Singing in Dark Times – #8 in a Series – Kitty O’Meara’s Gone-Viral Poem! In This Case How “It Went Viral” Means a Cure not a Disease. A Vaccine that Sings!

German poet Bertolt Brecht (1989-1956)

Epigraph from Motto

In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will be singing
About the dark times.

Bertolt Brecht from Bertolt Brecht: Poems 1913-1956, edited by John Willett and Ralph Manheim, Eyre Methuen, 1976

Back in 2017 I started this series. After seven posts it petered out. But with the Covid-19 pandemic on our hands it seems a good time to keep it going. Especially as people send out so-called “Pandemic Poems” to try and make emotional sense of this. A way to make peace with it. (To see the earlier posts in this series please go to my home page and scroll down to Bertolt Brecht in the index of Posts on the righthand side of the page.)

I love how language works. For years we have referring to any popular online  meme or post that gets thousands, if not millions of hits, as something that went viral. Meaning in a good way. Not the way Covid-19, nasty virus, is going viral in a bad way. Good to make the distinction.  But I so delight in the idea of poems going viral! Not making people sick or causing death but by bringing light and hope to sagging spirits.

And one such poem that’s been doing a lot of emotional healing work for a the past few days as it “sings” its way on through the internet’s highway is a prose poem originally posted on Facebook by a retired American, Kitty O’Meara, who lives in Madison, Wisconsin. To learn more about Kitty, as discovered in the past few days by Oprah Magazine Online, please click here.

And the People Stayed Home

And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed. 

Kitty O’Meara from Oprah Magazine Online, March 19th, 2020

Oh my, how Kitty has so simply caught the isness of the so many of us around the world so-called self-isolating at home. All the things we are all doing in way or another. And I so appreciate how Kitty un-Hallmarks this poem in its first paragraph/stanza.  In case we think we are in a Norman Rockwell painting we see that it is not all lightness and joy: Some met their shadows. Indeed. I know, I have been meeting mine and they have teeth. Some difficult days, for sure.

I think one of the measures of the success of Kitty’s poem is how it does exactly what the polymath John Berger says an authentic poem shouold do!

Every authentic poem contributes to the labour of poetry… [which is] to bring together what life has separated or violence has torn apart…. Poetry can repair no loss, but it defies the space which separates. And it does this by its continual labour of reassembling what has been scattered.

John Berger, from The Hour of Poetry, in The Sense of Sight, Vintage 1993

And as Kitty’s poem says the earth is healing with the shut-down of industrial activity all over the globe. Pictures of clear Venice canals are making the rounds and stories of dolphins in them! And fish! But, and there is a but here for me.  The economic consequences of the healing are also catastrophic on a personal level and to government balance sheets. How do we find a balance? And that’s where the last paragraph/stanza and its gorgeously expressed hope make me somewhat incredulous. Will this lead us to heal the earth fully?  Will it? How do we do this and keep the economic engine of the world running the way we have learned to accept.  Will we adjust our consumer ways with a commensurate drop in our standard of living?

Kitty’s poem is a wonderfully feel-good poem. Making something beautiful out of the stark reality of the Covid-19 pandemic. In this way it so important. But can we live up to its high hopes? Do we want to?


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