As the “cruelest month” winds down, we’re looking towards poetry for some solace. We are 459 days into the pandemic but have found comfort in the little things.
Many of us have experienced the urge to crawl “into / the deepest of basements, / pressed in by imagination’s // limits,” as Kevin Spenst writes in “The Geology of a Moment” or watch as “Spring goes on without us,” envisioning, as Isabella Wang does, that “It’s getting harder… Can’t tell in this night, where we end, / and the universe begins” (“Hindsight“), where “…you can’t help / but inhale because you wonder how / suffering could have a smell” (from Camille Lendor’s “TTC“). But, we want to resist complacency, the spaces “Where desire’s falling flat and stays so” (uttered on a cooling night in John Barton’s “What We Live For“).
Yet, as Fred Wah’s “Basalt” suggests, the world is constantly in a state of regeneration:
way flow talks that little hidden
fender of itself to measure whatever’s
in the way not a mistake just a fissure
an isolated vent where the water will
find around the rocks intentional waves
an invert floor of floating worlds
another culvert for an old old story
And, as we look towards the future, we seek support, perhaps wondering “…who will / teach us what to call this new feeling?” as Jillian Christmas asks in “a mouth full of useless words” (a fitting title for a poem published during the pandemic?).
Poetry whispers “Romantic or rhapsodic adventures” (from Yuan Changming’s “By Definition of Preposition“) to us, eliciting grins and knowing glances. The days blur together, causing us to watch how, as the narrator in Bill Howell’s “Further Surveillance” utters, the “Polished sand falls through / an ageless hourglass.” Poetry reminds us of what it means to “be young and type lines / on a discarded typewriter” (states the afternoon occupant in Jen Currin’s “The Local“) or to reminisce about the hum of “Garden pinwheels” (as Kenneth Sherman does in “A Walk Along Lakeshore Drive“).
No doubt, during National Poetry month 2021, we need poetry more than ever. Whether it’s to escape or commune in the shared experiences of the devastation the pandemic continues to cause. In 2020, we looked to the words of the Academic of American Poets–“we can rely on poems to offer wisdom, uplifting ideas, and language that prompts reflection that can help us slow down and center mentally, emotionally, spiritually”–and this year, the words still ring true.
From all of us here at Canadian Literature, we wish you a thoughtful and uplifting National Poetry Month.