There’s a quote from Seamus Heaney that’s been popping up a lot on social media: “If we can winter this one out, we can summer anywhere.” It strikes a much-needed note of optimism. Many assume the line is from a poem when it isn’t; Heaney said it in an interview when he was discussing the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Yet the line’s sudden popularity speaks to a seemingly new yearning that we have for poetry. Answering the question, “Why have so many people turned to poetry in the past few weeks?” has become something of a cottage industry.
There are, of course, many reasons why poets can comfort us in a crisis, especially in Ireland, where poetry is held in special regard, and where literary readings and festivals are as commonplace as the rain. With everything cancelled and festivals migrating online, it’s no surprise that this year’s Poetry Day Ireland will feature in the culture even more prominently than usual.
Among the many events to mark the occasion is Doing Time, an all-day marathon of readings on The Holding Cell, an initiative started by Rozz and Simon Lewis for writers to live-stream readings from their living room. For those cocooning and alone in Ireland there is also The Poetry Line, where writers will phone you on Thursday to recite two reassuring poems. Reassurance is what we all need, so much so literature can seep into the news. The Irish national news even closed out one recent bulletin with a poem: Derek Mahon‘s “Everything is Going to Be All Right”.