The Wonder of Poetry During the Social Lockdown

by Paul E. Nelson

The closures, quarantines, telecommuting, lockdowns and other responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have created an incredible amount of free time, perhaps the first of its kind in our lifetimes.

For centuries many have chosen poetry as the go-to medium for comfort in such chaotic times. The great 19th century French poet Stéphane Mallarmé said that “poetry is the language of a state of crisis.”

Renowned author Clarissa Pinkola Estés wrote a poem perfect for our predicament:

A Prayer

Refuse to fall down.
If you cannot refuse to fall down,
refuse to stay down.
If you cannot refuse to stay down,
lift your heart toward heaven,
and like a hungry beggar,
ask that it be filled,
and it will be filled.
You may be pushed down.
You may be kept from rising.
But no one can keep you
from lifting your heart
toward heaven —
only you.
It is in the middle of misery
that so much becomes clear.
The one who says nothing good
came of this,
is not yet listening.

If you want to listen to more poetry-centric material, the audio archives of a small Seattle-based non-profit organization are available for free online and feature interviews with poets like:

Wanda Coleman, Allen Ginsberg, Sam Hamill, Diane diPrima, Brenda Hillman, Nate Mackey, Nikky Finney, Claudia Castrol-Luna and others.

Indigenous leaders like Richard Atleo, Beaver Chief, Cheryl Seidner, Jewell James and others.

Spiritual leaders like Phyllis Curott, Bhagavan Das, Larry Dossey, Eric Riane Eisler, Wayne Dyer and others.

Local artists like Jeanne Heuving, Shin Yu Pai, and others.

SPLAB was founded in 1993 and has produced over 600 hours of audio programming, much of which is available to you thanks to support from 4Culture and other patrons. is the landing page. Let us know what you think of what you find there.

Paul E. Nelson is a Rainier Beach based poet and author