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

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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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