The First Six Months: Poems During a Pandemic
Anthology by Southern Chapter, Illinois State Poetry Society
Editor: Kathy Lohrum Cotton
51 poems ~ 107 pages
Price: $7.50
Publisher/Copyright: Southern Chapter, Illinois State Poetry Society
ISBN: 9798694989947
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In this superb anthology, 23 accomplished poets from the Southern Chapter of the Illinois
State Poetry Society, spare no effort in doing justice to their subject. They collectively
focus on the initial period of Covid-19. Beginning in March and extending through
August of 2020, the poets address the virus itself, staying safe, sorrows, backdrops
against which the pandemic became particularly focused on their lives, as well
as racial justice themes that surfaced during this period. The First Six Months,
which includes photographs and news clips, touches readers where they live,
which is what excellent poetry “should” do.


In the sixties we protested the war in Vietnam. This past year we protested racial
injustice, and at the same time dealt with an awful pandemic. The First Six Months is a
potpourri of work from several Southern Illinois poets showing how those living in this
part of the state have dealt with the injustices, isolation, loss and panic of the epidemic.
The poems are heartfelt, moving, well-written pieces that create a vivid picture
of those First Six Months
—jacob erin-cilberto, author of pour me another poem, please

When my stepmother entered a nursing home hospice program during the pandemic, I
already knew her life was nearing its end. She was in the late stages of cancer. Then we
learned that she had tested positive for the coronavirus. This placed our family in the
ever-growing catalog of “underlying conditions” leading to the death of a loved one. As I
read through the poems of The First Six Months, I felt a kinship with so many others; it
was as if these poets were writing especially for me.
—Michael Escoubas, author of Steve Henderson in Poetry and Paint

To read The First Six Months is to gaze into a mirror that reflects only our truths during
this time of plague. Some of these poems depict first-hand accounts of the illness itself,
and many describe the heartache of loneliness that separation during life in quarantine
can bring. No reader could remain unmoved after walking hand-in-hand with stark reality
through the pages of this book.
—Patty Dickson Pieczka, author of Beyond the Moon’s White Claw


Kathy Lohrum Cotton, an Illinois poet and editor, facilitates the Southern Chapter of the
Illinois State Poetry Society (ISPS). This pandemic anthology is the third collection she
and the Carbondale-based group have created. Cotton also supports the art of poetry as a
board member of both ISPS and the National Federation of State Poetry Societies and edits
the Federation's annual Encore Prize Poems. Her latest poetry collection, published in 2020,
is Common Ground.


Prisoner of Protection
by Candace Armstrong

First, everyone under 18 banned,
then everyone except doctors.

Next, no exterior mingle, neither
family nor friends except doctor’s visit.

Commodities I bring, ferried
into Mom’s room by staff.

Bills she can no longer read nor pay
ferried out to me by staff.

I walk around the building, tap on the window
she is not allowed to open. She can’t hear me.

She cries, I use the cell phone, we talk while
looking through the window, touch palms.

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