A 21st Century Plague: Poetry from a Pandemic
Edited by Elayne Clift
70 Poems ~ 110 Pages
Price: $24.95 Paperback ~ $9.99 ebook
Publisher: University Professors Press
ISBN: 978-1-939686-76-3 print
ISBN: 978-1-939686-77-0 ebook
To Order: www.universityprofessorspress.com


It has been aptly stated by 20th century poet, Wallace Stevens, that “Poetry is a response to the daily necessity of getting the world right.” After all that has been said by a multitude of experts, politicians and pundits of every stripe … now it’s the poet’s turn. Editor Elayne Clift has assembled an impressive cohort of accomplished artists who offer their studied wisdom about a scourge that refuses to go away. The poems contained in it refuse to capitulate to that which has immersed America and the world in despair. Somehow, they know, that this too, will pass. A 21st Century Plague, as a whole, echoes the sentiment of contributor Miriam Aroner, who writes, “Give me your hand; I’ll give you mine.”


These poems, varied in form and content, beautifully capture the global experience of this pandemic as well as the individual emotions and struggles that are, at the same time, unique and universal: fear, defiance, longing, grief, anger, loneliness, gratitude for time and respite, hope—and often, joy in life’s small, continuing gifts. Editor Elayne Clift has gathered a community of poets whose words are haunting, moving, charming, surprising and, finally, comforting. Reading this anthology, you might find yourself saying. Yes, yes, I understand—I’ve felt that way too. I’m not alone.
—Cortney Davis, Nurse Practitioner; author of I Hear Their Voices Sing: Poems New & Selected.

The Covid-19 pandemic will be dissected by epidemiologists, sociologists, politicians, and historians. Now it’s time for the poets. The pandemic struck every sliver of society, so it’s only fitting that Elayne Clift has gathered poems from all walks of life. These writings will make you stop and think, which is perhaps the very prescription we need to help move us forward.
—Danielle Ofri, MD, PhD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, editor of Bellevue Literary Review, and author of When We Do Harm: A Doctor Confronts Medical Error

Poetry has the power to lift us out of our current states, expand our consciousness, and remind us that we are not alone in our feelings. Elayne Clift has compiled a delicious anthology of poetry in her latest book, A 21st Century Plague: Poetry from a Pandemic, which accomplishes this uplifting. These poems make us smile, laugh, cry, and feel by revealing the heartaches and the unexpected boons of living in a time of plague. The poems raise our awareness, help us feel more deeply, and remind us that we are in this shared experience together. This anthology illuminates the power of mind over body and our innate power to heal. I am grateful for that.
—Michael Gigante, PhD. Psychoneuroimmunology Institute, Brattleboro, VT


An award-winning writer and journalist, Elayne Clift’s work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, The Chronical of Higher Education, Salon.com, and numerous international magazines, periodicals and anthologies. She is a regular columnist for three New England newspapers and a reviewer for The New York Journal of Books. She is author of two memoirs, two books of poetry, three short story collections, three essay collections, a travel memoir, and the editor of three edited anthologies. Her poem “I Listen and My Heart is Breaking” was set to music and performed by the world-renowned a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock. She conducts writing workshops at venues ranging from conferences, local libraries, and arts programs to the noted destination spa, Ranchero La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico.



by Miriam Aroner

In this time of contagion, I imagine hands.

Gloved hands wary of touching.
Hands raw from scrubbing.
Fisted hands lifted in protests.
Frail hands, afraid.

Hands burying the dead in unmarked graves.
Hands lighting memorial candles.
Pleading hands, begging for bread.

Clock hands marking time that has slowed …
Today like yesterday and tomorrow and tomorrow
farther than the mind can endure …

Empty hands, needing to create something
out of nothing. We wash our hands of it,
this pain we cannot bear.

Hands painting the empty landscapes of pandemic,
weaving threads into masks,
writing the poetry of virus.
Piano hands easing our days.

Healing hands soothing the sick and dying.
Hands lifting you up and carrying you to safety.
Clapping hands saying thank you.

Hands soil-filled, turning rocks, planting seeds,
Tending gardens.
Callused hands from heavy lifting.
Hands picking our fruit and vegetables,
those hands too.

In this time of contagion
I will myself to lift my hands in praise.
Instead of a handshake,
hands meeting in peace. Namaste.

Hands blessing water and wine, breaking bread together.
Hands joined in dance.

Give me your hand; I’ll give you mine.


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