‘We smiled through facemasks’: Poetry in the time of the coronavirus

Those stuck at home during the coronavirus epidemic have found inventive ways to pass the time, from livestreaming parties to playing curling with kitchenware. There’s something else I’ve noticed: Regular people are writing more poetry.

Take a look at this set of poems (in Chinese) by Lóng Qiǎolíng 龙巧玲, a nurse in Wuhan, translated by China Digital Times. She originally posted the poems on WeChat, but they were deleted — presumably for being too real. “In a sense, poetry is the keenest detector of emotion, which is why the Wuhan nurse’s set of poems moved so many people,” Shanghai-based The Paper noted (in Chinese). Also see: This commemoration of Dr. Lǐ Wénliàng 李文亮 by rural poet Yú Xiùhuá 余秀华, and this poem (in Chinese) by migrant worker Wáng Shēng 王生, as cited in the New York Times.

A reminder that amid dreariness and dread, people still strive for beauty, order, and sense. (Or sometimes they just need to vent — another reason censorship is often described by its victims as “painful.”)

And now, humbly, I present “Coronavirus in China,” a six-part poem I wrote that was just published in the poetry magazine Rattle. Hopefully, you’ll find some fresh perspectives within.

—Anthony Tao