An international poetry project has been launched by Carol Ann Duffy as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The former poet laureate has joined with Imtiaz Dharker, Roger McGough and Ian McMillan, and others, in hopes that Write Where We Are Now, “will provide an opportunity for reflection and inspiration in these challenging times, as well as creating a living record of what is happening as seen through our poets’ eyes and ears, in their gardens or garrets”.
Duffy’s poem, Hands, was written on the 26th of March and shows the writer reflecting on how every Thursday, “we clap at the darkness”, and on how she can see the hands of her absent daughter “when I put my head in my own”.
CRANES LEAN IN
Cranes lean in, waiting for an all-clear
that will not come.
Forehead pressed to glass,
phone at my ear, I learn
to sail on your voice
over a sadness of building sites,
past King’s Cross, St Pancras,
to the place where you are.
You say nothing
is too far, mothers
will find their daughters,
strangers will be neighbours,
will have names.
You are all flame
in a red dress.
Petals brush my face.
You say at last
the cherry blossom
as if that is what
we were really waiting for.
Duffy is leading the project with the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University, at which she is the creative director.
“We need the voice of poetry in times of change and world-grief. A poem only seeks to add to the world and now seems the time to give,” said Duffy.
Speaking of her poem Cranes Lean In, Imtiaz Dharker remarked how she wrote it while “standing at a window looking out over the marooned city. London had stopped its eternal building and the streets and stations were becalmed.”
“That was the day it suddenly came home to many mothers what this meant, this strange waiting time without their children,” Dharker explained. “I could hear the phone calls all over the world, people separated and searching for words of hope and consolation to give each other. The words my daughter gave me were about kindnesses, and something we had both been waiting for: the cherry trees blossoming in the parks and streets of London.”
Vice-chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University, Professor Malcolm Press finds the initiative inspiring:
“I am sure that these outstanding poems will voice the sentiments and feelings that many of us around the world will share. At the same time, I am confident that these innovative and imaginative works will inspire creativity and hope.”