May 6, 2020 | Loma Linda, California, United States | By: Gloria Lozano-Castrejón for Inter-American Division News
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began to change our daily habits, we had to let go of many activities and ordinary pleasures, at least for the time being. Other doors that seemed closed, however, now are open and look inviting, if we dare to cross them with discipline, curiosity, and imagination.
Such is what happens with poetry, something which suddenly has gone through a resurgence and acquired newfound resonance outside close academic circles. It has become again “the voice of the people,” a flowing stream of expression. No doubt, poetry has been helped thanks to the various technological tools, which allow for massive sharing. Above all, however, poetry has the ability to touch our inner beings for moments of personal reflection, self-examination, or just free expression on the face of sometimes conflicting feelings that result from any crisis.
Poetry, that other dimension of language, lends itself —due to its conciseness but at the same time its infinitude— to wake up, define, reiterate, stress, celebrate, lament and sometimes even “shout” the wide range of human feelings, fears, joys, hopes, and hopelessness of human beings.
Such a proliferation of poetry, together with the notorious spread of the coronavirus, is an international phenomenon. People are reading, sharing, and posting, in every language, a lot of poetry. It has become available through radio, television, and social networks. It is recited from lockdown apartment balconies, or it is transcribed in banners. Collective poetry contests are launched, and poetry rendezvous for the virtual involvement of hundreds. The same applies to a series of initiatives to enjoy at home, such as #poesiaentusofa, (#poetryinyoursofa in English) or #LaCulturaEnTuCasa , just to name a few in Spanish. In them, renown poets from various countries interpret poetry with feeling, even in readathons of every size and kind.
Many of those for whom poetry was previously a strange medium, have now felt the need of expressing themselves using this channel, and many others have reconciled with poetry after longstanding separations and divorces.
And what about Christians? Have they resorted to poetry under the current lockdown? Of course they have, even if perhaps unawares. No Christian would have sought to calm his or her fears — or the fears of others — with other than the sweet assurance of a psalm from the Bible. Every Christian has surely received or sent a beautiful poetic verse through one of his or her social networks, enhancing it, perhaps, with an inspiring image.
There are those favorite verses, which have stayed in one’s memory precisely because of the flow of rhyme and verse, the beauty of their metaphors, or the magic of their images. It is poetry, just poetry, that has been engraved in the inner recesses our heart for Christian comfort, reassurance, and hope.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want…. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me” (Psalms 23:1, 4).
“For the Lord’s portion is His people…. He kept him as the apple of His eye. As an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its young, spreading out its wings, taking them up, carrying them on its wings.” (Deuteronomy 32:9-11)
“Be merciful to me, O God…. For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by.” (Psalms 57:1)
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid? … For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion.” (Psalms 27:1, 5).
“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness.” (Psalms 30:11).
Some Christians, while facing a likely unexpected death, have repeated, with resignation but in full faith, Job’s words, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15).
Others, sensing the severity of hunger as they run out of supplies during this crisis, or maybe just thinking in it as a possibility, have said, together with prophet Habakkuk, “Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls — yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19)
“When the storm is over,” Cuban poet Alexis Valdés wrote in one of his poems, “and we become survivors of a collective shipwreck…with a crying heart and a blessed destiny, we will be happy — just happy to be alive.”
Gloria Lozano-Castrejón is a retired language and literature teacher, writer and translator.