I’m Not Writing About The Pandemic

But I’m also not NOT writing about it, if that makes sense.
That is, I have no policy.
I write about what comes to hand. Put another way–I write about consciousness.
Ideas aren’t a big thing for me in poetry. I once told poet Tony Hoagland–yeah, well, ideas in poetry are just kind of a grab bag…a little bit of Aristotle, some science, it’s all sort of metaphor…
He looked bemused and then just said: That’s true of YOUR poetry, Mir, not ALL poetry.
I was taken aback, as I tend to extrapolate my own experience into the universal. Something which seems less and less wise.
I never wrote anything about 9/11. I’ve just finished revising a novella in which the back story is the war in Bosnia. That surely says something about long it can take me to process world events.
Current events aren’t that inspiring to me, although history is. Cossacks tend to ride through my poems to this day. For me, the past is part of the present moment–how I perceive. I experience comparison–metaphor and simile–as compassion.
I started writing seriously in high school. I didn’t write about the war in Vietnam, although I have since. Instead I wrote a poem about my mom taking me for an abortion and published it in the high school literary magazine. My mom taught at my high school, and we both got a lot of flak. Of course, this had never happened. I was not pregnant in high school, and if I had been I’d have gotten an abortion by myself, not with my mother.
My mother could be very harsh towards me, but she could also be transcendent. She shrugged off the gossip. “It’s a POEM,” she told me. “It isn’t literally true.” We shared a love of literature, its ability to create other worlds, other truths. In my high school young women did get pregnant–get forced into marriage, try to miscarry, consider killing themselves. In my poem my mother provided a solution that allowed autonomy.
Then with publication she rose to the occasion, and to my most positive view of her.

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About Miriam Sagan

I'm blogging about poetry, land art, haiku, women artists, road trips, and Baba Yaga at Miriam's Well (https://miriamswell.wordpress.com). The well is ALWAYS looking to publish poetry on our themes, sudden fiction, and guest bloggers and musers.

3 thoughts on “I’m Not Writing About The Pandemic

  1. I don’t find that I’m writing much about the pandemic either, Mir — three micropoems and a short freeverse so far. I think it’s because it’s grown so huge — the illness itself and all its attendant issues — that it has become … not invisible, exactly, but a backdrop for, well, everything. It’s like a menacing drumbeat coming from everywhere at once but from nowhere in particular, defying my efforts to “connect” with it. If / when I do write about it, it will probably be in retrospect, once the pandemic is over (whatever “over” might come to mean, in future hindsight). That is, unless it touches me personally in a significant way … but then such writing would be about an event or incident in which the pandemic is simply a part — a cause, perhaps, or a context. What a disturbing, unsettling time we’re all living through!

    • Thanks for this thoughtful view. It always takes me a while to absorb events. I’ve been in friendly debates lately as to whether or not plague writing can be great writing, historically. I’ve been thinking how Shakespeare never writes about it directly, but it is there. Actually I think things like Angels in America–and some fabulous zombie novels–might be the best work.

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