Dear Students of life,
I so hope you are feeling calm and peaceful and healthy despite all that is occurring in our world. There are many things happening right now that we feel completely powerless over – and we miss hugs. And I miss you! And that makes these days different than any other any of us have experienced in our lifetimes.
But even when we are surrounded by fear — fears of getting sick, losing a loved one, and financial hardship — we still have one choice, and that is not to let these fears become bigger than the love in our heart. Did you know that the heart actually has more neurons than the brain?!
Neurons are the nerve cells in our body that specialize in the transfer of information, and scientists tell us these neurons are responsible for our thoughts and behaviors, voluntary and involuntary. We are usually only taught about neurons in the brain, but in fact the heart has 40,000 neurons, and an electro-magnetic field that 5000 times more intense than that of the brain! The heart can even make an independent decision bypassing the cerebral cortex (the thinking part) of the brain.
This is a fancy way of saying that the heart has thoughts — it is wise, and in fact, perhaps wiser than we ever thought possible. Thanks to science, we now know that stopping to “Listen to our heart” is actually much more than something a parent or grandparent tells us when we are trying to decide something important.
I’ll say it again, our heart is smarter than our brain! And we need to start listening to it rather than our fears.
Stop for a second. Take a breath with me. Breathe deep into your belly, and focus on your heart raising, and expanding, hold your breath for three seconds, then release your breath, and as you do, feel that heart energy radiating out into the world around you. Let it envelop your family, friends, all the people you love, those who are having a hard time, those who are sick, those who might have lost their way in substances or despair. Lets do it again, and do it one more time.
How does that feel? I’m not sure about you, but I feel more relaxed and peaceful.
This is my way of showing that whether you realize it or not, one of the things you have control over right now is how you choose to respond to what is happening in the world. While it is not always easy or possible, staying positive in the face of fear, negativity and change is a deep learning opportunity, and a great skill to practice in all areas of your life.
So the first thing to do in days like these, is to start with noticing yourself. You must be nice to yourself! That means thinking positive thoughts, eating healthy food (not just candy), getting good sleep, exploring creative outlets (art, sewing, writing, sculpture, etc), doing the things that make you happy (besides video games), going outside and feeling the sun or the air or the rain or the snow on your face every day.
But what if my mind keeps turning toward fear and despair? You can stop that too, with a little bit of practice.
For example, I might have a fear that says “all of my work has dried up and I will lose my house if I cannot pay my mortgage and the people who live with me will have no place to live”. Okay, that is a pretty bad one right. It impacts others besides myself. So I instead say, I am healthy and happy and I will be just fine. Basically I state the opposite of my fear. And by doing that each time my fear comes up, it becomes less and less scary, and eventually, it just goes away. But sometimes it just moves into another fear (like I’m afraid to die). I do the same thing with the next fear, and by doing so, I become calm and in the present moment, breathing in my body. I am safe right now. I am alive right now, I have a roof over my head right now, the people who count on me are fine right now.
This sounds counter-intuitive, but most of our fears are of the future rather than the present, and when offer an alternative, more positive thought, our bodies respond with gratitude and breath, which in turns keeps us in the here and now – which is the healthiest place to be!
Positive thoughts actually help us, because compassion, a peace and calm set boost our bodies natural immunity and produce overall well-being.
Now I’m not saying bad things don’t happen – we all know very well that they do, and some of you are maybe a little young to be seeing this so intensely in the faces around you. But here we are, making the most of it. And I know you can do it!
One of the ways I do my best to stay positive is with writing. Poetry is what I call it, but
Poetry is basically us in the present moment, our thoughts and emotions expressed through pictures.
So are you ready to write with me? I’m going to share a series of poems
And remember, don’t feel guilty if you are smiling. It is okay to feel good right now…in fact, humanity needs you!
Directions for Writing Your Own Poem
So now that you are at home, practicing your “social distancing” and doing your part to “flatten the curve”, I would like you to write a poem to the Corona Virus, Covid-19, coronageddon, the horrible virus or whatever name you are calling it.
When writing your poem, I want you to address the virus directly, as if it were a living thing (even though viruses are not actually alive as they are a protein, but I digress!)). To put it in poetry terms, I want you to “personify” the Coronavirus in your poem.
Name an emotion, and then see if you can describe it without saying the emotion (show don’t tell) , such as:
- I am a winter day in the middle of spring (sad)
- I am a playground full of kids at recess (happy)
- I am a kid who can’t go to school (frustrated)
POSSIBLE THINGS TO WRITE TO THE CORONAVIRUS ABOUT
- Tell it why you think it is here.
- What do you think it wants to say to the world?
- What does it want to say to you personally?
- What are it’s gifts?
- Tell it why you are mad at it.
- Tell it what you hope it does for the world.
- Remember to reference the five senses – what does it smell like (my mom cooking in the kitchen), feel like (being alone in my room), taste like (a whole pan of brownies), sound like (the quiets streets I’ve ever heard), look like (a grocery store full of people with gloves and masks)
- Don’t forget to title your poem when you are finished — try to avoid the obvious titles such as “Coronavirus” or “Covid-19” and instead surprise your audience with a unique title of your own.
