Pandemic Poetry & Quarantine Playlists

This weekend, I’m continuing to read poetry as I mentioned last Sunday.

This past week, I read Twisted Shapes of Light by William Jolliff, one of my professors in college and who ignited my own interest in writing poetry. I plan on sharing my own experiences with contemporary poetry, including a few poems from a reading I did about 20 years ago at a small venue in suburban Philadelphia where we lived at the time.

This past week, I also read Whale Days and Other Poems by Billy Collins, former Poet Laureate of the United States from 2000 to 2003. Both books were very good, but I enjoyed Dr. Jolliff’s book more, probably because of the fond memories it brought back of having him teach me poetry. It didn’t hurt that I found a concert of his online and a short lecture from him that was part of a series on suffering and faith at the university, where he now teaches.

This weekend, I plan on reading Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic, edited by Alice Quinn. I’ll admit that I did have reservations about reading the collection edited and compiled by Alice Quinn, onetime New Yorker poetry editor and recent former director of the Poetry Society of America. Mainly, my reservations were internal in that this week has been a rough week personally with a couple of family and friend issues, and I didn’t think I wanted to read something probably depressing.

But yesterday, I decided to read a few poems from the collection and I changed my mind. The poems that I read were, and are, good. So I’ll continue to read the collection.

I’m pairing my reading with two playlists I found via an article from The New York Times.

I won’t be watching any pandemic-related TV shows or movies, although for those of you interested I saw a trailer for a new movie Songbird that might fit the bill. Or if you want to “escape” into “a world of outlandish emergencies” that “are oddly comforting in a terrifying time,” you might want to turn to these TV shows, according to Alexis Soloski in The New York Times.

For me, though, that will be a hard pass on all of that. I’ll be content just to read pandemic poetry and listen to quarantine playlists, thank you very much…

…and (adding this Saturday night) drinking wine and getting takeout. It’s sort of like last year but I went to the store to get the wine tonight instead of ordering wine by mail from the Finger Lakes of New York and, bonus, no existential dread.

Almost every Sunday since mid-May 2020 with a few exceptions, I have been taking my own personal Sabbath, where I tune out of the news and social media and turn off my ringer and all notifications on my phone. Throughout the day, sometimes the day before, and/or sometimes the next day, I share what I am reading, listening to or watching during my Sabbath. This is my 38th Sabbath and also is part of The Sunday Salon, hosted by Deb of the blog Readerbuzz.

14 thoughts on “Pandemic Poetry & Quarantine Playlists

  1. I don’t know what it says about me but I’ve been obsessed with pandemic reading (in theory) since we’ve been shut down. My reading schedule doesn’t allow me to indulge in it but I would if I could. You might recall me watching Outbreak in March of 2020 which made me feel better because our pandemic did not involve bleeding out. LOL.


  2. Going to the store to pick up our own groceries, etc really does feel like an important (and, dare I say, exciting) change. Back into some more pre-pandemic routines and contact with the wider world.


  3. I’m also taking a hard pass on depressing emergency stories, especially if they’re new. Now if it’s something I’m familiar with (say, Jurassic Park), that’s different.

    I love that you’re digging into poetry, especially since I have a goal to read more poetry this year. I haven’t read any of William Jolliff’s work, but what I have read of Billy Collins I’ve enjoyed.

    I hope this upcoming week is better.


  4. I am not familiar with William Jolliff’s work and will have to remedy that. I am not sure where my interest in poetry came from, but I do know when I began writing poetry–sophomore year of high school. There was a student teacher who did a section on poetry writing. I wasn’t too fond of him as a teacher, to be honest, but he must have done something right to inspire me to write and carry it into adulthood.

    I plan to read Anything That Happens by poet Cheryl Wilder before the month is out. That and finishing The Poet X will probably the extent of my poetry reading for the month.

    I am really curious about Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic. That is one I definitely will have to check out.

    I was sorry to read that you have had a rough week. I hope this one will be a better one for you and your family and friends.


      1. I occasionally write poetry these days but not like I used to. I am loving The Poet X. I have a feeling it will be one of my favorite books read this year.


  5. I’m sorry to hear about the issues with you family and friends. I hope everything is OK or will be soon.
    For whatever reason, I’m on a pandemic-reading kick with Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, set in the time of the bubonic plague. I’m loving it but would not recommend to you in your current state. On deck is Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, also set in plague times.


  6. I enjoyed hearing William Jolliff speak and I enjoyed reading some of his poems that I found online. Thank you for sharing him with us.

    I’m making my own way through some poetry-ish things this weekend—Wonderworks: The 25 Most Powerful Inventions in the History of Literature; 100 Poems to Break Your Heart (you should definitely skip this one); Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life With Words; and (I haven’t started this one yet) A Book of Luminous Things: An International Anthology of Poetry edited by Czeslaw Milosz.


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