A crowd-sourced poetry project aims to build a repository of people’s emotions in this hour of crisis
Instagram user @sondersque, 19, writes for her cousin on grief; Shivangi Adani, 25, writes for her friend Trusha for a ‘Masters and graduation experience lost’. Pics Courtesy/@solariumindia
When 30-year-old journalist and South Delhi resident Sonali Prasad came down with the virus in April this year, verses from Mary Oliver’s poem, Wild Geese, that her father would read from outside her room, came to her rescue. Later, when he, too, contracted Covid-19, his recorded recital on Prasad’s phone helped her brave 15 odd days of distressful isolation. “With fever and nausea, I was a shell of a person. I couldn’t do much, but miraculously, I could write poetry. It would come out in torrents, and became the only way to process my emotions and anxiety,” recalls Prasad. After she had recovered, Prasad began wondering if, like her, poetry could soothe others too. As a writer with a keen interest in historical records, Prasad embarked on creating a cache of poetry — in the form of the crowd-sourced project Solarium - to mark this hour of crisis.
“Down the years, when you try to deconstruct the effect of the pandemic, apart from data, statistics and newspaper clippings, you must have poetry. Solarium, or the sun room, is where light comes in and touches all of us who are left behind,” she explains about the Instagram poetry project. The submissions, she says, can be made via a Google form. What’s special is that each poem in the project is a dedication to someone. “By doing so, participants are essentially extending a hand to build a community. A community that shares your grief, suffering, resistance and hope. I got this message from a reader, who shared that the poetry on the page helped her after she lost her mother,” Prasad tells us.
This repository explores a spectrum of emotions and themes resonant with our times - grief, loss, longing to meet a loved one, gratitude towards a parent, caregiver or even therapist in one case, insecurity, and hope. “There’s more grief than hope now, with a lot of people in the process of acknowledging their altered reality. But hope does flicker,” she notes. Engaging with poetry right now, Prasad points out, is to announce that, “We’re here in these dark times, and we hope to be understood - that’s the sentiment behind the poems.”
Apart from evocative verses, Prasad also puts out a vibrant collection of natural history art prints, which she sources from Biodiversity Heritage Library Project that are in the public domain. Looking ahead, she’s toying with multiple ideas for Solarium: a zine, a street art project or a website: “But right now, my focus is on building this time capsule.”
Log on to: @solariumindia on Instagram