The Pandemic Poems Project

Around the Ides of March in 2020, it became clear that Rome would never be the same. The news turned ominous shades of fire, while emails and texts began to let me know I would not be traveling as much this year as I am used to. One by one, the lights went out in the city of my career, and income. Every reading, conference, workshop, and music gig I had scheduled from April forward began to drop off the calendar, and I felt a strange mix of both thrill and fear at the prospect of being homebound for a time. But when I wrote the check for my half of the next house payment, I knew what hell awaited me come June… or maybe July. Even poets can do the math when there is only “outgo.”

 

In those early days, my wife was having a Zoom Happy Hour with two friends, Sarah Flournoy and Liz McIlravy. I mention their names because the concept for this project—of writing commissioned poems for a donation of some kind—was their idea. And what I owe them, I haven’t quite calculated yet. But that “idea” has turned out to be the saving grace of my year, and career. I couldn’t have imagined the effect and reach this would eventually have.

Seclusion Cover.jpeg

In the Days of Our Seclusion: March – May 2020 is the first book in a series that documents the odyssey of the poet and singer-songwriter, Nathan Brown, as he explores the new world of “no more live gigs.” As his travel and performing career took a painful dive in the wake of the coronavirus, he put out the request for anyone who might want to commission a personalized poem for a donation of any size. Not thinking much of it at the time, the project has now grown into a full-time job that is close to actually paying the bills. This book is the culmination of the project’s opening season.

 

The number of requests was surprising. And the sense of need and urgency on the part of those who contributed led him to begin a series of live online videos called The Fire Pit Sessions, as a way for him to share in ‘real-time’ the emotions, concerns, and questions that the participants were expressing in the midst of the pandemic. At nearly 20,000 views now, The Fire Pit Sessions have become a key ingredient in spreading the word for new commissions that will appear in a second book, In the Days of Our Unrest: June – August 2020.

In the Days of Our Unrest: June – August 2020 is the second book in a series that documents the odyssey of the poet and singer-songwriter, Nathan Brown, as he explores the new world of “no more live gigs.” As his travel and performing career took a painful dive in the wake of the coronavirus, he put out the request for anyone who might want to commission a personalized poem for a donation of any size. Not thinking much of it at the time, the project has now grown into a full-time job that is close to actually paying the bills. This book is the culmination of the project’s second “season” — the heated season of the summer, when temperatures and social turbulence led to historic wildfires, relentless hurricanes, and an unbroken chain of protests against incessant injustice that resounded through the streets of most American cities, and around the world.

 As requests are still pouring in, the sense of need and urgency on the part of those who are contributing has not let up, so Nathan has continued the series of live online videos called The Fire Pit Sessions, as a way for him to share in ‘real-time’ the emotions, concerns, and questions that the participants were expressing in the midst of the pandemic. At well over 30,000 views now, The Fire Pit Sessions have become a key ingredient in spreading the word for new commissions that will appear in the third and fourth books in the series.

Days of Our Unrest.jpeg
Days of Our Undoing.jpg

In the Days of Our Undoing: September – November 2020, Book 3 of the Pandemic Poems Project, picks up where In the Days of Our Unrest leaves off. This book tracks our descent into the political season of the fall, when one of the most significant and perilous elections in our history fomented fear, division, and a deep scarring of this nation. The mental and intellectual devolution of many of our leaders and officials became all too clear, the pandemic surged yet again, with the help of what could be described as an outright materialistic refusal to curb the big block party of consumerism, and we were forced to hold our country up to the mirror for an unprecedented number of reasons—an ongoing abundance of fodder for this daily report.