Poetry for a Pandemic: "QUEENSBOUND" Speaks from the Center of COVID-19

In the midst of the pandemic, each of us is forced to wrestle with issues of life, mortality, and survival. Poems are something to comfort us while we're at home in isolation, missing other people and other voices. With their meter and rhythm, poems are the heartbeat of the world.

"Without stories, we can't go on." poet KC Trommer says, "Telling the stories of a place and of a time is a means of preserving it."

Aboard the 7 train–a veritable International Express–you travel through immigrant communities from the Philippines, Ireland, India, Bangladesh, Tibet, and many more. With 150 nationalities and 138+ languages, Queens is richer in language and more crowded with culture than any other stretch of land in America.

Queens is full of stories, and so is QUEENSBOUND, a community-building literary project created by Trommer that kicked off in November of 2018, when poets and friends of poets gathered on a 7-train platform and boarded the first car. At each Queens station until Mets Stadium, a poet read a poem to the commuters. Surrounded by a symphony of spoken images and narratives, it was an exhilarating ride through the borough and its many worlds.

Queensbound: Telling the Stories of Queenswww.youtube.com

April is National Poetry Month, and Trommer had another subway poetry reading scheduled for Saturday the 18th. Unfortunately, Queens is the epicenter of the COVID-19 epicenter, so no one's going anywhere anytime soon.

Luckily, QUEENSBOUND 2020 is still happening, even if the venue has changed. The art collective can be accessed via its website, which includes 33 recorded poems embedded in a subway map of Queens, laying bare rich tales from Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador, China, and all four corners of the earth. QUEENSBOUND will serve as an archive, a snapshot, a time capsule for this age.

To see the map and hear the poems, please visit: www.Queensbound.com.

"Epicenter" by KC Trommer

For Jackson Heights

Silence has come to our city and now,

at seven, we throw open the windows—

to clap, and cheer, and scream, and beat the drums.

It feels so good to scream; crying takes too much.

Where there were cars and planes, now sirens wail

along the way to Elmhurst, the swinging

doors of the ER opening to receive

so many neighbors, both known and unknown.

When I teach, a student points to the break,

a caesura in the heart of a poem

opening like a street, to allow safe

passage. Why did the poet choose this? she asks.

Why break it there? And every answer

I summon sends me back to the window—

KC Trommer is an award-winning poet who developed the QUEENSBOUND project as part of a larger ambition to help develop and collect a literature of Queens. The recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize and the 2015 Fugue Poetry Prize, Trommer's essays have appeared in VIDA Review, LitHub, and others. She is the author of We Call Them Beautiful (Diode Editions, 2019) and The Hasp Tongue (dancing girl press, 2014).

More from Trueself