• Lending Whale

Pandemic Voices

It's just beginning to feel like Fall in Brooklyn with the temperatures cooling, inflatable and real pumpkins appearing in front of brownstones, and some leaves changing to yellow and falling to the sidewalks. We're late. The weather has been unseasonably warm, which I note mostly when I take out the recycling, or walk over to Smith or Court Streets to go to the pharmacy or grocery store. I'm more often indoors where the temperature is level. We are all still in the pandemic caused by COVID-19, and fast approaching the presidential election. Many have already mailed in their ballots, but I am going to vote in person, for change, on November 3rd.

This present period has birthed new publications or drawn more attention to issues related to the pandemic or invited younger voices to contribute.

Founded by Brian Druckenmiller in April, COVID LIT seeks to be more than anti-coronavirus and "use art to fight alongside the many victims of the many ills of the world." To this end, they would like each submission of work to their online literary journal to be accompanied by a donation of at least $3 to a charitable organization fighting hunger or racial injustice, or contribution to a GoFundMe site benefiting families who have suffered losses due to the virus. They have suggestions of organizations but you are welcome to choose one you already support. (I gave to Isabahlia Ladies of Elegance, an urban farm and community garden in Brooklyn when I sent in a poem.) You donate first and then send proof when submitting your poetry, prose or flash prose on aspects of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. Their interests are broader than their name suggests. The $3 donation is a nod to the common (and I would say unfortunate) practice by some literary journals of charging a $3 reading fee for submissions. You can donate more than $3 but it won't change anything in your favor for their editorial process, which is good, and right. Examples of the calibre, style and subject range of contributors to COVID LIT include Carol Alexander's poem, Ciera Horton McElroy's story, and Christina Canalita's flash essay. This promising literary journal does seem to be late in posting a new issue but they are also in need of volunteers--2-3 readers and a social media manager. Help them out, or send in work.

Poetry X Hunger is an informal initiative begun in 2017 by Hiram Larew "focused on intentionally inspiring poetry that addresses the cause of preventing and eliminating hunger. The overall approach is to augment the traditionally cited, tragic hunger statistics with heartfelt, powerful poetry as an innovative way of reaching the public and public policy decision makers." Larew's degrees are in botany and plant pathology, and entomology, and his career has been with the U.S. Government's international agricultural sciences program. Poetry X Hunger sponsors annual World Food Day Poetry Competitions, provides prompts for writing and art, lists events for Maryland and D.C. poets, a library of documents on historic accounts of hunger, historic hunger poems, and interviews, as well as providing resources for teachers. Currently, there is a call for submissions for their Now More Than Ever pandemic project.

Founded by Ami Komai in Los Angeles, Bright Lite is a biannual, independent, reader-generated publication and digital platform created for adolescent and tween girls. What is unique about it is the inclusive space for readers to share. I have their "Reality" issue with a section of comics on coming-to-terms with various realities, drawn and written by Gaia Schneider, Mari Naomi, Liz Bolduc Sux, and Brooklyn Quick (seen above), and a section of "Recipes with the Caker, Jordan Rondel" including one for Miso Carmelized White Chocolate and Sesame Cake--those first two ingredients contrasting just enough to mellow each other's salty and too sweet qualities. A 12-year-old, Mary Cromley writes about "The Reality of Middle School Friendships", 18-year-old Bailey Bujnosek writes about the alternate reality Americans are currently enduring with her essay "Coping with Multiverse Theory" and Iris Apatow is interviewed on questions of reality, dreaming, and adult perspectives. Bright Lite also takes poems, journal entries, stories, photo essays. Next up is their issue on "Isolation". No call for submissions yet, but stay tuned.

Lately, and before this pandemic shutdown, I noticed that my poems addressed the theme of captive, and captivate. If you aren't experiencing Zoom fatigue or busy using the platform, you might like to attend my reading with Susana H. Case and Thomas Festa through Next Year's Words, a New Paltz Readers Forum, Wednesday, October 21st, at 7:30 pm, EST. The event includes an open mic. To attend, you must add your email to the Mailing List and then they will send you the Zoom link.

Be healthy, patient, and wise. Enjoy the autumn weather.

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