Poems from the pandemic

Poet Cheryl Moskowitz has collaborated with schools in Enfield on her new poetry collection
Poet Cheryl Moskowitz has collaborated with schools in Enfield on her new poetry collection

Alastair Gavin on how a new poetry book has been inspired by local schoolchildren’s experiences of lockdown

In June and July, as schools began to re-open, Enfield Council took the inspired decision to distribute a pandemic-related poetry collection for free to every year six pupil in the borough.

The Corona Collection – A Conversation is a new book of poems by poet and educator Cheryl Moskowitz, who has close links to many schools in Enfield, including Highfield Primary School in Winchmore Hill where she had a unique three-and-a-half-year tenure as poet-in-residence.

Shortly after the lockdown was announced at the end of March, Cheryl started writing poems to document children’s experiences of the pandemic, inspired by conversations she had with children and their families in her local neighbourhood and also with pupils and staff remaining at schools. She wrote this poem as a conversation starter:

Just supposing… you woke up tomorrow and there weren’t all these rules

like YOU HAVE TO STAY HOME! and YOU CAN’T GO TO SCHOOL!

And whatever you wished for; where to go, what to do,

who to be with, how many; was all up to you.

Where would it be, doing what, and with whom?

Would you go to the park or fly up to the moon?

You could go on a picnic or stay in your room.

If you woke up tomorrow, restrictions all lifted,

what kind of a world would you want to be gifted?

The responses revealed important truths about what children (and adults) were valuing and missing most, and their hopes for the world post-coronavirus. By the end of May, the collection had grown to 48 poems, exciting the interest of Linda Stone, the council’s head of curriculum standards, who saw the poems as an ideal way to complement the personal, social, health and economic curriculum, and arranged for the printing and distribution of 4,300 copies to year six pupils who were going back to school, as well as those remaining at home.

These were accompanied by specially-written physical and digital resources to encourage valuable conversations around mental health and wellbeing. The national children’s literature organisation Pop Up Projects also got involved and printed 2,000 copies for distribution to its 56 partner schools nationwide.

Councillor Rick Jewell, the council’s cabinet member for children and education, described the poetry collecton as “a fantastic example of how the glorious richness of the poetry culture in Enfield is helping people through these tough times and sparking really important conversations”.

Cheryl hopes that other education authorities and organisations nationwide will be inspired to follow Enfield’s lead and take up the collection in their areas.

For more information:
Visit coronacollectionpoetry.com