Verse in a Time of Turmoil


“Poetry aims in every possible way to reaffirm the world that we actually inhabit, in all its vital, messy, beautiful, tragic reality. It is not so much the case that poetry makes nothing happen as that it attempts to reveal what is already happening, to offer a context to events and so propose a means by which the noise of time can be re-experienced as the music of what happens.” So Scottish writer John Burnside wrote in his book,  The Music of Time: Poetry in the Twentieth Century.  


While we all enjoy reading poetry, do we feel that the words of poets can effect change?  


My Grade 7 class has been studying historical fiction and to build on this, we moved to conflict poetry looking at the works from Sigfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen through to Carol Ann Duffy.  But when it came to writing their poetry about conflict, the majority of the class moved straight to the now. I was surprised by their perspicacity. With conflict poetry, we had explored the two World wars, the Irish troubles and Vietnam, we had not studied on conflict arising from disease but they certainly had much to express.


The outcome were poems about the protests in Hong Kong, about Covid-19, and the reality of isolation.  Their poetry has laid bare their feelings in ways that many a pre-teen would be extremely uncomfortable with. However, they do so in poetry which is all about language, expression, and imagination. Our students have used this literary instrument to share their anxiety and the turmoil that this year has been, and also to show that we are part of a larger world, that what we are experiencing is beyond our control. Can the poetry of turmoil change our world?  


This poem was written in 2017 by Mary Jean Chan who lived as a child in Hong Kong during SARS in 2003. 


Wash your hands. Rub soap into foam into lost hands. Focus on the running tap, the way your hands momentarily disappear and you feel safe again. The bathroom is a place you can always rely on, in whatever country […]


She didn’t mean to write a SARS poem. However, the experiences of the city during that time stayed with her throughout her adult life. Similarly, the poetry our students write about this time in their lives may not change the world, but it may show the impact it has in their own lives.


I would like to share some of the poetry that Grade 7 penned.  In it, you will hear their fears, frustration, and wonder how this discombobulating experience will stay with them as adults. The poetry is anonymous by request.





Around the house the weird feeling 

not being able to see my brother, i

I am attached to a huge chain 

pulling me back 


I step outside, everything is forgotten 

I'm finally free

worries disappear

I walk my dog down the road

children laugh in the distance


My life in my home is like a prison

Everyday stays the same

I watched Television

Staying at home; being lame




Me being impatient for school to start

Me only going out for only four days a week.

Me being tired every morning on laptop

The worst part

Is that it feels like the world is gonna end.


Living in a Loop


I woke to another day

Same light through the same window

Same view to the same road


Is it yesterday?

Or is it tomorrow?

It wouldn’t differ

No will to consider 


Seeing the same project

No feeling to resurrect

Like a fish in a bowl

No will to control


When will it finish?

Would it just diminish?

Nothing will be equal

All scared and different people


All I hope is the change is good

So the loathe is understood

Maybe it was a lesson

In which we were blessed




The deadliest virus of all

At the end, Everyones gonna fall

Can’t stand being stuck at home

With no friends, you’re all alone


A few more months is what they say

A few more months I cannot take

It feels like we're never getting out 

All we do is wonder about


No fun, no running outside

No pools, can’t jump or dive

It’s like we’re under house arrest

Damn, It’s hard to survive




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