Countering Loneliness and Solitude with Poetry

English Studies 12 students recently wrote poems and reflections about their experiences at home during the pandemic. The English project, called “Loneliness and Solitude in the time of COVID-19,” challenged students to use one of four prompts to inspire a piece of writing.

The prompts encouraged students to read or engage with written media, including other poems (from Grace Schulman, Ken Dryden, Jessica Salfia and Catherine O’Meara) and articles from the New York Times and Poetry magazine.

Here are some of our talented students’ pieces:

“Lonely Wanderers” by Evelyn Hawes
“Emails Know Better” by Leqa Al Tamsi
“A moment during the coronavirus pandemic” by Tina Yang
“A COVID-19 Soundtrack” by Sascha Skoronski
“All Too Clear” by Suzie Stone
“Untitled” by Reika Nakagawa


Lonely Wanderers

by Evelyn Hawes

Hopper never painted this, but here
in Victoria BC, city of tourism, gardens,
false promises of orcas and humpbacks,
over-confident deer and peacocks,
temperate and thoroughly indecisive weather,
is the city of wanderers.

Our city no longer filled with foreigners
filling our parks and raiding tourist shops,
the inhabitants of the beautiful city
stumble from their recent caves,
legs sore of misuse, eyes dark with
far too many Netflix binges.
We enjoy the city we lucked out on,
trees, wildlife, flowers, ocean air.

But no, not “we”
when wanderers can be seen,
but never touched.
When streets are filled with
fearful glances and
rushed mental measurements.
Six feet no longer a
height, a piece of wood
demanded by an overworked
construction worker.

Six feet: defined as the
measurement to which humans
find themselves in danger.
Six feet: the poison between you and me,
the pothole in the road,
the blackhole.

Overcompensation, fear, avoidance,
disconnect, isolation, are better than
danger, right?


Emails Know Better

by Leqa Al Tamsi

The New York Times: On Politics
brimming with Trump
“Q&A With an Economic Advisor on Trump Campaign”
how he “Will Halt the U.S. Funding For The World Health Organization”
I heard he demanded America to get back to work on May 1st!
“You’re going to call you own shots” Mr. Trump said
in a telephone call with the governors.
Can The New York Times send him the article:
“If 90% of Americans Remain Indoors, We Will Be Out of The Pandemic in Four Weeks”
instead all he thinks about is “Pledging to Halt Immigration”
that’s his way of saying “We’re All in This Together”

My “Thursday Briefing”
begins with “Good Morning”
but I read it at 11:21 pm after my online classes
it discusses the “Collapsing Oil Prices”
just as Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday Briefings did.
“We’re All in This Together”

“Dr Oz” tells me to change my life with some “CBD Gummies”
“Melissa” asks me to “Claim a FREE Nutrition Appointment”
I’m sorry Melissa; I’ve been living on fast food
since my boyfriend broke up with me over text:
“U r too far away”
and “Urban Outfitters” wants me to “Look Hot This Summer”?
“We’re All in This Together”

I received a “hi” from “Celine Williams”
an email without even a subject!
I wonder if that was a way to hack my laptop
or a friend request from a bored woman screaming
“We’re All in This Together”

My academic advisor said
“have a plan B, you may not end up where you want to go for university”
what she doesn’t acknowledge that I
have no such thing as plan B in my dictionary
I devoted my last two years of high school to get 5s in my APs
so I can get to my plan A.
If my plan A fails, I prefer to skip to plan C
and get the Coronavirus.
“We’re All in This Together”

Hey folks
“Before We” “Shop for Mother’s Day”
“Spin 2 Win” the patience to “Stay Inside”
because I want to go to university
I want my brother’s wife to give labor in a safe environment
I want to look hot this summer so I can make my ex jealous
I want to live. Please
let’s be “All in This Together”


A moment during the coronavirus pandemic

by Tina Yang

in a fast moving world now trapped in limbo
pink confetti litters the cold concrete
as the lustre shine of vehicles fade
with each week of immobility
weathered by time.

my mind wanders from the bold headlines that scream
COVID-19,
“CHINESE VIRUS”,
ANTI-ASIAN HATE CRIMES
in a time when only months ago
we were beginning to be
represented a lot in mainstream media.

life goes on
but

I don’t realize how much it affects me until
my grandmother puts on her brown knit hat
on a sunny day
and in the grey wisps of her hair
I see her lying battered
on the sidewalk, nose bloodied.
I beg her to not go.


