2 September 2021

apart: a year of pandemic poetry and prose
Edited by Courtney Bates-Hardy and Dave Margoshes
Published by Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild
Review by Toby A. Welch
$24.95 ISBN 9780968845172

I have a hunch that as our lives return to a more normalized state, this book will become even more powerful. When Covid is a distant memory, the stories will take us back to this time filled with chaos and uncertainty. What a great permanent record! This book will not collect dust as time passes. 

I have never recommended a book as good for every member of the human race but this one I do. Every one of us has been touched by Covid, directly or indirectly. We are all dealing with the effects that the virus brought into our world. Having a book that chronicles the anxiety and emotions of this period in our lives is invaluable. 

apart is made up of both poetry and essays (and one awesome screenplay tossed in to mix things up.) Some are short and some are lengthy. One of the most powerful pieces is on page two, a poem by Mary Maxwell made up of four words repeated over and over again: Covid, Trump, News, and Fear. That poem immediately transported me back to the early days of Covid when stress levels were at an unprecedented high for all of us. 

As with all books made up of compilations from numerous writers (in this case, 74 individual works by 68 authors), there will be some pieces that speak to you more than others. For me, Jill Robinson’s story of her divorce and her neighbour’s death right when Covid first hit Canada struck a chord. I was also touched by Paula Jane Remlinger’s poem, Paradox, which detailed the struggles of leaving the safety of your home to go out into the Covid-filled world. Diners in a Dangerous Time by dee Hobsbawn-Smith perfectly described the importance of food during the pandemic, including the struggles so many people have with anosmia (the loss of your sense of smell). All the stories and poems appealed to me as we are all experiencing many of the same emotions regarding Covid.

My heart strings were yanked a lot as I worked my way through apart. Some of the stories were gut-wrenching and I shed more than one tear by the end. But there was an underlying current of optimism that ran through this book. It reaffirmed that we will all get through this pandemic together and be stronger for it on the other side. 

I cannot recommend strongly enough that you pick up a copy of apart. It is a tome you will come back to often as the years pass. This book is a fantastic chronicle of one of the most chaotic times in human history.  


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