Poetry and COVID-19

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Poetry and Covid, a project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, is releasing an anthology of contemporary, collaborative poetry by poets from around the world.

The project is led by Professor Anthony Caleshu from the University of Plymouth, and Dr Rory Waterman from Nottingham Trent University. The project has two strands:

  • an anthology which features collaborations between UK and international poets
  • a website where the public can submit poetry they’ve written in response to the pandemic.

Caleshu said:

Poetry has been drawn on by politicians, healthcare professionals and teachers during the pandemic. It provides succour, a means to think through our predicaments and a way to connect. It helps people grapple with and communicate hope, fear, loneliness and loss.

It’s an excellent format to explore living through difficult times, and has been since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans.

A collaborative anthology

In summer 2020, the Poetry and Covid team asked 19 UK poets to collaborate with poets from around the world on poems responding to the virus.

The result is a collection of over 150 pages of poems that are both personal and communal.

Caleshu said:

Poets from every permanently populated continent have worked on this project, which reflects how the pandemic has truly hit us everywhere.

We asked UK poets to find counterparts living elsewhere in the world to collaborate with and capture the experience of the pandemic. One of the great wonders of this project is the great diversity shown, in style, content and ideas, by some of the most recognised and celebrated names in poetry.

Personal yet universal experiences

The project also invited the public to submit their poems to the project website. Over 1,000 poems from over 400 poets have been published, attracting over 70,000 views and comments from people living in over 100 countries around the world.

One of the most heartening things about the website poems is their reach. The poems have been shared thousands of times on social media.

Many of the poems have been written in the most difficult of circumstances: times of loneliness and isolation, financial hardship, grief over the loss of friends and loved ones, or from those suffering from COVID-19 itself.

Poetry is often thought of as a marginal art form, but this project shows how it is still so meaningful to so many people’s lives. People call on it when they need it most.

Read the poems on the Poetry and Covid website.

Last updated: 22 March 2021

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