Anti-maskers & Anti-vaxxers, Covid-19 Delta Variant, Essential Health Care Workers, Essential Service Workers, Jamaica/Caribbean Region, Jamaica’s Poet Laureate Olive Senior, Pandemic Poem “W for Workers” by Olive Senior, Pandemic poems, Poetry Collection Pandemic Poems: First Wave (2021) by Olive Senior
My Poetry Corner August 2021 features the poem “W for Workers” from the 2021 poetry collection, Pandemic Poems: First Wave, by Jamaica’s third Poet Laureate Olive Senior (2021-2024). Since 1993, the award-winning poet, novelist, short story and non-fiction writer has made Toronto, Canada, her home. She returns frequently to the Caribbean which remains central to her work.
The seventh of ten children, the Poet Laureate was born in 1941 in the wild mountainous landscape in the interior of Jamaica. The child of peasant farmers, the young Olive enjoyed a better, though solitary, life as the only child in the home of a wealthy and cosmopolitan great uncle and great aunt who encouraged her love for reading and writing.
After winning a scholarship to attend the prestigious Montego Bay High School for Girls, Olive embarked on a career in journalism. At nineteen, she joined the staff of The Daily Gleaner, Jamaica’s major newspaper located in Kingston. She soon won a scholarship to study journalism at the Thomson Foundation in Cardiff, Wales. Later, while attending the Carleton University School of Journalism in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, she began writing fiction and poetry. She returned to Jamaica where, in 1982, she joined the Institute of Jamaica as editor of the Jamaica Journal, a magazine that promotes the history and culture of the Caribbean Island nation.
In the summer of 2020, between May and September, when the Covid-19 pandemic transformed our lives, Senior began writing pandemic poems and posting them on her Twitter and Facebook pages “as a way of keeping [her]self engaged and not falling into depression.” Each of the 71 poems in her collection Pandemic Poems: First Wave is “a riff on a word or phrase trending at the period.” This pandemic lexicon has since become a part of our new normal.Continue reading