Wednesday, July 29, 2020

On Writing #177 : Sonia Di Placido

A Writer in A Pandemic
Sonia Di Placido

A Saturday Evening Covid Mood

I want to go swimming, even if it’s a city pool that people complain about being dirty and chlorinated or I want to go to the heated pool at the Sheridan Hotel for the day. I want to take the TO island ferry and go bike riding. I want to reinstate my contract in England for the summer that was shut down due to COVID19. I want to return to College Boréal and listen to the African and Caribbean French colonial students speak in their unique voluptuous manner while I head over to the ESL department and see my LINC students in person. I want to go to a Shopping Mall or Holt Renfrew and look at all the pretty things. I want to walk around downtown Toronto and check out Type books or Book city. I want to rent a mini convertible Italian fiat from Truro and get close to Grafton and go glamping at Whispering Springs. I want to drive by the lake, check out the farmland, and the small roads that go up and down in small hills and get lost among the spring beauty.  I want to enjoy the sunshine on glam days, feel free of anything that is about responsibility; I want a mini-momentary high. I want to head over to a winery and be shallow and silly among Canadian grapes. I want to go to the movie theatre. I want to attend readings where people always snicker at me or criticize because that’s what artists do when they’re uncomfortable, insecure or they feel they need to have their insights validated. I want to get on a plane and go to a Mediterranean rocky beach, scrape my leg among the jarred rocky salty earth; then I want to never ever return–just disappear, just like Ferrante’s Lila and Chopin’s Edna.

This was written in early April. All to fuel the inspiration for my own writing. So, I remain, frustrated and yet, grateful by what has been happening to our human world. Earth has no issue, but we do—our entire consideration of being is brought into question about our survival, our current existence and the ever evolving and yet, sameness of the Coronaviruses that plague humans and remind us of our frailty in the guise of nature’s unfathomable biological and evolutionary strands that grow us and eradicate us. The question is, in times like these, are we of the Earth or are we not of it?

A Writer in A Pandemic

Should I say it’s ‘A Writer’s Block’? Because I know it isn’t. I don’t feel in the least bit word blocked, thought blocked, creatively blocked, or unable to pour out blocked, but I do feel uninspired among states of infinite inspiration. A paradox of overwhelming proportions as the days flick away in my internal and external space, my room of one’s own. While in the midst of storytelling and a bildungsroman, character development, plotting, describing and the ever returning conversations of poetry 2-3 times a day, my thoughts are sometimes subdued to silence and I move closer to meditation. Overall, language is there, just pushing at the internal Escher-like wooden doors of the mind banging to burst out every few hours as I neglect them, chapters upon chapters, weeds growing over the frames of conflict, dialogue, voices competing for 1st, 2nd, 3rd; I want to opt for ‘we’. Is that 4th? But, why bother when the unknown now is so much more fascinating. To keep writing out some finite situation makes COVID so much more of an absolute while we (i) live caught in between its certainties and uncertainties. This speaks and feels of the essence as so much more of an infinite process compared to playing with a beginning, middle, and end during these shuttered in days. Drawing out fine lines, sentences of form, are good and what is good knows or has beauty and their being is then one. Is COVID good, if it is good, then it must be beautiful too, Thomas Aquinas and I contemplate or argue? What is beauty? What’s pleasing to the eye. Then, it’s absolutely good. Rhetoric among COVID days, now weeks. Breath is beauty. Confinement is form, is it not? Put the two together and they can become good. Good enough to write or sing?

Writing into COVID, Summer 2020

Well, well into five months later, a myriad of thoughts have come to mind. Nietzsche’s Eternal Recurrence when it comes to viral contagions and the spaces between Beast and Uber-mensch. Being of a strong European, Colonial Canadian 1st generation, how do ‘we’ are fortunate, how does the ‘I’ rise above? How does our species cope, contemplate, resolve moral implication with fact if there were no moral or spiritual concepts to contend with about what the human consciousness is learning? I write this. I write all this. I am engaged in the space of Plagues and Pandemics. I scour news head-lines, I listen, I scrutinize journalism and social media for its chaotic and various messages. Do I feel connected? No. I feel inundated, drowning in a convoluted digitized matrix. I am engaged in a linear and non-linear contemplation and writing about it here. What of virus in the past? What of virus in the present? What of virus in the future? What have we known and learned? What have we witnessed? Experienced? What do we see now? What can be tomorrow? And so, I write, to appease the confusion of what we know and what we forget and how memory eludes us and how our species is, once again, awakened, same, but different to Coronavirus. A poem:

COVID Awakening

Every morning there is an unheard heave,
an imperceptible limp in the chest—a heart
beats its echolocation underneath
                     an earplugged nausea
wrangled limbs retort from their serene blood flow.
You awaken alarmed with a crawl to consciousness:
isolate, is that how we are meant to hear ourselves rising?
The hot breath will say, “I should have listened more
to the inner conversations at dawn.” Now yawn,
sit up, you are not this virus                   an undead essence
stand apart              with the living.

