When Christina Waters pitched this week’s cover story about poetry’s surge in popularity during the pandemic, I honestly had no idea what she was talking about. I knew many of us stuck in quarantines and other pandemic weirdness had turned to creative expression for some mental and emotional relief. But why, I wondered, would poetry in particular be part of this?
After reading what the many poets from Santa Cruz and around Northern California have to say about it in her story, I get it. But I’ve also had a more personal experience with poetry since we first talked about this story months ago. Not with writing it—what still exists of my efforts from various Creative Writing classes at UCSC proves I was never very good at that—but with reading it. I don’t know if it’s because she planted the notion in my head, but I’ve found myself reading more poetry this year than I have in forever. Not necessarily poetry about the pandemic, although I teared up just like everyone else at what the young poets in the Washington Post’s KidsPost contest wrote about their experiences with distance learning, alienation and hope. But I’ve been discovering new poetry and reconnecting with my favorites—Patti Smith’s Collected Lyrics, 1970-2015, Roky Erickson’s Openers II. My daughter and I just went back and re-read every Shel Silverstein book aloud. I don’t know exactly what has fueled this personal poetry Renaissance, but I know it’s not just escapism, because I just finished and loved Santa Cruz Poet Laureate David Sullivan’s forthcoming Black Butterflies Over Baghdad, which is incredibly intense.
I think you’ll find after reading this week’s story that the reasons for poetry’s broader resurgence right now are equally complex. And who knows, maybe you’ll be inspired to become part of it, too.
STEVE PALOPOLI | EDITOR-IN-CHIEF