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.

Where I am right now…

…is in a good place.

I’m off from work until this coming Thursday. I’m celebrating Easter, my wife’s birthday on Tuesday, and receiving my second COVID-19 vaccine shot this past Thursday.

Yesterday, I went to the Good Friday service at Washington National Cathedral and then received the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession/absolution) from a priest via Zoom. This isn’t to brag. It’s just that I like to attend Good Friday services…and I haven’t been to confession in several years. It felt good.

Today, I plan on continuing to read the Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri. I’m now up to the 12th in the series, The Track of Sand. I also am getting together tonight with a former college roommate Joe to play board games online.

Tomorrow morning, I plan on attending the Easter service at Washington National Cathedral too. Then in the afternoon, I’ll probably read more Camilleri.

I also plan on getting out for a walk this weekend, probably both days since the weather is finally clearing after a little snow on April 1.

The last three days of my holiday/vacation/celebration will be spent mostly with my wife. Even though I am off from work, I will be attending a staff meeting Tuesday morning. As for me and my wife, we have no plans other than to eat, drink, and be merry.

Happy birthday, hon!

My Own Personal Sabbath #34

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 past Thursday, I finished August Heat, the tenth in the Inspector Montalbano series, by Andrea Camilleri and today I am starting the eleventh, The Wings of the Sphinx. I started the year with the sixth in the series, The Smell of the Night, and then continued with the seventh, eighth, and ninth, Rounding the Mark, The Patience of the Spider, and The Paper Moon before finishing August Heat.

Seeing a few episodes last year of the Italian TV series based on the books rekindled my interest in the books. Then when the Free Library of Philadelphia (FLP) added most of the book series to its OverDrive collection at the end of last year, right before Christmas, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to dive back in.

I have not been disappointed yet as other books have taken a back seat to the Italian commissario. I have flirted with the idea of reading and continuing other series, but for now I only have eyes for the late Camilleri’s creation. I am completely and utterly captivated by Montalbano for now. I already have the 12th, The Track of Sand, checked out and waiting in the wings. And I have the 13th and 14th, The Potter’s Field and The Age of Doubt on hold. That is how much I love this series…

…but I probably will take a break after that since FLP has only 24 of the 27 books in the series to borrow (so far). That way, I have something to look forward to to later in the year or even next year.

What have you been reading lately that you have loved or are loving?