Sometimes I see a word or phrase or image appear in the news and I can virtually hear the poets and like-minded novelists running to their pretentious wee notebooks to scribble down ideas. In my Intro Poetry class I refer to it as the urge to write “Capital-I IMPORTANT” things. There’s a special stink to it when done poorly, which is about 99% of the time. “Social Distance: A Crown of Sonnets” (each volta is given an extra enjambment of two lines as a visual metaphor for the empty space between us), “Contact Tracing” (about crossing off names of dead friends in an address book), “Double Bubble” (in which the nostalgia for penny gum and Pud comics is juxtaposed against choosing which friends to see after a lack of human contact through enforced self-isolation), etc. You can count down the days (six months to one year, approx) to the time all the literary print journals will start being choked with Coronavirus poems and stories like a backyard full of goutweed (turnaround is about 2 weeks for online ones… go check). Anyway, maybe you should take your time, is what this dude is saying.
Now I’d be the last person to knock writers who have the good sense and the good luck to get paid for their work. So on one hand, I say bravo to all the writers with freshly inked contracts for pandemic books. On the other hand, I would like to make a simple plea, especially to the writers of poetry and fiction: don’t rush, take your time, let the current horrors seep in deep before you try to make art out of this nightmare we’re all living through. For inspiration, novelists and poets and short story writers should look at the examples set by two writers, one from the 18th century, the other working today.