Social Distancing

Poetic Pandemic: How Coronavirus Has Already Impacted Poetry

Coronavirus has changed nearly every aspect of our lives within months. We celebrated Pride Month and National Poetry Month from home, struggled with mental health, and found new, imaginative ways to share support. But as much as the pandemic challenges us, some poets have found an unexpected surge to keep creating. In fact, Vanity Fair took notice, declaring that poetry “is having a moment” amid quarantine, due partly to its ability to “tap into big, hard feelings” and encapsulate the profound. From magazines publishing coronavirus poems to an evolving literary scene, here are five examples of poetry rising to meet our current moment.


1. Indolent Books’ “What Rough Beast—COVID-19 Edition” Feature


“For the duration of the crisis, we are posting poems about life during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Indolent Books, a small poetry press and online magazine says of this poem-a-day feature. The journal notes that they prefer to publish poems about the personal experience of quarantine, rather than critiques of the administration’s response. Recently published poems explore everything from bird-watching to missing the daily activity of taking the subway. Poets can submit here.


2. Terra Preta’s “Writing in the Fray” Anthology


Terra Preta’s upcoming “anthology of pandemic creativity” aims to include a sampling of the varied “good” creative work birthed by quarantine, from writing to art and photography. “When we say good,” the journal explains, “we mean real, raw, honest, powerful creative works that provide deep catharsis, that connect us, that speak truth to power.” Have something that fits? Submit here, and keep up with publication updates on the journal’s blog.


3. Virtual Readings


In-person poetry readings have always been some of my favorite events. Simply put, they stand out as a great opportunity to connect with and give back to other writers. While I’ve missed them during quarantine, virtual readings fill the void in a new, surprising way. In addition to attending readings streamed by my local bookstore and an area literary magazine, I’ve attended virtual readings streamed out of Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and other writerly communities. While I hope we can all attend an in-person reading again soon, I’m also hopeful that this trend of bringing poets together—no matter where they might be in the world—remains in some form. If you’re needing this community in your life, check out these upcoming virtual poetry events.


4. Commonplace Global Role Calls


Commonplace: Conversations with Poets (and Other People), a thought-provoking podcast hosted by confessional poet and NYU professor Rachel Zucker, quickly became one of my quarantine highlights. Zucker never strays from vulnerable conversations in her interviews with poets like Victoria Chang, Ilya Kaminsky, and Anne Boyer. So, when the world started staying home, Zucker started hosting “global role calls” on the Commonplace platform, interviewing award-winning poets about topics like emotional and mental health, trying to write through quarantine, and loneliness. Listen to the first of three comforting conversations here


5. Poetry Chain Letters


Yep, chain emails are back. While feelings about the trend may vary, this time, the messages are more than superstitious ways to get your crush to like you back. Instead, throughout COVID-19, people have been participating in poetry chains, sharing a favorite poem or poem excerpt with a friend. This friend then adds their own favorite poem and passes it along to another friend. Think of these poem chains as heartfelt recommendations curated by your inbox. 


Feeling inspired? Write a poem about your quarantine experience. Include specific details and imagery. How would you illustrate this time period for a reader uncovering the poem 100 years from now?