If there is one thing we’re learning, it’s that it is okay to not be okay.

It is good to call out for help, for advice, for a friend, or a word, or a string of words, like pearls, for something beautiful to connect us to one another in the face of sorrow.

That’s why The Poetry Society of New York and Pandemic Poems teamed up to offer each other a little help with a big project and to put out a call to poets globally: m’aider, come help me. On May Day 2020, PSNY and Pandemic Poems paired poets up from all over the world to collaborate on a series of Pandemic Poems. Poets were given a partner, a first line, and a last line. Each pair then worked together, going line for line, to co-create a sonnet in a single day. Throughout the day each poem traveled back and forth between partners until it was complete. Following this poetry exchange, PSNY and Pandemic Poems strung these sonnets together, one after the other, into a sonnet crown (or “corona”) of epic proportions!

How did this project come about?

The Poetry Society of New York (PSNY) was planning a relaunch of its collaborative poetry experiment, The Typewriter Project, in May of 2020 thanks to a grant from the Brooklyn Arts Council. The Typewriter Project’s mission has always been to investigate, document, and preserve the poetic subconscious of a people and a place in a moment in time. With the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, we realized we would either have to postpone the project indefinitely or find a way to pivot and fulfill the project’s mission in an unprecedented climate of fear, sorrow, and isolation.

That’s when we reach out to our friend, Kate Belew, who had recently launched Pandemic Poems. Pandemic Poems was created to help people connect to each other in times of isolation. Through the format of e-mail, Kate was making a place in cyberspace for poets to create with little pressure or expectation, except to remind one another that none of us are alone.

We proposed to Kate the concept of an epic sonnet crown not just because of the “corona” element, but because a sonnet is a poem with a problem to solve. We hope that together we all could write our way through this crisis, dig until we found the line that helped us remember where we were and what we learned.

The goal of this project was to turn a thousand voices into one beautiful sound, that we could all lift together and wear, like a crown