By Alison Hackett
Although the coronavirus is still with us, we find ourselves in a different place with regards to Covid-19 compared to two years ago. No more lockdowns for one thing!
However, the experience of the pandemic, and all the fear and restrictions that came with it, is still a vivid memory for many.
But the healing power of poetry is proving to be a balm in these times.
For Chris Fitzpatrick, former consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital, Dublin, it was his love for poetry that helped him through his time on the medical frontline.
Writing poems on his phone
The poems that Chris wrote during the pandemic have recently been published by 21st Century Renaissance. This independent publisher has been endorsed as the Best Independent History Publishing Company in Dublin in the 2022 Irish Enterprise Awards sponsored by EU Business News.
During the pandemic, Chris had the role of Clinical Lead for Covid-19 vaccinations in the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group (HSE).
In this role, he came face to face on a daily basis with the anguish caused by Covid-19. In this environment Chris found healing for himself by typing poems on his phone in the breaks between treating patients.
His poems address the social contexts that were taking place at the same time as the pandemic. A powerful example is the list-poem of what to do when someone can’t breathe written at the time of the George Floyd murder.
As for many, the global pandemic did not place a pause on other significant events happening in people’s lives. For Chris and his family, the terminal cancer diagnosis of his younger brother, Declan, was a personal grief to deal with at the same time.
The experience of being with his brother, in the last few months of his life, is woven with tenderness into this collection. While poignant, these are life-enhancing. Declan was an ardent supporter of Liverpool football club. During his illness, he received a personal letter from Jürgen Klopp ending, “You’ll never walk alone”.
An “album” of poetry
While poetry collections are usually described as anthologies, the term “album” more accurately describes this inaugural work by Chris Fitzpatrick.
The poems encompass many experiences beyond the pandemic and his brother’s illness. Chris finds comfort in poets of the past, in Strictly Come Dancing, in what he’ll say to the woman at the supermarket checkout when it’s all over; and why Lionel Richie keeps emailing him.
His poems use a variety of forms, including rhythm, rhyme and haiku.
Written from his own experience, the fear, grief, laughter and joy Chris felt during the surreal years of 2020 and 2021 reflect the feelings of many.
The poems are untitled and can be considered a stream of consciousness rendered as a narrative of blank verse — for the everyman and everywoman.
The collection is called “Poetic Licence In A Time Of Corona”.
The healing power of poetry
Prior to studying medicine, Chris Fitzpatrick studied English. Throughout his medical career, he maintained a keen interest in the role the humanities play in medical education and training.
Chris is not alone in understanding the powerful healing ability of poetry.
In a 1997 study, The Journal of Poetry Therapy observed that “… the reading and thinking about poetry is a healing power, and the writing of poems in itself provides deep insight into the problems of the individual.
Both the poet and the reader find themselves expressing their fears, pains, hopes and goals in poems. And poems themselves have an ability to shape shift; be entirely private or a communal experience.”
In no uncertain terms, we, humanity, were looking for this in the wake of the pandemic.
Many media reports, from across the globe, shared how poetry was experiencing a resurgence within a month of the first lockdown being declared.
“Poetic Licence In A Time Of Corona” attests to the comfort poems can provide, even in the harshest of circumstances.
About the Author
Alison Hackett is the director and founder of the publishing house 21st Century Renaissance and author of The Visual Time Traveller, which was selected by an international jury for the Global Irish Design Challenge exhibitions of 2016 and 2017.