Creativity in the Time of Covid: Notes from Past Poetry Contest Winners — Part One

Our free Poetry Contest is accepting entries through March 1, 2021. We asked past Poetry Contest winners to answer either or both of these questions: How has your writing changed during the pandemic? How have you stayed creative?

Jalynn Harris won the 2019 Poetry Contest with “Phyllis Wheatley questions the quarter,” which begins,

Who head of the quarter?

Who 25 pennies add ‘em up

Who spangle the liberty of in god we founded

Who tie till the black hand

Here are Jalynn’s notes on creativity during the pandemic:

I have been writing more prose for publication and more personal poetry for myself. Fresh out of grad school during a pandemic, I had been doing freelance work which has been featured in BmoreArt and Black Archives

My poetry has been entirely for myself, though I have shared new work at virtual readings. My poetry has been very raw, unprocessed, and from the position of myself as speaker. My pandemic poems are personal and deal a lot with longing for touch, love, libraries, and random conversation — things that, by nature of the pandemic, are waaaay harder to come by. My recent work is a lot different than the Enoch Pratt piece, “Phillis Wheatley questions the quarter,” and other personae poetry featured in my chapbook “Exit Thru the Afro” — a future museum of Black queer musings in verse.  

I have stayed creative by reading across genres — Juliet Takes a Breath by Gaby Rivera; Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat; the autobiography of Assata Shakur; etc…. I have also been biking lots, swimming when I can, and creating all kinds of new *to me* vegan delights. Gotta keep my belly as inspired as my mind! 

Saundra Rose Maley won the 2016 Poetry Contest with “Charlotte Darling,” which includes the lines,

She’d crack a joke

About the guy she was seeing,

Adjust her gooseneck lamp

Put her head down and draw—

Saundra responded to our questions with this piece:

The Poem as Bridge in a Dark Time

I have found myself working more on my poems during the pandemic. I read where Shakespeare worked on three of his great tragedies during the plague of 1606 and while I am certainly no Shakespeare, I think he had the right idea. If you find you have more time to do your “work,” then do it.

Disappearing Act: Poems
by Saundra Maley

I’ve been trying to pull a manuscript together since my first and only book of poems, Disappearing Act, was published a few years ago. The “inspiration” for a new book came to me before the pandemic when by chance I picked up a small volume of Rumi translations in a bookstore. Coleman Barks, the translator, started his introduction with this sentence:

                                                I sometimes fall in love with bridges.

That was it — that sentence burst a dam in me and poems started flowing and taking me to new places. These months of “quarantine” have given me time to follow these poems wherever they lead. I don’t know where that will be, but I’m taking this pandemonic time to find out.   


Every poem is a bridge, an arcing

that closes the distance

between us

steel strands cascading

over shoulders

and breasts

spandrels of ecstasy

and ah!

bright wings

Get Moving this Heart Health Month

Step it up this February! Check out these videos available on Hoopla that are sure to work up a sweat. Don’t forget with Hoopla you can access up to 10 e-titles including video, ebooks, and music to download with no wait.

Internationally acclaimed yoga instructor Rodney Yee guides you through four beginner yoga practices, each with a different benefit. Learn correct form, and move through a variety of simple poses and sequences that will help increase flexibility, energize the body and calm the mind.

Get intense with Biggest Loser trainer Brett Hoebel! It’s not going to be easy, but Brett brings some serious energy to get you through these intense HIIT and body-weight workouts. He offers modifications along the way, or you can add dumbbells to the workouts for extra burn!

This sizzling Latin calorie-burner will have you trimming your waistline, shedding unwanted pounds- and smiling as you do it! Dance is a celebration of life and movement, and that’s what this program is all about. From the Merengue and the Salsa step, to the Rumba and even some sexy hip rolls, you’ll be adding your own flair and spicing up your workout in no time.

Also, check these e-videos out!

President’s Day: Spotlight on Nonfiction

Happy President’s Day! To celebrate we are taking a look at books about and by Presidents and Vice Presidents. Learn more about these books highlighting time in the Oval Office.

Promise Me, Dad
by Joe Biden

A Promised Land
by Barack Obama

The Truths We Hold
by Kamala Harris
What Happened
by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Back To Work
by Bill Clinton
The Reagan Diaries
by Ronald Reagan
We Were Eight Years In Power
by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The World As It Is
by Ben Rhodes
The Accidental President
by A.J. Baime
Destiny and Power
by Jon Meacham

Bag Man
by Rachel Maddow & Michel Yarvitz
President Carter
by Stuart E. Eizenstat & Madeleine Albright

Fall for a new book this Valentine’s Day

There’s no need for Cupid’s Bow. We can help you find the perfect book for Valentine’s Day! Fall for one of these funny romantic comedies right now.

The Wedding Party
by Jasmine Guillory
Red, White & Royal Blue
by Casey McQuiston
The Lucky Dog
by Julia London
The Marriage Game
by Sara Desai
You Had Me At Hola
by Alexis Daria
The Boy Toy
by Nicola Marsh
One To Watch
by Kate StayMan-London eBook
The Kiss Quotient
by Helen Hoang
This Time Next Year
by Sophie Cousens
How to Fail at Flirting
by Denise Williams
Waiting for Tom Hanks
by Kerry Winfrey
No Offense
by Meg Cabot

Perfect Books to Read for Black History Month at the Pratt

Looking for what to read next? Check out one of these books perfect for Black History Month. They are a wonderful way to celebrate Black talent and culture this February. Enjoy!


Blacktop Wasteland
by S. A. Cosby
Yellow Wife
by Sadeqa Johnson eBook|Audiobook|Book
A Spy in the Struggle
by Aya de Leon eBook|Book
If I Had Two Wings
by Randall Kenan eBook|Book
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies
by Deesha Philyaw eBook|Book
Black Bottom Saints
by Alice Randall eBook|Book


My Brother, Muhammad Ali by Rahaman Ali

An African American Cookbook
by  Phoebe Bailey eBook|Book
Four Hundred Souls
by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha M. Blain eBook|Book|Audiobook
Just As I Am
by Cicely Tyson eBook|Book|Audiobook
Reading While Black
by Esau McCaulley eBook|Book
The Three Mothers
by Anna Malaika Tubbs Book