On April 1, 2020, poet Jane Covernton began writing a poem a day for Poetry Month and taking photos to illustrate them as she “walked around alone in the world.” Those poems and the photos of her Roberts Creek world are now the delightful content of her latest book, When We Became Plants: Pandemic Poems. It’s a slight book, only 48 pages long, but it is crammed full of poems she describes as “rough cut, but full of love.” They range from the simplicity of haiku to page-length prose poems that subtly capture the difficulties of the life re-balancing so many of us are engaged in as the pandemic continues on and on.
But she has a stealthy sense of humour, too, demonstrated in poems like “Doggerel in the Time of Plague” that explores life without haircuts and in “Science” where scientists are honking like geese to guide each other in their search for the cure. And she is just plain stealthy in “5:35 Here on Earth” where it takes the reader a moment to realize she has given us a 2020 version of the Lord’s Prayer.
But the crowning pleasure of this book are the photos, some photoshopped but all gloriously clear in the bright Sunshine Coast air, close-ups of flowers and rose hips and fern fronds, distance shots of forest trails and people that belie the pandemic that surrounds us. These photos are almost worth the price of the book in themselves.