Currently, now the final week of July, I am more regularly engaged in a novel, also an MFA Thesis, that began its recesses as of late Summer 2019, prior to COVID. Ironically, the research I delved into also was related to a previous plague and we now know that the COVID coronavirus began its meanderings as of October 2019. I find this ironically synchronous and as such, by March, the Pandemic has raised questions about what I ought to continue with and include in my story. COVID has also affected my consistency in writing. I stopped writing my initial manuscript as of late winter and used various excuses. The anxiety, the change of in class teaching to being relegated to Zoom teaching online and how that takes up so much time and causes further exhaustion being online while feeling overwhelmed, unhinged to organization locked-in at home. Now, the Pandemic in Canada, though ever present has overridden the curve and most of the deaths and the rising virus has slowed down. The state of emergency, for now, has subsided. However, come Autumn, when viruses that attack lungs during change of season become a dominant influenza flying airborne, I wonder at what will come and how, once again, our species and our nation will be affected. I anticipate that Toronto will be vulnerable and being more accustomed to this, I can burrow myself into my Garret and focus more intently on writing, which actually is a prized thing. I am able to go ‘in’ more succinctly, deeply, unfettered by the noise of the outside world and thus far, I am more well-practiced at it, looking less to the external world for validation, both physical movement and in-person social exchange. At this time, I am able to write more fluidly, with stronger focus. Should I thank COVID for its arrival to threaten our species, should I console myself with the mere sensibility that this is an ever-cyclical aspect of each century’s turnabout for the human species to override (easy-ride?) and overcome. I am waiting to see my grandmother. I am wondering at where that will and can lead. I haven’t visited her since early February. Today, I am broken and the truth that so many people have been helpless in such circumstances. For the most part, I accept it and I am amazed at my grandmother’s resilience so far among her isolation at 89 years old. I do not know if she will know me, were I to see her again later this year or if at all? The phone and zoom are the only possibilities to awaken her and remind her that we are ever present. I remain in limbo and so I write to convey, to disparage, to, in my aloneness, assimilate myself to all those that are COVID bound one they’ve had the virus enter them. I am just a writer. I am not a nurse, I am not a healer, but I hope my words provide some consolation. Of course, for myself, yes. For the reader as well.

A COVID Prayer

Dear Flowers, please tell Mother Earth below and above that I want a better world. Please tell her that she can trust me to help make a better world, but before I can do that, I have to know if I can trust her. Will she please protect me and take care of me? So that I have shelter and food and that by giving me what brings me joy here gratitude is received from my essence. Whenever there came a crack to every time I see the crack or cracked and become afraid to believe it's wrong, there's going to be some other light coming through from her that reveals some former blindness of my own small mind and allows for a larger flowering of mine own unique expression that emphasizes love, but before this process is dropped on me full force so that I don't die tomorrow into ascending pure light, I need some darkness to enjoy her world--this earth, its oceans, and animals. In other words, before I leave this place, or whatever is 'I'...Can my 'I' please get to experience some more of what is called gratitude. I want to travel once more to lie in an ocean and I want to breathe with it once again. Dear Mother Earth, I know you'll hear my prayer because I ask for gratitude during my time here, while I am flawed and cause upheaval, despite this, I am one of your children and I know you get stronger with and also want to share in my own unique expression of gratitude.

Sonia Di Placido
July 26, 2020

Sonia Di Placido is a poet, writer, and editor. She has published poetry with Jacket2, Canthius, Minola Review, Juniper, The Puritan, White Wall Review, Carousel, and The California Journal of Women Writers. More recent poems can be found in the Fall 2019, Issue 9 of The Temz Review. Poems about COVID have been read live with Periodicities.  Sonia is currently completing her thesis for the MFA in Creative Writing with the University of British Columbia. She works part-time as a sessional instructor of English for Academic Purposes, ESL and LINC at College Boréal. In September 2016, she attended The China Writers' Association International Residency for the cities of Tianjin, Binhai, and Beijing. Exaltation in Cadmium Red was published by Guernica Editions in 2012. Flesh, by Guernica Editions was published in Fall 2018. Here book was reviewed in Quill and Quire's November 2018 issue. For more information:

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