Reading poetry in the pandemic is waxing, as people turn to verse for solace amidst their grief or for expressions of their own anger at needless suffering and death.
We are not supposed to call the struggle to contain, suppress and/or beat the coronavirus a war yet it is to war poets people often reach out on social media and elsewhere. Walt Whitman visiting hospitals in the American civil war. Our own Sassoon and Owens in the trenches of World War One.
But also to songs for our age of sorrow and, occasionally, humour (however dark and savage) to see us through lockdown. Stewart Conn, Edinburgh’s first makar (2002-05), has written: “The poet’s task, to seek/significant detail/in the face of horror.’ Here below, confined to his New Town home, he writes of Schubert and birdsong in a splendid Scottish spring.
for Anna Crowe
Franz Schubert String Quartets [Fitzwilliam String Quartet]
From a review in the TLS I learn
that the political climate of northern
Siberia once led to the deterioration
and destruction of generations of pianos,
their ripped-out wires morphing into
fishing-lines, jewellery-ware and garottes.
Precluding any dark train of thought
the post brings a package with a CD
of two Schubert quartets and a card
explaining how, your musician
friends’ public performances cancelled,
you are keen for them to find a hearing.
From my open window the ferocity
of their bowing has already
made startled converts of two male
blackbirds, heads cocked, while high
in our cherry tree a transfixed bullfinch
beats his tail in time to the music.
Published with kind permission of Stewart Conn
Featured image: Male bullfinch, © Francis C. Franklin / CC-BY-SA-3.0