This morning, the bottom of my French press carafe broke, spilling hot coffee and grounds everywhere. I almost cried. That’s the level of tension and emotional suppression that exists in me as a result of the spreading coronavirus. We’re all frustrated, stressed, anxious and uneasy about the future (though not all for the same reasons), which means the smallest inconveniences have the ability to break us. At the same time, the littlest bit of connection and kindness works wonders for our psyches.
After the tragic death of my French press, I had the privilege of participating in my first-ever online open mic, thanks to Rattle Magazine. It was the first of its kind for Rattle, too, which hosts a “Rattlecast” (audio and video podcast) every Tuesday night on YouTube, but had yet to record an episode completely dedicated to readings by published and unpublished poets. Even cooler, the open mic is an outlet for writers who submit to Rattle’s Poets Respond series, but are not necessarily selected, to “publish” their fresh poems in a unique format and get an audience for their work.
(This video is queued up to the start of my reading, but I encourage you to watch the whole show when you have time. Or, if you just wanna listen while you’re on the treadmill or something, the edited audio can be found here, once it’s been processed.)
This kind of exposure is invaluable, not only for emerging poets, but poetry enthusiasts who otherwise might not have access to these kinds of community events, for various reasons. Maybe they don’t have transportation, or the time to commit to a 1-to-2-hour reading — or, like one reader I “met” today, they have an immunodeficiency that makes it difficult to attend public gatherings even when there isn’t a pandemic keeping them quarantined.
Do you see how amazing that is?
Don’t get me wrong — I was devastated by the announcement that schools would remain closed after spring break, and that I wouldn’t be going back to work or seeing the hundreds of students I got to know as a building substitute this semester; anxious about not being able to cover my expenses and about my husband continuing to work during this crisis; depressed by the thought I might not be able to travel out of Alaska and see my sister and niece and nephews for an extended period of time; angered by the lack of compassion and arguing that has ensued over everything that’s happening in the world right now.
But what about the good that’s come from all this?
Whatever the truth is about the virus, look at what it has forced us to accomplish. Schools systems are using and, more importantly, assessing the viability of online education platforms. Benefit concerts are being held online. People are FaceTiming and Skyping with friends they haven’t talked to in years, just to say hello. “Influencers” are revealing more of their authentic selves with their followers. Many workers are actually staying home when they’re sick, and (good) supervisors aren’t penalizing them for it. Unnecessary meetings are being condensed into emails. Bring-your-pet-to-work days are possible, without exacerbating anyone’s allergies.
The list goes on!
I’m not saying we can celebrate just yet, or that there won’t continue to be unintended consequences of this quarantine. But it is imperative that we look for the silver linings.
In addition to participating in Rattle’s open mic today, I tuned in to a live stream with Sam Harris from X Ambassadors on Instagram. When I joined, around 300 people were already there watching Sam eat his breakfast, play his guitar, respond to questions and even go live with his fans, just to say hello (or in one case, listen to a girl sing and allude to the possibility of a future collaboration — fingers crossed for that lucky lady). We saw him single-handedly make people’s day, and ours by association. And while the technology for this has been around for years now, it wasn’t until it became our only outlet that people — celebrities and otherwise — began to realize its value.
With Rattle’s open mic, I was able to get my face, voice and work in front of poets and readers I would’ve never met otherwise. I’ve already connected with one viewer on LinkedIn (yes, people do still use that sometimes).
But Rattle is just one organization that provides a space to showcase 21st century thinking, and is keeping up with the rapidly changing landscape of writing and the modern world. I’ll wager that many more literary magazines and businesses will take, and already have taken, opportunities afforded by these uncertain times to grow and adapt in ways previously unimagined.
Resilience has become a buzzword that I believe is often misused and oversold (especially in education) today, but it truly applies here. Humanity is resilient, not to mention innovative, and whenever this crisis ends — whatever’s left on the other side — there is an abundance of hope.
So, I’m done moping around my tiny house. I’m sure I’ll still have difficult days, confined to the small, sometimes dark spaces of my mind and my physical surroundings, but they will pass. I’m not going to wither away.
I choose to grow.