Members of Stockport *Write out Loud took their monthly meetings online in March 2020. The poems they created reflected the situation, and they decided to publish a lockdown anthology in two volumes: ‘Eight Weeks of Lockdown’ covers 23rd March – 18th May 2020. ‘Six Weeks of Lockdown’ covers 19th May – 26th June 2020.
John F Keane said: “Our first Lockdown collection captures every nuance of the unfolding crisis. At first there is confusion and uncertainty about the future. This phase gives way to a more reflective tone, as the poets gradually settle into their new situation. Many of the poems slip into a wistful, pastoral mood as nature grows wild in the warming weather. Humour and wit start to return around week six, albeit tinged with nostalgic melancholy for happier times.
The second Lockdown collection has a very different tone. The murder of black security guard George Floyd by white Minneapolis police officers in May 2020 resulted in a global revolt against systemic racism by the Black Lives Matter movement. In Britain, statues of slave traders and racist politicians (including Winston Churchill) were removed or defaced, with nationalists fighting pitched battles with BLM protestors in scenes reminiscent of Germany in the 1920s.
These momentous events gave our second Lockdown collection a much more dynamic and varied flavour than the first. There are poems on racism, social justice, science and economics. A number of pieces address the problem of depression and other mental health issues. In sum, the second phase of Lockdown proved an ideal vehicle for the group’s ‘Grim but Good’ approach to poetry.
Whatever the future holds, it is obvious that these are extraordinary and unprecedented times. Not only are we beset by a global health crisis, the early 2020s are troubled by race riots, economic chaos, political instability and a generalised frustration with social distancing. Posterity will look back on this astonishing year as either a startling aberration or the beginning of a new world. At the time of writing (July 2020), there are widespread fears of a second spike of Covid-19 infections undoing all previous containment efforts. Whatever the outcome, our two poetic diaries will stand as a fascinating mirror to these difficult times.”
Both anthologies have been collected by the Stockport archives. Some of the poems featured in both books have been recorded – you can watch them all at the bottom of this page.
*(Write Out Loud is a national poetry organisation with branches nationwide)
Amanda Steel, Andy Cash, Andy Millican, Andy N, David Keyworth, Dorinda MacDowell, Ed Whyman, John F Keane, Linda Cosgriff, Martin Elder, Nicola Hulme, Nigel Astell, Valerie Judge