner has seen the proclamation against the Duke of Buckingham, and that therefore it is true what we heard last night. Yesterday and to-day I have been troubled with a hoarseness through cold that I could not almost speak.

my cold grown into a fire

all alone in my body

the evening comes on

I am old

I could almost speak


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 10 March 1667.

Pandemic

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

So up, and to the office, my head full of Carcasses business; then hearing that Knipp is at my house, I home, and it was about a ticket for a friend of hers. I do love the humour of the jade very well. So to the office again, not being able to stay, and there about noon my Lord Bruncker did begin to talk of Carcasse’s business. Only Commissioner Pett, my Lord, and I there, and it was pretty to see how Pett hugged the occasion of having anything against Sir W. Batten, which I am not much troubled at, for I love him not neither. Though I did really endeavour to quash it all I could, because I would prevent their malice taking effect. My Lord I see is fully resolved to vindicate Carcasse, though to the undoing of Sir W. Batten, but I believe he will find himself in a mistake, and do himself no good, and that I shall be glad of, for though I love the treason I hate the traitor. But he is vexed at my moving it to the Duke of York yesterday, which I answered well, so as I think he could not answer. But, Lord! it is pretty to see how Pett hugs this business, and how he favours my Lord Bruncker; who to my knowledge hates him, and has said more to his disadvantage, in my presence, to the King and Duke of York than any man in England, and so let them thrive one with another by cheating one another, for that is all I observe among them. Thence home late, and find my wife hath dined, and she and Mrs. Hewer going to a play. Here was Creed, and he and I to Devonshire House, to a burial of a kinsman of Sir R. Viner’s; and there I received a ring, and so away presently to Creed, who staid for me at an alehouse hard by, and thence to the Duke’s playhouse, where he parted, and I in and find my wife and Mrs. Hewer, and sat by them and saw “The English Princesse, or Richard the Third;” a most sad, melancholy play, and pretty good; but nothing eminent in it, as some tragedys are; only little Mis. Davis did dance a jig after the end of the play, and there telling the next day’s play; so that it come in by force only to please the company to see her dance in boy’s clothes; and, the truth is, there is no comparison between Nell’s dancing the other day at the King’s house in boy’s clothes and this, this being infinitely beyond the other. Here was Mrs. Clerke and Pierce, to whom one word only of “How do you,” and so away home, Mrs. Hewer with us, and I to the office and so to W. Batten’s, and there talked privately with him and W. Pen about business of Carcasse against tomorrow, wherein I think I did give them proof enough of my ability as well as friendship to W. Batten, and the honour of the office, in my sense of the rogue’s business. So back to finish my office business, and then home to supper, and to bed.
This day, Commissioner Taylor come to me for advice, and would force me to take ten pieces in gold of him, which I had no mind to, he being become one of our number at the Board.
This day was reckoned by all people the coldest day that ever was remembered in England; and, God knows! coals at a very great price.

my head full
of carcasses

not able to begin to talk
as no answer
could answer it

I see the land
thrive on burial

I see dancing beyond
the word tomorrow


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 7 March 1667.

Confined

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and to the office, where met and sat all the morning, doing little for want of money, but only bear the countenance of an office. At noon home to dinner, and then to the office again, and there comes Martin my purser, and I walked with him awhile in the garden, I giving him good advice to beware of coming any more with high demands for supernumeraries or other things, for now Sir W. Pen is come to mind the business, the passing of his accounts will not be so easy as the last. He tells me he will never need it again, it being as easy, and to as much purpose to do the same thing otherwise, and how he do keep his Captain’s table, and by that means hath the command of his Captains, and do not fear in a 5th-rate ship constantly employed to get a 1000l. in five years time, and this year, besides all his spendings, which are I fear high, he hath got at this day clear above 150l. in a voyage of about five or six months, which is a brave trade.
He gone I to the office, and there all the afternoon late doing much business, and then to see Sir W. Batten, whose leg is all but better than it was, and like to do well. I by discourse do perceive he and his Lady are to their hearts out with my Lord Bruncker and Mrs. Williams, to which I added something, but, I think, did not venture too far with them. But, Lord! to see to what a poor content any acquaintance among these people, or the people of the world, as they now-adays go, is worth; for my part I and my wife will keep to one another and let the world go hang, for there is nothing but falseness in it. So home to supper and hear my wife and girle sing a little, and then to bed with much content of mind.

count to one like a heart
out too far among
these people people

as the days keep on
let the world go
there is nothing

but I hear my wife sing


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 5 March 1667.