Welcome to the latest weekly installment of our blogs written by poets about what they have been doing since the lockdown began. We’re calling it From the Front Lines: with the public being urged to stay at home to hinder the progress of Covid-19, it often feels as if our front door is the front line. Today we welcome Gayle Smith, who brings us a poem as well as her thoughts on lockdown life.
As a poet who is by nature a sociable being it has not been easy adjusting to the restrictive but neccessary conditions which have been implemented for this period of enforced lockdown.
I have to admit it’s driving me stir crazy, but hard as it has been for me it’s been a whole lot harder for many of my friends who are freelance performers in the worlds of spoken word and traditional music and who rely on live events for their main source of income.
Make no mistake this has been a nightmare for them, and that nightmare has been made worse by the cancellation of the various Edinburgh festivals, especially the Fringe, which for so many in the spoken word community is the highlight of the cultural year and a chance to perform their work for a much wider audience.
As for me , I’m surviving by harnessing my creativity and working on a number of new poems some of which are based around the current crisis and some of which are being written on very different topics. I am also using my time to catch up on reading many of the poetry collections on my bookshelf and watching poets on YouTube.
This combined with developing my own work and encouraging my friends in doing the same is my strategy for surviving for these challenging times until we can get back to what qualifies for normality or as close as a creative can get to it. In the meantime I’ve written this poem which I think sums up the current situation and these unusual times.
A Poem For Difficult Times
We are not living in normal times.
We are living in days
when we have to queue,
to get access, to supermarkets.
And when we do,
people panic buy unusual items.
Normality has been silenced.
As we are told stay home,
I give thanks for a phone,
on which I can write poems.
There is no church on Sunday mornings
nor dancing on Saturday nights.
Social lives are put on hold.
There is nowhere to go
Virtual chats replace those
we would have in real time.
most of us take the line of
better to be safe than sorry
till these unusual times are concluded.
Though some who think
they’re cool. still drink outside.
The deluded use parks as outdoor bars
as they somehow believe, this killer
will not come for them.
Yet every day we get briefings
from Number 10
telling us we are all in this together.
There are of course exceptions.
The ruling elite travel without consequences
infecting others as they go.
Those tally ho Tommies
who are usually only seen
shooting the breeze and the grouse
on summer days when they masquerade as the gentry.
Slowly we are awakening, as we realise,
austerity has always been a political choice.
When all this is over I hope we find a voice
which speaks in the language of compassion.
Where transwomen are not demonised,
and we surprise ourselves
by the kindness we show others.
Let us use this time wisely.
Discovering what matters
to our ourselves and our communities.
And never again talk of herd immunity,
for as long as we retain
the powers of speech
it is my hope that by reaching out
and using imaginative skills
the world will value creatives ,
who obeyed the rules
by sharing stories, songs, tunes, and rhymes
as work written for difficult times
sparkled like jewels
in the night sky,
the jewels we would normally refer to
© Gayle Smith 2020
Gayle Smith is a spoken word poet who co-hosts the long running Words And Music night with her friend Jen Hughes in the Southside of Glasgow on the first Monday. She is a member of Women With Fierce Words and a regular supporter of events in and around the central belt of Scotland including the Edinburgh Fringe. She has been published in collections such as Mind The Time, a collection of football poetry, and Best of 10red.