Poems for surviving COVID
July 16th, 2020
Prior to COVID-19, Nanaimo author Kim Goldberg was facing mortality from the onslaught of not one but two cancers.
She turned to poetry — a quirky, absurdist poetry. Those poems were published this spring in her collection, Devolution (Caitlin $18) and have taken on new relevance in the current pandemic.
“I call Devolution my personal act of extinction rebellion,” says Goldberg. “And by that, I mean extinction rebellion at both a planetary and individual level.
“I worked on the poems and fables in Devolution for 10 years. For the last four of those years, I was engaged in the fight of my life against two different cancers. Both cancers are currently in remission, I am happy to report. It was as though the collapse of ecosystems reported daily in headlines was mirrored in my own collapsing body via some perverse pas de deux.
“But my mind, being what it is, was only able to translate disaster of this magnitude into weirdness and even playfulness. The more the world burned and the more dilapidated my own body became, the kookier and more ridiculous my poems grew. In the end, this proved to be my healing path—seizing absurdity from the jaws of annihilation.”
Goldberg’s poems can be humorous, if slightly disturbing fables, as in Rabbits when the landscape “got up and walked away.” Not knowing what to do, “suspended in empty space,” the rabbits take to rampantly copulating. Soon an anti-copulation law is passed but the rabbits have enough progeny to repeal the law and instead “enact new laws mandating the construction of sexual amusement parks in every town.” Eventually a new landscape arrives.
In A tall girl, Goldberg imagines a girl wandering the beach at low tide, co-mingling with “shells, stones, a stray feather, bits of coloured glass buffed smooth as pebbles.” The girl carries a satchel woven from grass from which she pulls out and strews “shells, stones, a stray feather, bits of coloured glass buffed smooth as pebbles.” Then, elegantly, beautifully, “she brings out a cool breeze and lets it go.”
Goldberg is known for reality-bending poems, which have appeared in many magazines and anthologies. She holds a degree in biology and is an avid birdwatcher and field naturalist. Before turning to poetry, she was a freelance journalist covering environmental issues.