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Cover Image For Ortolani - Swimming Shelter

Ortolani - Swimming Shelter

The idea for writing one poem a day for 100 days emerged slowly. In March, as we sheltered in place, I discovered that putting poems on Facebook allowed me to communicate with an immediacy that I usually only enjoyed at public readings. It tasted like bacon, like strong coffee. Naively, I thought 30 days would cover the worst of the pandemic. As I considered shutting down my daily posts, returning to sending poems out to small presses, I experienced a sense of loss, of isolation, that troubled me. I kept writing and posting, finding that I needed the electronic human contact more than a vetted publication with little feedback. Consequently, these poems have been self-published only on my Facebook platform, and on occasion, on the Kansas City Writer's Place website. In Swimming Shelter the poems are arranged chronologically as they appeared. Little has been done to revise, except for an occasional word choice selection or punctuation edit. I wrote each morning. Usually, stopping only when the poem was finished. A few appeared with an immediacy that surprised me. Other times, I worked off and on throughout the day, giving them up to the internet late at night, but seldom before I was satisfied. This went against the grain of my personal writing process, as I prefer to edit only after days or weeks have passed, letting the poems cool for the critical cold eye. Self-publication scared me, sort of like the time in junior high school, when I accidentally kicked off my penny loafer into the middle of the basketball court during a game. Ninth graders dribbled around my sad shoe like they might a mouse from the biology lab. The true embarrassment was that I'd forgotten to change my socks after gym class, and so there I was, swinging my dumb foot from the balcony in a sweat-stained sock. Essentially, my social life was ruined, and I became a poet. I'd like to thank Facebook readers who followed my posts, especially those who commented on what they read. Their words and emojis, likes and loves, let me feel like a village poet, sitting around a smoky fire, probably Irish, weaving words, inventing stories. I kept the organic character of original diction in place. The use of quarantine instead of stay-at-home or sheltering-in-place is an example of learning terminology, new words for a new time. The inaccuracies are honest. These poems are not all about Covid-19, per se, but all of them, for better or worse, were discovered while swimming in shelter, crawling for calm water.

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