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.

Ah, poetry!

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 and/or sometimes the next day, I share what I am reading, listening to or watching during my Sabbath. This is my 37th Sabbath and also part of The Sunday Salon, hosted by Deb of the blog Readerbuzz.

For tomorrow’s Sabbath, I’m taking a break from the Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri, which I have been reading since the start of the year. Instead, I’m going to dip into a little poetry. The impetus to read poetry right now was buying a book of poetry by one of my former college professors this past week. One of my college roommates asked my wife about him during a phone conversation, and I Googled him, found the book, and immediately bought it on Kindle to read. The book is Twisted Shapes of Light by William Jolliff.

From there, I went to the Free Library of Philadelphia and filled my virtual bookshelf with poetry books. A few authors I had heard of, some I had read, others I’d never heard of or read. Here’s what I picked up:

  1. An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo, the 23rd and current Poet Laureate of the United States.
  2. Whale Days and Other Poems by Billy Collins, a former Poet Laureate of the United States (2000-2003).
  3. Citizen Illegal by José Olivarez.
  4. Hybrida by Tina Chang.
  5. Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic, edited by Alice Quinn.

All of this poetry talk got me thinking about how I came to fall in love with poetry, especially contemporary poetry. Over the next couple of weeks, and coincidentally corresponding to April being National Poetry Month, I will explore that, including my own poetry that I wrote and even had a reading several years after college. But for now, I’ll leave you with a snippet of a poem by my former professor:

It may be as close as an old man in Michigan
comes to the sound of the sea. Call it thunder
if you want, but it’s not thunder, not at all.
It’s more like the rush of semis on a freeway

This is the start of his poem, “Rain on a Barn South of Tawas,” the rest of which can be found on The Poetry Foundation website.

This month is the 25th National Poetry Month started by the American Academy of Poets in 1996 so it is only apropos that I am reading poetry.

In one of those “in-between” times

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 and/or sometimes the next day, I share what I am reading, listening to or watching during my Sabbath. As I have done other weekends, I am extending my Sabbath by one day, into Saturday. This will my 35th Sabbath since starting last year.

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

This weekend, I’m in one of those “in-between” times as in between this and that or more accurately that and that. This past week, I was on vacation on a virtual trip around the world, ending in Ireland, and my next vacation is only next week, as I have off from Good Friday, April 2, through Easter Sunday and Monday and then Tuesday, April 6, which is my wife’s birthday…and finally Wednesday, April 7, just for good measure.  

I also am in between shots, as I got my first covid shot on March 11 and my second covid shot on April 1, right before my vacation.  

But at least, I’m not between a rock and a hard place. *rimshot*


So…my plan to read during my vacation last week didn’t happen. As a result, I still am reading The Wings of The Sphinx, the 11th in the Inspector Montalbano series, by Andrea Camilleri. After that, I have the 12th, 13th, and 14th in the series already checked out from the Free Library of Philadelphia, which are in order, The Track of Sand, The Potter’s Field, and The Age of Doubt 

When I finish The Wings of the Sphinx, it will be my sixth book of the year. So if I am a book blogger, it is in name only, with which I am okay. 


Photo by Grafixart_photo Samir BELHAMRA on Pexels.com

About that vacation last week: Over the first four nights, we went to northern England, Italy, Spain and Greece, using as our guide The Trip, the British TV/film series with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, that started in 2010 and ended last year with The Trip To Greece. I enjoyed the first two films, but I was wearying of the pair by the time we got to Spain and Greece, especially their repeated impressions of Michael Caine and other celebrities. Also, the last one ended on the death of Coogan’s father, which, although true to life, was a bit of a downer for the series. I think they also showed more of Italy than they did of Spain and Greece. Maybe it was just watching all four so close together. *insert shrugs emoji


Nothing else comes to mind that I need to share so I think I’ll leave it there for today. How are you doing this weekend? Any big plans? Any little plans? Reading, watching, listening to anything good? Share in the comments.

My Own Personal Sabbath #31

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 and/or sometimes the next day, I share what I am reading, listening to or watching during my Sabbath.

Tomorrow, the plan is simple: recharge, read, and rest.

Recharge after energy depletion from doomscrolling and what Kim and I call “our daily five minutes of anger” after looking at the news usually at the end of the day. Unfortunately, sometimes it is longer than five minutes and even if only is five minutes, it sours the rest of the night. What has helped, though, is we have been watching a show on Netflix with meditation exercises.

So I plan to start tomorrow with meditation as modeled by the late John Main, reciting the word “Maranatha” for 20 minutes.

Read after not taking the time out to read all week. Instead, we watched lots of episodes of The Simpsons and Hamilton since we subscribed to Disney Plus. We finally caved when we saw the five seasons of the original The Muppet Show is coming to the channel later this month.

I’ll be continuing with the Inspector Montalbano mysteries that I started last month. So far, I have read the sixth, seventh, and eighth in the series, The Smell of the Night, Rounding the Mark, and The Patience of the Spider. I already the ninth and 10th in the series, The Paper Moon and August Heat checked out on ebook from the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Rest after, at times, a mentally stressful week. My mother had to get a test for covid, which turned out to be negative (but she’s still not feeling well). At work, I’m navigating through miscommunication, sometimes perceived vs. real, with coworkers. And then there’s the aforementioned doomscrolling. Rest will involve most likely a nap…and music…and TV or movie watching.

I’ll check in later tomorrow to let you know how it went.

Sunday Update:

9 a.m. I’ve been up for about an hour and didn’t start the day with meditation, but I’ll be getting to that this morning. After eating first breakfast, I started reading The Paper Moon and appropriately it began with a passage about waking up that fit the day. The passage is too long to quote here, but the gist of it is like in the movie Dead Poets Society: Carpe diem (in a whisper). So I’m going to seize the day and do what I want right now, which is reading this book.

Noon: So…I’ve read one chapter so far of The Paper Moon. Most of the morning, I’ve been on the phone: checking in with my mom and dad (twice, actually, after seeing a blog post that reminded me of something I wanted to tell my dad) and our landlord about a few minor issues at our house. Now it’s after noon here and I still haven’t “meditated.” So I guess that’s next. Update on my mom: She’s still not feeling great, but maybe slightly better. If it doesn’t clear up by mid-week, she’ll get a doctor’s appointment.

4 p.m.: So…I’ve read one chapter so far of The Paper Moon. Pete and Repete were sitting on a wall. Pete fell off. Who was left?…But it’s true. I ended up meditating finally, then after falling asleep in my recliner, I took a short nap. Now here I am.

9 p.m.: So…I’ve now read three chapters in the book. Kim goes to work at 7:30 for a 12-hour shift, so before then, we had dinner and watched a few of The Simpsons. Now I’m ending the night with trying WandaVision. So far, I’m not sold on the laugh track, but I’m soldiering through with the assistance of wine and cheese.

What are you up to this weekend? Reading, watching, listening to anything good this weekend? Share in the comments.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this film from deejay My Friend Dario to which I was introduced during last weekend’s edition of The Chill Out Tent: