Living and writing through Covid-19

I recently received an email chain about sharing poems with 20 friends. I normally don’t get involved with email chains, but as it was poems I couldn’t resist. Before the day was out though, I’d been sent the email chain three times, and I realised when friends saw an email about poems they immediately thought of their writer friends!

I’ve found that in these difficult and sad times I have had less time, not more. When lockdown was first announced I had visions of me sat at home alone, with the hours stretching out before me, but the opposite has been true. If anything, I seem to have less time. I have never spent so much time keeping up with the news, talking to friends on Zoom, and getting involved with my community to help with food drop offs, etc. And as an identical twin, my sister and I have ended up involved in some of the Covid-19 research. As a result I’ve found finding time for writing and reading very difficult. And I found it hard to get the motivation to sit down and send the emails off to 60 different people, but like most things in life, it was completely worth the effort. I figured getting the odd poem back would be nice, but actually, it has felt like a lifeline. It is so lovely to receive poems from people who I’ve never even met and to rekindle my love of poetry with them. It has reminded me of the power of writing and how words can give us hope, transport us away from our current struggles for a brief time and give us strength in times of needs. Here’s to the poets, long may they kind inspiring us and I’m in awe of their skill and power over words.

Here’s one of the poems I received from another writer and it’s so true of life:

Good Timber

By Douglas Malloch

The tree that never had to fight
     For sun and sky and air and light,
But stood out in the open plain
     And always got its share of rain,
Never became a forest king
     But lived and died a scrubby thing.

The man who never had to toil
     To gain and farm his patch of soil,
Who never had to win his share
     Of sun and sky and light and air,
Never became a manly man
     But lived and died as he began.

Good timber does not grow with ease,
     The stronger wind, the stronger trees,
The further sky, the greater length,
     The more the storm, the more the strength.
By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
     In trees and men good timbers grow.

Where thickest lies the forest growth
     We find the patriarchs of both.
And they hold counsel with the stars
     Whose broken branches show the scars
Of many winds and much of strife.
     This is the common law of life.

If you receive the poetry email I would recommend getting involved. And if you haven’t had it yet, here’s the template to send to 20 friends:

Dear Friends,

We’re starting a collective, constructive, and hopefully uplifting exchange. It’s a one-time thing and we hope you will participate. We have picked those we think would be willing and would make it fun.

Please send a poem to the person whose name is in position 1 below (even if you don’t know them), with the email subject Poem Exchange. It should be a favourite text/verse/meditation that has affected you in difficult times. Or not. Don’t agonize over it. If you’d like to send a poem in your own language and provide a translation, please do so:

  1. A friend’s name
  2.  Your name

After you’ve sent the short poem/verse/quote/etc. to the person in position 1, and only that person, copy this letter into a new email. Move my name to position 1, and put your name in position 2. Only my name and your name should show in the new email. Send it to up to 20ish friends BCC (blind copy).

Seldom does anyone drop out because we all need new pleasures. The turnaround is fast, as there are only two names on the list, and you only have to do it once. Stay safe and well.

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