The When Life Was Still trilogy was published in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic. That was almost a year and a half ago. Then I announced that it was my intention to immediately publish a paperback version of a collection of poems previously printed in hardcover and complete the sequel to my trilogy by now, along with writing some spin-off short stories. I don’t know if I had been drinking at the time or if I was sober when I first announced that. I had been writing about—and sampling—fun literary-themed cocktails I was creating at the start of the pandemic. It was when everything felt like a new adventure and I was scrambling to find a new way to market my books in a locked-down world. But the words bouncing around my head during the most unsettling and unpredictable time I’ve ever experienced had different plans for my literary journey.
I’m not a fan of death and despair, but I’m feeling thankful for the pandemic. I’m a better person in August 2021 than I was in March 2020. My words are evidence of it. The funny thing is that I thought I was a pretty decent person before Covid-19 drifted into the world. I cared about humanitarian issues and frequently spoke out against injustice. I cared for other people more than I cared for myself. I thought I was aware of the people who were suffering around the world and did whatever I could to alleviate pain for others. But the pandemic slapped me in the face and knocked my blinders off.
News coverage of the economic hardship so many people have experienced during the pandemic resulting in losing homes and going hungry, and the reaction to the murder of George Floyd, showed me just how much suffering is actually going on right next to my sheltered existence. The number of people struggling to experience a life free of fear and pain is way more than what I had previously been aware of. I’ve had some challenges throughout my life and have never viewed myself as lucky or successful, but I realized over the past year and a half that I am a privileged person.
Along with a new awareness of my privileged self and a new perception of reality, came a fragmentation of my sentences as I tried to string together complete thoughts about the newness I was experiencing in so many areas during the pandemic. Thoughts about the wrongness of my good fortune, when so many others are suffering, paralyzed my plans to release my original poetry book and kept cutting through the words I was intending to have fully assembled by now in my sequel. The fragmented words associated with trying to grasp why I’m so lucky to have food, shelter, and white skin in America had an urgency about them. As unfamiliar phrases ping-ponged around my head, they screamed to me that they were worth examining. New poems began oozing from my pen because poetry has always been a great place for my disconnected words. Poems have a way of creating a space that allows me to organize my scattered thoughts. When I let my mind go into poetry mode and I set the words free that tumble in my head, it often seems that the words march onto the page as if they know where they’re supposed to go. I frequently discover something new about myself when I write poetry.
Even though my sequel to the When Life Was Still trilogy got put on the back burner during the pandemic, the new collection of poems I assembled is woven with the same themes of equality, civil rights, religion, and science that exist in the trilogy and were intended to be carried into the fourth book. If you were looking forward to experiencing a continuation of the satirical When Life Was Still tone in the sequel, it’s still there in my new poetry collection—but chopped up and rolled in concrete. Many of the poems are presented as concrete poetry, which involves placing words in a shape relevant to the poem. In a world that is filled with barriers for people who aren’t as privileged as I am, I want to make my poetry feel accessible to a broad audience. I want people to dive into my poetic thoughts and discover their own fragmented words that cause them to process life in a new way. Because I have a degree in art, I know that images can have a way of inviting people into a space where they might not otherwise feel welcome. I want everyone to feel comfortable exploring my poetry.
The humanitarian in me wants everyone to feel comfortable—period. So the profits from the When Life Was Still trilogy have gone to FeedingAmerica.org. And all the profits from my latest book, Relative Space: a concrete bed of poetry, will go to helping people experiencing homelessness.
Here’s a link if you’d like to find out more about my book of poetry: