Early in the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, Olive Senior began posting her series of Pandemic Poems on social media. The project was a way of bearing witness to the strangeness of it all and forging a reassuring connection with readers.
Each poem is a riff on a word or phrase trending in the first wave of the pandemic — an A to Z of the lexicon newly coined or quickly repurposed for our historic moment. By presenting these words and phrases in sequence, Senior offers a timeline of the way events unfolded and how the language and preoccupations kept changing in response. In this accessible collection, Senior captures the zeitgeist of 2020. (From Olive Senior)
Olive Senior is the author of 18 books of poetry, fiction, non-fiction and children's literature. She is a winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize, the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature and her collection Over the Roofs of the World was shortlisted for the 2005 Governor General's Literary Award for poetry. In 2019, Senior delivered the prestigious Margaret Laurence Lecture. Her latest book is the children's picture book Boonoonoonous Hair, which was illustrated by Laura James.
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"These poems came, I would say, out of desperation. Like everyone else, I was in lockdown last year. It was such a shock. I spent several weeks wondering, 'Well, what am I? What am I going to do with my life?'
"I got interested in the language in what was out there. I read a lot of newspapers, first thing in the morning, just to know what's happening globally. I was struck by the lexicon and all the new words and phrases that were being thrown at us.
I started writing them down and then I thought, 'What am I going to do with this?' I started making poems out of them. It was a way to keep myself occupied and stave off depression.
"But when I started to share them, I realized that this is a way of going back to the earliest days of poetry, where people sat around a fire and recounted the day's events.
"It was part of sharing with the community. Once I realized that this was happening, that kept me going."