Can You Hear the People Sing? Global Responses to the Pandemic

POETRY FORMAT, 28 Dec 2020

René Wadlow – TRANSCEND Media Service

Camilla Reeve (Ed.) London: Palewell Press, 2020

For many, the Covid 19 pandemic took loved ones and livelihoods away without discrimination.  Yet for others, the confinement was a period in which some felt a sense that things could be better if all worked together instead of waiting for someone else to act.  This feeling of ambiguity between loss and gain is expressed in the poem by Tom Alexander which gives the title to this collection of poems, taken from the theme music of the play Les Miserables:

          “so many sing
             It’s a different song
             Some higher, happier
             some lower, more desperate than mine
             flowing through these days and nights
             a verse, a chorus – who can really say?”

For some, the pandemic is a call to action and mutual help as expressed by Libaharan Ravindram Corona Poem:

          “Setting mutual aid communities up
           In response to inadequate measures from the top.
           We seek solace in our interactions”

For others, it is a period of waiting in uncertainty as Shanta Acharya writes In Lockdown:

          “We pray for the tide to turn, our grief and joy postpone.
           Everyday the news gets worse, we double our trust-
           even this will pass, we cry, hanging on to our faith.”

As the Lockdown takes people off the street, animals come forth and can be seen and heard, as Tina Morris says in A new Way of Living:

          “Do you listen to the birds
           singing to you
           because you have been chosen to stand among
           them hearing their voices?”

The same theme is expressed by Frank McMahon in It Was as If:

          “We waited, looking sideways at each other,
           fed ourselves as best we could.
          Then we saw, as if we had new sight,
           that dew was making brushstrokes revealing
           what we had overlooked – white blossom
           of hornbeam and chestnut, the sky wiped
           clear of mote and cloud. The land
           filled with birdsong, larks and merwing kites.”

Maria Cristina Azcona also sees a renewed Nature in To the Quarantine:

          “I lift my eyes to the clear sky
           Its blue colour is now limpid and pure
           Like a miracle in front of my eyes
           A little bird sings to a possible future
           And a green future will be the consolation
           In any place and at every nation.”

While most of this collection are poems, there a a few short prose pieces such as Boukra by Dima Mekdad, a Syrian in exile in England and The Fantastic Mr Maj by the Zimbabwean Taffy Nyawanza.

This is a rich collection of reflections and observations, perhaps best summed up by another poem of Tina Morris Lockdown or LOCKED IN?:

          “In all this enforced space
           and silence,
           have we learned anything
           about our selves
           or are we chanting
           the same old mantras
           in well-practiced idiom?
          in order to move on
          and joyfully, up
          into the light of truth.”


René Wadlow is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. He is President of the Association of World Citizens, an international peace organization with consultative status with ECOSOC, the United Nations organ facilitating international cooperation and problem-solving in economic and social issues, and editor of Transnational Perspectives.

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 28 Dec 2020.

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