Thursday, 20 May 2021

One Hundred Lockdown Sonnets and The Oscillations

Jacqueline Saphra decided to chart her responses to the pandemic and lockdown in sonnet form. These responses are now published as One Hundred Lockdown Sonnets. She used a form she knew would give her structure and focus. It succeeds in giving a structure to the portrayal of a time where structures were collapsing and where we were all trying to find our way (and still are).

The sonnets look inwards and out, and, for me, express brilliantly the whole range of emotions and responses I have experienced. Some examples:

Sonnet XIX - the day to day - 'We do our best.'

Sonnet XXVII - all the things we thought we might do (were told that we could) - that didn't happen (like learning Cantonese and reading Plato!)

Sonnet XLVIII - the things we did/do and the veering between positive and negative - 'as we fall apart, reload, re-love, rewind.'

Sonnet LXIV - hope and despair, anger and fear - what can you do? 'get up, get clean, get dressed, get on with it.' 

Sonnet LXVIII - compassion and disconnection - 'you in your ocean, me in mine'.

Sonnet XCVII - how 'a tiny thing'  (a broken tooth and not being able to find a dentist) can shut out all thoughts but for yourself - and 'empathy, the world and all its suffering recede' - anger, loss of control. 'Who will fix my life?'

Sonnet C - 'we are not done'. 

There is humanity and humour throughout (and some very sharp anger). As someone still working out how to deal with it all, this has helped me to understand and accept my own experiences and feelings.


Kate Fox in The Oscillations also looks at the effects of the pandemic and the before/after worlds we are still trying to make sense of - the swings between despair and hope, sadness and anger and the attempts to bridge distances, to communicate, to feel less isolated.

In all the poems there is a real force to the emotions because they are not shouting - there is grief and anger and pain, but so subtly written. When they directly address the pandemic they confront the horror of it and then look for direction, for hope. For example, in Stump :

'So tell us again

about what always grows back


about slender shoots growing

from blasted stumps

green fishing rods into the future 

tender rebuttals to the torn out page

that used to be tomorrow.'

Many of the poems touch on neurodiversity and the different way the world is experienced by people with, for example, autism, which the poet has. There is a real thrill to poetry where we see the world differently through someone else's eyes, and through that, understand it better for ourselves. Now, more than ever, it helps us to connect with a world which is fragmented and, at times, very hard to navigate.


Both of these collections are from Nine Arches Press.

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