FPC 2021 KEYNOTE SPEECH: Poets, Poetry and the Pandemic | Elizabeth Ita

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a significant privilege for me to convey, for the LOC Festival Poetry Calabar 2021, this Keynote at this epoch occasion titled – Finding Meaning in Madness.

Why this theme?

A large part of the world—climate health, public health, general wellbeing, etc.—is largely uncertain and vulnerable. Poetry has always provided the possibility to investigate the obscure or unknown and assist people in making sense of it.

Poetry can be a wellspring of distraction, of excellence, of beauty, of truth. It can direct us when it gets hard to deal with the intensity of our feelings. So it’s not unexpected that individuals have found solace in poetry this past year. Everywhere over the last year, there was a Zoom workshop, a Zoom reading, an e-magazine, online classes—all dedicated to poetry.

Poetry has famously thrived in the midst of crises —including pandemics past—because of poets and essayists stirred by anguish and disarray, from Boccacio’s Decameron in the fourteenth century to Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague in 1912 to Camus’ 1947 The Plague to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera in 1985. In modern times, the energizing impact of Amanda Gorman’s reading at the Presidential Inauguration on January 20th is a valid example. Not long after conveying her poem, the young poet became a viral sensation, and in a solitary day Gorman pulled in multiple million Instagram devotees. Her poem struck a nerve in a moment of public unrest.

People need connection. Poetry is all about this and poets are particularly great at communicating. People want to recount their story, and they need to hear one another’s. People who wrote poetry in high school and halted at a point were afforded the opportunity to pick up again through the abundance of online open mics and online classes during the pandemic.

One reason poetry has given us comfort this past year is on the grounds that it’s an incredible medium for managing crisis/change. Poetry is dependably what people go to in times of struggle – A way to react, to deal with a large occasion like the demise of a loved one, birth, war, and more. It has consistently deepened and extended our consciousness of an event.

Also I feel that we are in general turning to poetry as a method of capturing and naming this immense change that all of us are going through together right now.

It can be very hard to find meaning in brutal conditions, yet we can find meaning when we are willing to look within ourselves.

The demonization of chaos or madness has about three side effects worth naming.

In the first place, it can leave us feeling like disappointments: I don’t like messes. I don’t like things out of control. I prefer a life that’s ordered to the extent that I can help it — to know where I’m going and to move there with purpose. The trouble is, life is rarely direct. I’ve learned the hard way that chaos is part of life. Regardless of how cautious our plans or arrangements are, things turn out badly—goals misfire, connections break, and timetables overheat.

In the event that we expect chaos to be an indication of weakness, we become oblivious to the moments of beauty that are essential for our every day, cluttered lives. The truth of the matter is, it’s often in chaos & mayhem that we laugh most generously, feel most profoundly, and reach out most promptly for the assistance of others.

Second, it can deny us opportunities for growth & development: Be that as it may, the hard truth is: things prosper amidst turmoil. Chaos brings forth life and wisdom; it generates persistence, patience, modesty, and reliance. However much we may hate to let it be known, we develop as much in chaos as we do by calm streams.

Life has forever been eccentric and loaded with uncertainty and vulnerability. Regularly, stress, nervousness and pressure happens when you contend energetically to change something you can’t change. The serenity prayer says – God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

You can’t control the chaos. You can just change you… your thoughts, contemplations and your activities. Furthermore this is truly uplifting news… to zero in on what you CAN control – YOU!

Third, it can stifle creativity & inventiveness: However, it’s a reality of nature that amidst disarray, the dynamism of growth & development thrives. The absolute most dumbfounding magnificence on the planet streams normally from chaos. Amidst these, there is one affirmation of chaos that is the most profound of all. Scriptures have shown on numerous occasions that chaos & turmoil can be the power, the insight, the wisdom and the opportunity of God in our midst.

In any case, nothing awful has at any point occurred without something great shaping afterward. Indeed, even the absolute most horrifying occasions throughout history have had positive outcomes spring from them. This is the dualistic nature of the world we live in. At times it rains, other times it doesn’t.

Many times, we seek to inquire why there is so much chaos in the world. It’s basic truly – Contrast. Without the chaos, we wouldn’t have order. Contrast is fundamental for everything to exist for what it’s worth. Without the bad, we will underestimate the good and take it for granted.

Albeit this is a generally notable truth, it tends to be extremely hard to consider when we are trapped amidst some awful misfortune or debacle. However, have confidence that when the dust settles and the smoke disappears, clearness and clarity will come. Also with this clarity, we will find that everything serves a purpose.

Every storm in the long run blurs into clear skies and each dim night gradually transforms into sunlight. Similarly as the diamond is birthed out of outrageous strain and heat, we also are changed into a more unadulterated and refined adaptation of ourselves through our torment and difficulties. Life will continually carry awful occasions alongside the good. Our extraordinary test is to make peace with both; for there in the center is where the meaning of life hide in plain sight.

One of the gifts of the pandemic is time. Also with time, assuming you have a calling as a poet or a creative with diverse forms of expression, you honor that, you explore that. You must be daring and open to challenging yourself. Writing and reading poetry is a gift we give one another; that we offer to one another.

Creativity & inventiveness consistently emerges from torment and injury. It is something that perhaps the pandemic has amplified. What we do at this very moment, through our words, our art, through whatever expression we can convey, is to spread hope through our craft.

It is vital to expound on the difficult, the dim, and the broken parts of our reality since we need to survive it and afterward we need to figure out how to process and deal with it. In any case, we need poetry to remind us why the world merits saving and also how we can take better care of ourselves.

That is how poetry gives us hope every day. Also in any event, when the pandemic is over, poetry will be here for us, holding room for escape and relief.

Elizabeth Ita is the Executive Secretary of Festival Poetry.

Leave a Reply