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Emoji Poetry and COVID-19

What’s the emoji for no emoji? As TS Eliot once said (or maybe as Ezra Pound edited) “April is the cruelest month.”

What about during the pandemic? By the way, let’s hope when we say “the” pandemic there will only be one for our entire lives. Rather than, “the first pandemic” or “the pandemic of 2020.”

At the start of quarantine and lockdown the world collapsed. Every time I read the news—which I tried not to— the information was worse and worse.

Until one day I read a headline about delayed emojis. That’s something I could handle. I thought.

Emoji poetry was the result.

The Emoji for HazMat Suit

I started working on a poem about the abandoned emojis. The problem was, if any year needed a new mode for expression, 2020 took the cake.

What’s the emoji for quarantine? Or isolation? Or Zoom bomber?

The next day I saw a neighbor being shoveled into the back of an ambulance while the paramedics wore full HazMat suits.

Surrealism reigned. What’s the emoji for alternate reality?

April is the cruelest month.

Poetry as the Emojis of Words

I’m pretty sure writing “poetry as the emojis of words” would get my MFA revoked if there was such a thing as poetry police.

But poetry at its heart is supposed to convey in economy the complexity of existence. Robert Frost’s “Fire & Ice” was the emoji for emotionally defrosting during Armageddon before you could download a brand new emoji keyboard on your iPhone.

As for the news: how could emojis be delayed by COVID-19? If there was an emoji for COVID-19 wouldn’t it be a big question mark?

When I was younger people swore in comic books like this: #*@!

Oh to live in a world where hashtags are the consonants and vowels of curse words again.

Postponing the Emojis

When The Deadline asked to include “Postponing the Emojis” in one of their issues it seemed just right. A print journal (print journals still exist) laboring (all journals are thankless work) to preserve poetry (the emojis of literature) amidst a pandemic (again, let’s hope “the” pandemic).

As for TS Eliot and Ezra and the genealogy of America’s melting pot of poetry, you can learn more about my take on that —and April—in “You’re Probably in Japan by Now” (originally published by Hanging Loose Press) on my publications page.

All of this is a collage of sorts— the personal and the cultural. The specific. The abstract. Emoji poetry.

For some of my visual collages created during the pandemic make sure to visit my portfolio.

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