The Novel Coronavirus differs from the Poetry Coronavirus since where the latter is concerned its victims always knew they’d get it. If this isn’t precisely funny it’s nevertheless true. Poets in every age have believed the world is ending which is why Shelley’s famous dictum that poets are the legislators of mankind is both terrifying and piffle.
I’ve always preferred poets who don’t sell tonic. You’ll rightly ask “who cares what I think?” As a poet I’ve no idea who might give a damn about what I say. But I’m not selling end times or elixirs.
Nor am I complaining online about canceled readings. If I see one more Twitter or Facebook post about poetry events being canceled and by gosh what a shame, I was so ready to read from my new slim volume of verse, etc., I will probably start to accost said poets who seem to have no grander concerns.
Most of the legislators of mankind are the same folks you meet at academic poetry conferences, every one of them dressed to convey intense relevance and marketability, the kind of people who would step on your hands to get ahead of you for a job or fellowship.
I once tripped on a carpet at a famous writing conference and fell down. My guide dog stood beside me. As I struggled to get back on my feet people actually walked over me. They were rushing to a panel on poetry and empathy.
There are no end times. There’s only community. How we care for it is the mark of our legislation.