A COVID-19 Soundtrack

by Sascha Skoronski

My COVID-19 soundtrack only has four songs, which I chose to represent each of the four stages of my perception of the virus, which are resistance, realization, resolution, and reflection. However, we are not yet through the “resolution” stage, meaning that the “reflection” to come, and the song to go with it, may change with time.

The first stage, resistance, started late January, when it first became mainstream news. COVID-19 didn’t seem like something to be scared of; it was on the other side of the world, why would it affect us? I chose the song Fool in the Rain by Led Zeppelin to represent this stage. This song, and the images of Robert Plant being stood up, represents how things aren’t always what they seem. Although it is easy to feel ashamed of how we acted in the past, sometimes we simply didn’t understand at the time.

The second stage of realization became apparent in March when school shut down early. COVID-19 wasn’t something thousands of kilometers away anymore. Now, it was essentially in my own backyard. With an immunocompromised brother, there was no option other than to take it seriously. The Obvious Child by Paul Simon comes to mind. I haven’t listened to a song that expresses this idea better. Why ignore what is right in front of you?

The third stage, resolution, is currently underway. New confirmed cases are slowly decreasing, and political leaders begin to weigh the pros and cons of lifting restrictions. Reading George Saunders’ article in class, with the metaphor of a sleeping tiger, prompted A Day in the Life by The Beatles to accompany my COVID-19 soundtrack. Global issues aren’t anything new. We always work together to overcome challenges. At the end of it all, it really is just another day in our life.

The stage of reflection is in the future. Truthfully, I have no authority to guess how I will view the COVID-19 situation once it is over, whether that be one month, one year, or one decade from now. Thus, we reach Wigwam by Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan was never known for being easy on the ears. This song doesn’t disprove that. He wails a barely tolerable mumble over a backing instrumental with not a single lyric throughout its run time. Nonetheless, it’s an excellent listen. To me, this song represents my uncertainty. Who knows what the future holds? In dealing with COVID-19, we may be doing everything right and still get it all wrong. On the other hand, we may be Bob Dylan, doing everything wrong, but still managing to get it right.


All Too Clear

by Suzie Stone

Hopper never painted this, but here
in Victoria the weather is tricking
our minds.

Brilliant rays of sunshine
slice through clear blue skies
they are welcoming.
Almost pleasing enough
for one to forget
the weight of Covid-19
Almost…

Yet nearing the ring road
of The University
the discrepancy is even clearer
than our sky.

A place regularly buzzing
with busy students
dominating the cross walks
and chiming their bike bells,
lays deserted.

Locked buildings,
abandoned parking lots,
silent soccer fields with
unoccupied stands
bewilder even the deer

And expose
the underlying fear
that we must accept:
a playground without laughter,
a community without
interaction,
and a future with no certainty
as our new normal.


Untitled

by Reika Nakagawa

And I procrastinate everyday.
And I watched dramas, and ate, and slept, and worked out, and played Tinder, and read news, and discovered new things about the world, and was amused.
And I researched more deeply. Some people are struggling, some confused, some doing nothing. Some became hopeless removed from their ability to earn a living. And the smart ones began to think differently. They invented. They made products related to the virus.
And the people prospered.
And, with people demonstrating creativity, confidence, resilience, and determination, the economy began to thrive.
And when the crisis passed, and the workers hung on together, they loved their jobs, and earned new qualifications, and aimed for higher positions, and launched new ideas to get out of recession and gained profit, as they have flourished.
And they live differently than how they used to, but they embrace their new lives.

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