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Poetry in the time of crisis

18 poems from notable South Carolina writers during a pandemic

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Poetry in the time of crisis

Editor’s Note: The Post and Courier asked S.C. Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth, a Charleston resident, to curate a special issue of Charleston Scene devoted to “poetry in the time of crisis.” She has collected 17 poems from notable South Carolina writers, written especially for this issue — and she has contributed one herself. —Adam Parker

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The global COVID-19 pandemic is overwhelming, both literally and metaphorically. Everyone is afraid, anxious, confused. Our lives have been upended, and we really don’t know how or when we’re going to land. In these bewildering times, we search for the language to describe what we are feeling.

Although poetry is often overlooked or neglected, it is something we turn to in times of crisis because life’s most difficult questions and issues are faced head-on in poems. It is not surprising then, that during the days and weeks following the September 11th terrorist attacks, Americans turned to poetry as never before. Poems circulated the internet. Poems were taped to store windows, bus stops and memorials. In the haze of media coverage, it was poetry that consoled us and helped us express our grief and rage.

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Our U.S. poet laureate at the time, Billy Collins, compared poets to goalies in a hockey game. Like the poet, he said, the goalie is marginalized. “When all the skating and sliding around on the ice begins to fail us, the goalie is the poet.”

Once again, poetry is center stage; I’ve never seen so many poetry exchanges and poetry postings on social media. The core of poetry’s power is its ability to describe the indescribable. Poems help us make sense of the world around us, particularly when we are feeling overwhelmed with emotions. This is why we hear poems at weddings and funerals. Every one of us feels overwhelmed right now. Every day.

Perhaps you will find solace or inspiration in these poems. Surely, you will find the words that express what you are feeling, and that connection should be of some comfort. These poems are for you.