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Poetry can be the bridge that connects us during these difficult times


On World Poetry Day, poet Mary Jean Chan recalls growing up during the Sars crisis and considers the role of poetry in a crisis

In the days after the arrival of Covid-19 in the UK, I watched in horror as government policy failed to mobilise the public and enact drastic social distancing measures comparable to those widely used in other countries. I tried to write but found myself unable to express something that might be of use. As a poet, I could not muster the right words. On 13 March, I realised that a prose poem of mine titled “Safe Space II” from my debut collection Flèche was being shared widely on Twitter. It begins:

Wash your hands. Rub soap into foam into lost hands. Focus on the running tap, the way your hands momentarily disappear and you feel safe again. The bathroom is a place you can always rely on, in whatever country […]

Something about the specificity of poetry allows it to crystalise experience, as if one were pausing time

Related: Tackle that to-be-read pile: the books to try if you're self-isolating

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