Silence In A Time Of Pandemic And Protest
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Silence In A Time Of Pandemic And Protest

Room for thought.

Silence In A Time Of Pandemic And Protest
Zak Erickson

I wrote an article in March called "Coronavirus Silence", with the tagline "What to do when the world stops turning?" It came out of a general sense of shock from my perspective as a member of the class of 2020. Everything I had been planning for the second half of my last semester went out the window; naturally, I thought of it as a world of activity suddenly replaced by stillness. I thought of this in terms in which I'm accustomed to think of silence; that is, in a way that fits with my sense of action and stasis in poetry, in which silence/stillness is eerie and fruitful at once.

This past Monday, I moved for the remainder of the summer to some housing in Wellfleet, MA, on Lower Cape Cod. The house where I'm living is close to the water but not on it. Sometimes I hear dogs barking at one of the houses nearby; often I hear birds singing and the trees' leaves rustling; every so often I hear the occasional car on the road nearby. Yesterday I heard construction at another nearby house. Other than that, it's as quiet as a tomb. (I was totally spooked during my first night; by now I think I'm getting used to it.) In a little while, there'll be other people renting rooms in the house, but until then, I'm alone. (My mom is staying elsewhere in Wellfleet, so I'm not totally alone, either.)

Staying totally isolated here is a great opportunity to read, to write, and to think: that is, it's a great opportunity for a solitary writing retreat. People have been quick to refer to coronapocalypse self-isolation as akin to monastic life. Not being a monk, I wouldn't know; at any rate, I haven't had any mystical experiences (yet). Time by oneself is essential for a writer. (So is a schedule; until I find work, I'll need to be sure to structure my day purposefully.) I've been fortunate and privileged enough to not have gotten COVID-19 or have family and friends get it; I am likewise privileged and fortunate enough to suddenly be in such a beautiful and empty place while this country and the world are experiencing so much turmoil. There are probably a lot of people who are apathetic to that; I'm not, or at least I think (hope) I'm not. I don't think art is irrelevant (at all) to the world we live in.

It's been said often since the era of coronavirus began that poetry will have a special role in processing this situation, and I'm inclined to agree. I don't know what life right now will ultimately bring about in terms of social justice. I don't know what it will bring about in terms of anything. But I know one thing: that the strange silence that I'm experiencing right now is nothing other than the gestation of poetry, whatever that poetry may be.

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