The nature of COVID-19 has changed the way many people live, but it hasn’t changed annual traditions. Poetry Month at Central Oregon Community College has taken place online. Usually, poetry month would be held in April on campus. All of the COCC campuses would hold events, workshops and craft activities in the spirit of poetry month. This year, the spirit of poetry month has gone digital.
Students can sign up for a virtual open mic of poetry, post their own video of themselves reading poetry and participate in online poetry events.
Poems of connection and hope are the types of poems that the faculty and staff intend to read in these times of crisis. The faculty and staff at COCC have posted short videos reading poetry on YouTube. These poems are meant to be an inspiration for students to not live in fear of COVID-19.
Along with poems that have a positive and uplifting message, there are some poems that have been developed in response to the pandemic. The Oregon Poet Laureate Kim Stafford has shared some of his pandemic poems with the community. There is also shelter in poems that are meant for those who are stuck at home.
“Contributors share [shelter in] poems that help them find courage, solace and actionable energy in these difficult times,” according to the COCC National Poetry Month page.
Other poetry events have already occurred. Zoom meetings are held every Friday at 5 PM that usually involve actors reading old poetry. The Sierra Poetry Festival that was held online from California was meant to celebrate the idea of poetry month. A virtual open mic is also available on Wednesday nights. Open mic nights are held by Kollective Coffee+Tea in Arkansas, but now this event is online in many other places.
In addition to events regarding poetry, there is a continuing education course that is scheduled a month after the national poetry month. Set for May 30, this course is designed for the pandemic that has changed many lifestyles. The task of this course will be to take real-world perspectives and convert them into a creative poem.
COVID-19 can take away outdoor habits and general routines, but it can’t take away poetry. As long as poetry exists, people have a way to overcome self-isolation.
(Jack Peeples/ The Broadside)