With our “Still Here” series, we are checking in with members of Utah’s art community to see what the past several months have meant for them. Trish Hopkinson is a poet, blogger, and advocate for the literary arts. You can find her online at SelfishPoet.com and provisionally in Utah, where she runs the regional poetry group Rock Canyon Poets and folds poems to fill Poemball machines for Provo Poetry. Her poetry has been published in several lit mags and journals, including Tinderbox, Glass Poetry Press, and The Penn Review; her third chapbook Footnote was published by Lithic Press in 2017, and her most recent e-chapbook, Almost Famous, was published by Yavanika Press in 2019. Hopkinson will happily answer to labels such as atheist, feminist, and empty nester; and enjoys traveling, live music, and craft beer.
It’s surreal to think back to early March when I flew home from San Antonio after a combination day-job/writing trip — the elbow bump greetings with clients and the quiet eeriness of a barely attended AWP writers conference. At the time, I had no notion that Covid-19 would stretch through the end of this year and beyond. My family and I have been fortunate in many ways, some of us able to work from home and maintain our incomes, while others have been fraught with intense anxiety and struggling to get by financially.
From a creative standpoint, poetry all but stopped for me at first. Being home constantly without a commute should have meant I’d have more time for reading and creating, but I often found myself without motivation and picking up a book of poems just felt emotionally exhausting. I pushed myself to find online poetry workshops to inspire me to write. I signed up for too many, over committing myself, completed some, and completely ditched a few, sadly some of which were expensive. I have written some poems and continued some projects, probably as many as I would have had I not been wallowing in the pandemic, but those poems and projects felt much more taxing than they normally would have and took more time. I let some things wait, wait some more, and there are still some I haven’t returned to.
I used to visit Pioneer Book in Provo at least twice a month to run the Rock Canyon Poets reading series and workshops and to refill the Poemball machine. We still workshop virtually as a group monthly, but the Poemball machine likely sits empty, with a couple of sad, hatched capsules hugging the bottom of a machine originally meant for gumballs. The virtual reading space for poetry and other writers is overrun with hundreds of online readings — so many, it’s hard to choose which ones to attend and which ones to skip. I opted to discontinue the reading series until we can once again meet in person, rather than competing for national or global poetry audiences. There have been some small successes. I did lead a community poetry workshop (online this time) with the Utah Humanities Book Festival for the 6th year, resulting in what I think is the best and most beautiful anthology of poems we’ve ever created.
I’ve relied a lot on music, watching online concerts and listening to KRCL nearly non-stop, and have enjoyed still working with their current affairs program, RadioACTive and producer Lara Jones. She’s been a huge advocate of Utah poets and poetry in general. She recently had an excellent idea to help bring more poetry to the airwaves, and I’m excited to be working with her to continue to promote Utah poets. We decided to revamp the Poetry Happens monthly feature into smaller mini-features of Utah poets reading their work that can be played on KRCL, and since April, have re-titled it to “Poetry STILL Happens.” I’ve received some great audio of Utah poets already, which will be played on the radio in the coming months. KRCL even added a Poetry page to their web site to post the recordings once they’ve aired.
As for my own work, I was surprised that I’d written any poems at all. When asked to read for virtual events, I’d double-click my 2020 poetry folder and even though it felt like there would only be a few poems there, there were far more than I expected or ever remember writing. It took me nearly all year, but I’m finally working on the last edits with my editor for my first full-length manuscript entitled “A Godless Ascends,” including a few poems finished in recent months. My plan is to wrap up those edits and start sending it out to presses before the end of the year.
All in all, this year has been filled with unexpected challenges, being a parent, wife, friend, and poet in ways I couldn’t have anticipated; and I am ready for it to be over. January 20, 2021 can’t come soon enough. While 2020 is a year none of us will forget for its hardships and losses, we’ll also have the poems, stories, and art from those who lived it.
Categories: Still Here