We have teamed up with artist and publisher Jason Dodge to bring you a brand new series of poems in response to Covid-19, written by some of America’s most exciting contemporary poets. At this time, perhaps more than ever, there is a need for collaboration in the arts, and this project joins up the National Poetry Library in London with Berlin (where Dodge lives) and the poets of the United States. There is a long and fruitful history of transatlantic collaboration in modern poetry which goes back to American modernists such as Ezra Pound, H.D. and TS Eliot, and this project continues that tradition. More than anything, we wanted to showcase the work of poets who are creating in response to the crisis: ‘I wake up in the morning’, Matthew Dickman writes, ‘And think / people are alive.’
The twelve poems in the series show what poetry can do in a crisis, bringing chaos into focus through ‘luminous details’ (to quote Pound). The poems have all been written since lockdown, and explore themes ranging from our relationship with food (Michael Dickman), time (Eileen Myles and Donika Kelly), to parenting in a time of pandemic (Eugene Ostashevsky and Caroline Knox). There is also a focus on dreams (Dorothea Laskey), the repercussions for bankers (Matthew Zapruder) and a reworking of Genesis, in which Anna McDonald memorably writes: ‘I cried for my city wheezing under its viral load … Then I attended a funeral on Zoom’. This unique anthology of online poems takes its name from Noelle Kocott’s poem in the series: ‘AT the beginning of COVID-19’.
The series is curated by Jason Dodge who is an artist and publisher based in Berlin. For over twenty years he has been mounting exhibitions internationally and has been included in the Venice, Liverpool and Lyon biennials. His work is in many public collections including the Guggenheim in New York, the MCA Chicago and the French National collection. In 2012 Dodge founded the poetry imprint fivehundredplaces with the intention to connect poets to the art context, and artists to poets. Jason told the library about his thinking behind the project: