(Photo by Shannon Wolf)
April is National Poetry Month, and the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered this year’s celebration forcing poets to explore new ways to share their art.
Portland poet, musician and Torah teacher, Alicia Jo Rabins, has been writing unfiltered, open-hearted poems that encapsulate her personal experience while resonating widely during these uncertain times.
Like people around the world, Rabins struggles to reconcile our new reality and myriad unknowns with the quotidian elements of sheltering in place: home-schooling her children, balancing work and parenting, connecting to her heritage and ancestors, and managing anxiety. At the end of each long day of navigating these elements, Rabins finds solace in a hot bath – and in poetry, as she writes a daily “bathtub pandemic” to help make sense of this unprecedented time.
Rabins’ ongoing series of Bathtub Pandemic Poems has been featured on WBEZ, Chicago’s NPR News Source as well as Oregon NPR’s daily news show, “Think Out Loud,” which described them as “raw and beautiful and vital.”
She also performed on April 13 for Artslandia’s “Happy Hour,” which features live performances, interviews and conversations on arts-related topics at 5 pm Monday-Friday on Artslandia’s Facebook page. Founded in 2008, Artslandia offers the Facebook Live events to bring the arts to people in their homes and to give artists a platform, an audience and ability to earn a little money.
Find date, time and links at aliciajo.com/events/
April 29: My Jewish Learning, poetry sessions
5:30 pm Fridays: Kveller family kabbalat shabbat
May 4: Poetry workshop for Ritualwell – Seven Writing Workshops for the Omer: Poets and liturgists take turns to lead a weekly online writing workshop – one each week during the counting of the Omer. Rabins will lead the May 4 workshop entitled “Poetry as Spiritual Autobiography.”
May 8: The Union for Reform Judaism will host Rabins for a virtual session “Making Art in the Wilderness, Making Sense of Confusing Times.” Rabins will discuss how can poetry and music can help us understand our own experiences. She will read poems written through the pandemic experience, as well as performing songs from her Girls in Trouble song cycle about women in Torah – focusing on moments when these characters lived through their own challenging situations.
May 27: Soul Spa.
FROM BATHTUB PANDEMIC POEMS
Unfiltered reflections on a worldwide pandemic from a bathtub in Portland.
as our ancestors
painted their doorposts
with lamb’s blood
stayed inside and held
their children close
we wash our hands
wipe down our shopping carts and keep our kids
off the playground
for the first time in their lives
in this plague spring
when the leaders fail us
we try to keep each other alive we are midwives
of solitude and survival
when a baby is born
a mother touches the membrane between life and death
and is forever changed
as we are changed
by this shadow
closer every day
what is there to do
but lift up what we love
chanting pass over us,
angel of death, pass over
us all, turn back into the myth you used to be before
you became the news
Read more poems by Alicia Jo Rabins at: aliciajo.com.