Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America's Poets Respond to the Pandemic

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Release Date: 
November 17, 2020
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“Quinn provides a welcome collection of creative healing.”

As we fight the global Covid-19 pandemic, more than 100 poets have created Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic, a poetry collection to calm anxiety, fear, and loneliness during this challenging time. Edited by Alice Quinn, the collection is poetically diverse and offers sentimental mediations and metaphors for the way we feel right now, as if therapeutic.

Here is the entirety of “Six Months from Patient Zero” by Eliza Griswold: “Nothing is new. // We fear one another / without wanting to, // uncertain who is salve / and who is threat. // Every honest answer / is Not Yet. // As avatars, we’ve grown / more intimate. // I prefer my avatar to me. / Her lashes are longer, // though people find her severe. / A patient is a person who endures. // To be patient is to be willing / to endure. To forbear.”

Griswold writes to commiserate with the reader. The title provokes memories, and is likely an allusion to tracing the AIDS virus in the eighties. Lines are crisp, clear, and calculated. She starts with complacent truths, and then transforms them into senses of hope and endurance.

Edward Hirsch also states the truthful state of Brooklyn, NY in “Eight People.” He does not sugarcoat imagery, which makes the poem frank and powerful. He provokes emotions. He writes, “Eight people died / on my block in Brooklyn / last week / and I didn’t know / what it meant / to be living / at one remove / from each other, / wary, / isolated, / locked up / with the relentless / bad news / while ambulances / cruised the neighborhood / which was otherwise / so calm and quiet / that I wondered / if God, too, / had gone into hiding / and sheltered in place.”

Alice Quinn has selected a diverse array of poetics. Poems range from short to long, prosaic to lyric, pastoral to abstract. Of note, readers will enjoy deciphering Maureen N. McLane’s “Conditional.” Capturing viral thoughts, McLane poses questions, breaks up words, rhymes, and plays with words to capture feelings of anxiety, confusion, grief, and irony.

This is not a depressing collection, but rather one of creative documentary. Poets provide intimate glimpses into personal struggle with the coronavirus, and how it can be overcome; sometimes that struggle cannot.

Quinn provides a welcome collection of creative healing. We want to know what the literary community is honestly and openly thinking about the virus. We want to know how poets heal. This collection grants that knowledge.