Interviewed by CBS’s Shelagh Rogers for “The Next Chapter,” Jamaican-Canadian writer Olive Senior discusses how her poetry collection, Pandemic Poems: First Wave, came to be.
In 2020, when the pandemic first hit the news cycle and changed our lives, Jamaican Canadian author and poet Olive Senior began to pay close attention to the words and phrases that became a part of the everyday lexicon.
She also paid close attention to the profound transformation brought about by COVID-19 and turned her observations into poems that she shared on social media. Senior spoke with Shelagh Rogers about why she brought those poems together in a book called Pandemic Poems: First Wave.
‘Out of desperation’
“These poems came, I would say, out of desperation. Like everyone else, I was in lockdown last year. It was such a shock. I spent several weeks wondering, ‘Well, what am I? What am I going to do with my life?’
“I got interested in the language in what was out there. I read a lot of newspapers, first thing in the morning, just to know what’s happening globally. I was struck by the lexicon and all the new words and phrases that were being thrown at us. I started writing them down and then I thought, ‘What am I going to do with this?’ I started making poems out of them. It was a way to keep myself occupied and stave off depression.
“But when I started to share them, I realized that this is a way of going back to the earliest days of poetry, where people sat around a fire and recounted the day’s events. It was part of sharing with the community. Once I realized that this was happening, that kept me going.”
“I’m an optimist, so I have to be hopeful. We got over the Black Plague, all the epidemics, and all the terrible, terrible events of history. They pass. And we, who are here today, might not be around to see those changes.
“We have to be optimistic. We have to feel that we will transcend this time. It is just part of history — and it’s exposing a lot of things that probably need to be exposed. It will enable us to look with a fresh eye at what needs to change in our societies.”
For original post and to listen to Olive Senior, visit https://www.cbc.ca/radio/thenextchapter/full-episode-june-26-2021-1.6077458/olive-senior-explores-hope-in-a-world-beset-by-covid-19-in-poetry-collection-pandemic-poems-1.6077510