Gaye: the pandemic through a poetic lens
Poetry is a way for Gaye Manwaring to express ideas and emotions. Here, the recently retired lecturer shares her response to the Covid-19 pandemic written early on in lockdown.
Degree: PhD in Biochemical Genetics, 1973
Current treasured object: My father’s letters. He was a pilot in World War Two and after he died a couple of years ago I found over 400 letters he wrote to my mother detailing his experiences. I have edited them and added comments and they are being published in a book next year. I have been looking forward to the reopening of the Air Museum in Montrose as they have all his photographs.
Song of the moment: ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ is an old favourite in spite of the mixed metaphors it contains.
Retirement and lockdown have merged since I retired from my job as Senior Lecturer at the University of Dundee at the end of April 2020. As such, I do not have a baseline for my new normal. I am doing some academic writing with a colleague by email and phone. I live a few hundred yards from the River Tay so daily walks are a delight, and I also meditate regularly and practise mindfulness.
I enjoy writing poetry as a concise way of expressing ideas and emotions. For several years I was in a writing group and we shared all our poems and stories. I often write poems in the visitors’ book when going to tourist attractions. As soon as possible my husband and I are keen to take a few trips in our motorhome.
Early in lockdown, I started writing a poem in response to the pandemic. The clapping verse came first and added the rest over the next week, changing the sequence a few times.
The daily death lists on the news
Give us all pause for thought.
So many grieving families,
So many lives cut short.
Unemployment is set to rise.
In a worldwide catastrophe
Who picks up the pieces?
Key workers are all so busy,
Stressed and inundated.
Stay-at-homes are idle, feeling
Worthless and frustrated.
Isolated from our neighbours,
Yet every Thursday night
We venture out onto the street
And clap for all our might.
The kindnesses of the strangers
Passing you in the street.
They smile with open hopefulness
Although you never meet.
With letters, emails and skype
We contact our old friends,
And promise to maintain the links
When this hard lock-down ends.
A host of golden daffodils
Are dancing in the breeze
Oblivious to the virus.
A lovely sight to please!
Mating birds and bright spring flowers
Display their brilliance,
Encourage us to do the same –
Show our resilience.
Coal tits are nesting in the wall
And foraging for worms.
Nature carries on regardless
In no uncertain terms.
Restless waves still wash the beaches,
How can we try to turn the tide
On this huge pandemic?
We tend the garden, clean the house,
Watching our plans shatter.
On reflection we now we know it’s
Those we love who matter.
With faith and hope and charity
We’ll fight austerity.
We’ll strive to build a better world,
© Gaye Manwaring, 29 April 2020
If you remember Gaye and would like to reconnect, please get in touch – she would love to hear from you.