Poetry in a pandemic

By Sabrina Li

“I think it feels really good to be seen.”

Hadas Sandalon was one of five performers that participated in Terpoets’ recent Instagram Live open mic, hosted on Sept. 10 as part of the NextNow Fest. The annual festival, usually hosted in-person at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, operated remotely this year, boasting performances across Vimeo, Zoom and Instagram, ranging from comedy to music to poetry.  

Shanice Silva hosted the Terpoets event through Instagram Live while different poets floated in and out of the screen, joining and exiting the live stream as they finished their performances. 

“There’s something to be said,” says Maia Foley, the second performer at the open mic, “for having that face-to-face connection because writing and poetry are so intimate.” 

While the poets themselves may have been reciting their poems to an empty room, the live chat acted as a constant stream of hearts, support, and validation. During a time where in-person conversations are encouraged to take place across a six-foot distance, Sandalon says, “One of the ways we can connect with people is through our words.” 

“I don’t want to say writing has saved my life, ‘cause that sounds, like, super cliché,” laughs Foley when prompted to speak on the role writing has played for her during the quarantine. In the wake of an extended global pandemic, being able to self-reflect and tune into one’s own emotions has reached an elevated status of importance. 

“Being able to write things down has always been a helpful way to process what’s been happening,” Sandalon says, “Even if you’re in physical quarantine, you don’t have to be in mental quarantine.”

Robert Wolle, who performed an original song at the open mic, echoes his peers’ sentiments when he says, “We’re always living in a bad time to be alive, kind of. There’s always something.”

Through the sheer act of participating in an Instagram Live open mic, Terpoets is refusing to be defined by the physical constraints placed on us at the moment and encouraging creative expression during a crucial time where, just as in past pandemics, the arts will prove to be as important as ever. 

Stream the Terpoets open mic on NextNow Fest’s IGTV.

Follow Rob Wolle’s music here.

Follow Hadas Sandalon on Instagram here.

Follow Maia Foley on Instagram here.

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Terpoets Facebook page.

Sabrina Li is a junior at UMD and can be reached at syli@umd.edu

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