Poets in Lockdown 5: Andrea Holland

Our final poet is Andrea Holland who I had the pleasure of teaching with at a residential poetry course in Portugal in 2018.  We had been living in the same city and attending the same events for many years but, like ships in the night, had never properly met.  We bonded in the remote farmhouse which served as the base for the poetry residential, set in the hills outside the beautiful town of Silves. 

So, Andrea, how was lockdown in Norwich? 

…what has your experience of lockdown been like? Be as poetic as you like - extended metaphors welcome... 

Sons, sun, some stress, some fun…and Zoom meetings galore


Have you been able to write? And if so, has your writing focus changed? Did you surprise yourself? 

I’ve surprised myself by writing three poems that are (obliquely?) related to Covid19, having initially thought I wouldn’t write any. But they were all inspired by ‘outside’ sources: a letter from aanada’s social distancing guidance, and another news story about ‘murder hornets’! 

Any good lockdown reading recommendations? 

I’ve just finished reading a powerful essay/memoir: Shame on Me: An Anatomy of Race & Belonging by my colleague, Tessa Watt; it’s a profound study of the body, race and what we inherit. I’ve started Carolyn Forché’s What You Have Heard is True, documenting her time in El Salvador in the late 70’s; a testimony of witness much as her renowned collection of poems The Country Between Us.  I’m also reading her new collection, In The Lateness of the Year; Carolyn was my tutor at the Uni Massachusetts over two decades ago…she is such an important poet to me and to many others and it’s been a real pleasure reading new poems after a good long time. One more! Kevin Young performing Ode to Gumbo on YouTube has had a bit of a hold on me during lockdown.  

What is the most important thing you have discovered about yourself in lockdown? 

That I need to walk without purpose every day, that I had neglected to notice the minutiae and variegation in the world right outside my door: sparrows, fern fronds, slow clouds, the pattern in bricks… I have learned to remember to stop and breathe deeply and I’ve learned that I cannot live without a radio. 

Have you discovered any good lockdown poetry events on-line you would recommend? 

The Cúirt poetry festival (specifically, Carolyn Forché and Kei Miller in conversation)

https://youtu.be/QLBR__dXbGY and Jacqueline Saphra’s Zoom book launch for Veritas: Poems after Artemisia – attended by well over 200 people on Zoom! 

Greatest lockdown achievement/new skill?  

After some 28 years I have gone back to baking bread. It’s not beautiful but its fresh and I quite like having sourdough starter to nurture! 

Andrea Holland teaches Creative Writing at UEA and has two published collections of poetry, Broadcasting (winner of the Norfolk Commission for Poetry) and Borrowed, with individual poems in journals and anthologies in the UK and USA, including The World Speaking Back - poems for Denise Riley. She is a contributor to The Portable Poetry Workshop and sits on the Board of the European Association of Creative Writing Programs and NAWE.   Andrea lives in Norwich with her son.

From Sue: I hope you've enjoyed discovering how these poets coped with lockdown. If you have any spare book money in your lockdown budgets I would thoroughly recommend their work. I've very much enjoyed being a guest blogger for Live Canon - many thanks for inviting me Helen! I blog regularly as Poet by the Sea (formerly The Peripatetic Poet) on my website www.sueburge.uk where you can also find information about my writing, publications and the creative writing and film studies courses I offer.

Stay safe everyone!