Spreading kindness: a tribute to online poetry communities

The margins of decision-making can be fine. This morning I awoke with a mild sore throat and a headache. In normal circumstances I would not give any thought to these very minor symptoms: but these are not normal times and, being a dutiful citizen, I contemplate the need to self-isolate. 

Until this moment self-isolation, like bungee jumping or writing fiction, has been something for other people. Now I consider the implications. No visits from my children and grandchildren. No walks in the park or coffee with a friend. No outings to the gym or browsing in a bookshop. Not even a trip to the supermarket.

How fortunate, then, that we live in the age of the internet, of WhatsApp and Facetime and online deliveries. Physical isolation does not preclude social interaction, albeit via smartphone or computer monitor. And in a society that so often seems riddled with fault lines of division, we should cherish our online communities of support.

There is so much uplifting kindness in poetry cyberspace. Since graduating from the Open University, I have remained in email contact with my creative writing tutor group, a delightfully eclectic mix of people. We celebrate each other’s publication successes, share stories about pets, cheer each other up in difficult times and fantasise about decamping together to a desert island complete with coconuts, Bear Grylls and adequate supplies of appropriate snacks and beverages. After years of reading and commenting on each other’s poems, we have become good friends even though some of us have never met face-to-face.

The internet is home to a number of excellent literary journals, each with its own distinctive style, that are free to read online. The Amethyst Review, which publishes new writing almost on a daily basis, is my go-to website for poetic spiritual sustenance, especially valuable in these chaotic times. 

Another frequently updated site, The Ekphrastic Review, has enhanced my appreciation of familiar paintings and introduced me to many other works of art via the medium of poetry.

Joanne Growney’s blog is a treasure trove of mathematical poems, illuminating both the wonder and the solace of mathematics.

Black Bough Poetry, which focusses on micro-poetry, published its first edition less than a year ago. Under editor Matthew M C Smith it has grown rapidly, not only into a highly respected and beautifully illustrated digital publication, but also as the focal point for a vibrant, positive and supportive Twitter community. 

Some of my other favourite online poetry sources include Allegro Poetry,  Amsterdam QuarterlyAtrium,  bath maggBarren MagazineThe Fib Review and  As Above So Below. Of course, there are many more and I would love to hear about your personal favourites.

All of these free online journals depend on editors who give voluntarily and generously of their time. The editors are also almost invariably encouraging and supportive, even when delivering a message of rejection. I salute them with gratitude. 

Thanks to them, I will have plenty to read during self-isolation!

Posted on 20th March 2020.

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