CORONAVIRUS SPECIFIC VOCABULARY
shelter in place, social distancing, respirator, pandemic, flattening the curve, quarantine, chilling in place, virus, vaccine, anti-body, Center for Disease Control, essential business, service industry, healthcare worker
POSSIBLE STARTER LINES
- Dear Corona Virus…
- Life before the corona virus was full of (name some things you used to do)…
- Corona virus, you (smell like, taste like, feel like, look like, sound like)…
- Covid-19, you are….you came from….you should go to…
REMEMBER THE IMPORTANCE OF:
- Endings ~ the best endings to circle back to the beginning of the poem;
- Metaphor or simile ~ such as: sheltering in place is like sitting in the principals office while all my friends are outside playing soccer;
- Your own experiences ~ write about what you know, what is happening to you or those you around you
Now, it is your turn to write!
(something original and fresh — try not to use “CoronaVirus”, “Covid-19, perhaps line 2 of your poem below might be a good title?)
Dear Corona Virus
You are a ____________________________________________________________________________
(another name for CoronaVirus, such as You are a Gross Make-Us-Stay-at-Home Germ)
Before you came life was full of __________________________________________________?
(name some things that made you happy before coronavirus)
(ask it 1 to 3 questions, such as: why are you here, why are you making us stay home from school, why are you so mean?)
Have you ever thought about________________________________ ?
(what might Covid-19 think about?)
(tell it something about itself, such as “)
(tell it something about itself)
I think you should ________________________________
(Tell it do do something?)
You smell like _____________________________
You look like ________________________________
You taste like ________________________________
You feel like ________________________________
You sound like ________________________________
Thank you for ________________________________
The Dreaded, School-Stealing Microbe
You are a dreaded, school-stealing microbe
A terrible waste of happy hangout time
Before you came life was full of hugs and visits with friends
Why did you show up in our lives?
Why are you making us stay away from each other?
Why are you lasting so long?
Have you ever thought about how you are hurting people’s lives?
You are empty shelves in a supermarket
You are a mask on a baby
You are people stuck inside their houses
I think you should go straight to the central sun for recycling
You smell like bleach
You look like a crying emoji
You taste like too many days of boring cereal
You feel like a pillow with no stuffing
You sound like an empty playground
Thank you for reminding me
how happy I am to be alive
even if that wasn’t
How to Submit Your Poem To Blake
SUBMIT YOUR POEM
K-12 students can submit finished poems to me by using the form below.
In addition to submitting your written poem, I also encourage you to submit a video or audio recording of your poem.
I am planning to put together a special radio show on my Be More Now Radio program on KZYX FM that features Mendocino County youth poems written in response to the COVID-19 crisis. I would love to include you.
Also, if you would like to be considered for statewide youth anthology publication, please download this poem release form (available in Spanish & English) and include it with your submission.
POETRY RELEASE FORM
Adults are welcome to submit their poems to me as well, just be sure and let me know how old you are and where you live.
I can't wait to experience what you write!
Audio & Video Inspiration
YOUTH SPEAKS OUT ON KZYX RADIO
A monthly youth radio show created under the guidance of Mendocino County Poet Teacher Dan Roberts on KXYX, this episode of YouthSpeaksOut! was produced from conference calls as the students are in corona lockdown in the backwoods of northern California. Hear how graduating high school seniors in Mendocino County describe their last year of high school in isolation and an uncertain future. They discuss their plans for college, how remote education in the backwoods works, and their hopes and plans for the future. Informative and inspiring. With brief pieces by Greta Thunberg, Emma Gonzalez, and Copper Wimmin.
TEST, A POEM BY UKIAH POET ARMAND BRINT
Author of many books, and a former Poet Laureate of Ukiah, Armand is an award winning poet, who is spending his Covid-19 days quietly at home working on a new book of poems tentatively titled, “A Wing and A Prayer.”
The poem below is one of his many poetic responses to the current world health situation.
Click to Listen to Armand Brint recite his poem Test:
This virus is testing us.
But there is no proctor
to ensure people
There are no little bubbles
to fill in with our
number 2 pencils.
We are free to puncture
But there is a price to pay.
This is a test
of our ability to sit still
in our metal chairs.
Can we put these pencils down
and hum quietly
Can we look over this sea
and see love hovering
just above their heads?
Can we turn this auditorium
of anxious scribbling
into a few lines
in the clean sand
of the soul?
There is a big schoolhouse clock
on the wall.
But it is a clock
of our own making
on a wall that isn’t there.
We are being tested
in a torrid room of closed windows.
We are taking a test
in a language
we do not understand.
We are taking a test
that has nothing to do
with our constant contending.
We are being asked
to put our pencils down.
This test is unmistakably real.
This is not a test.
© Armand Brint
by Pablo Neruda
Now we will all count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
This one time upon the earth,
let’s not speak any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be a delicious moment,
without hurry, without locomotives,
all of us would be together
in a sudden uneasiness.
The fisherman in the cold sea
would do no harm to the whales
and the peasant gathering salt
would look at his torn hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars of gas, wars of fire,
victories without survivors,
would put on clean clothing
and would walk alongside their brothers
in the shade, without doing a thing.
What I want shouldn’t be confused
with final inactivity:
life alone is what matters,
I want nothing to do with death.
If we weren’t unanimous
about keeping our lives so much in motion,
if we could perhaps do nothing for once,
perhaps a great silence would interrupt this sadness,
this never understanding ourselves
and threatening ourselves with death,
perhaps the earth is teaching us
when everything seems to be dead
and everything is alive.
Now I will count to twelve
and you keep quiet and I’ll go.
Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again….”
Excerpted from the poem Lockdown by Irish priest, Brother Richard Hendricks