Plague 2020: Covid-19 Poetry and Art from Around the World-Edited by Mahnaz Badihian

September 12 07:51 2020
Plague 2020: Covid-19 Poetry and Art from Around the World-Edited by Mahnaz Badihian
Proposal: “Pestilences have a way of returning in the world. Yet somehow, we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from the sky, there have been many plagues as wars in history, yet plague and wars always take people by surprise.” – Albert Camus, Twentieth Century French Nobel Prize winning Philosopher and Author.

According to data provided by the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, as of June 17, 2020 more than 4 million individuals have recovered from COVID-19 around the world. Of those, I do not know how many decided to edit and publish a book during their recovery, but former dentist, artist and poet Mahnaz Badihian did just that. In her first book for which she also provides the cover art entitled tk, PLAGUE 2020: COVID-19 POETRY AND ART FROM AROUND THE WORLD, Badihian harvested the creative powers of close to three hundred artists and poets representing 35 countries from Nepal to Nigeria, Mexico to the United States, South Africa, Peru, Nepal, Canada, India to Iran.

The results are compelling, often challenging us to heed the urgency of Camus’ words and the climate of the pandemic killing more than 150,000 in the US and millions around the world. A resident of San Francisco, Badihian’s reach into the creative powers of this ocean of poets and artists resulted in thousands of submissions, so the daunting tasks of pruning that literary harvest also became a balm for her spirit and allowed her to go the distance. She began organizing the submissions while in quarantine with her husband tk, an eye surgeon. The excitement of the anthology, her fierce spirit and of course access to good medical care kept her going day to day while defying the odds of surviving.

The anthology is an outpouring of 130 poems reflecting the isolation, grief, and longings that people around the world the world feel in the grip of this pandemic. Some are written by seasoned poets including former San Francisco Poet Laureate Jack Hirschman (The Sur Ivan O Roc Arcane), and others by students whose voices are blooming across the terrain of the creative world including Sri Lankan student Aruchelvan Karteheyen. Badihian’s poem “Plague 2020” launches us on to this literary journey through the pandemic while other poet as young as & years old Paniz B Khan, and Artist as young as 5 years old Saviz B Khan raise their voices over the horizon of it.

Some of the visual artists are refugees including Thupten Shashimo, originally from Tibet. Rajkumar Paul whose “Even Gods Fear Corona” draws the viewer deep into the sad and searching eyes of a masked woman and the virus seizing her Also featured in the collection is award-winning Mexican novelist, poet and head of the World Poetry Festival Dr. Yuri Zambarano. In the last stanza of his foreboding and potent poem “Meanwhile” –

the old Charon carrying out Hades,
is greeting me from his dark boat
it is like a phsycho-ferry crowded with sallow passers-by
Ash-colored faces
permanently dance with the shrillest barking.

While some poems edify our humanity, others remand us to the status of fossils to be studied by civilizations millenniums away. Whatever the tools and methods are people ate using to recover let us hope that these piercing and sometimes endearing images can result in us grounding ourselves in the formation of a new discovered humanity that emboldens us to walk this Earth with a newly found reverence and dignity for the grounds on which we walk and the beings who are our neighbors teachers leaders health care providers and most especially our children the future of all societies. For Badihian this book was her place of healing from COVID-19, joy, and embrace fellow poets and artists and her transformative vision as an artist and poet.

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