Spoken word video version of my poem Thursday Quarantine, inspired by a digital collage – with the same name – by Australian artist Melissa Corbett. Melissa created a visual diary of digital collages over a one-week period in March 2020, documenting her experience of quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic while living in Spain.
If you’d like to read the text version of this poem, please click here, and if you’d like to view the captions for the video, please turn on auto captions in the settings (dot menu) on YouTube.
Thursday Quarantine by Melissa Corbett
The man glances impassively at no-one
For there is no-one to see
No-one to hear or touch or speak with
He is formidable, resigned
The man keeps to himself
Even his gaze has no object
His costume his cage
High collar pleated ruff sculpted beard high buttons laced shoulders stockings cover shins while heeled shoes conceal feet that can walk nowhere
He is comorbid with containment, comorbid with the crown
The woman dives on air
In her dreams she longs to fly
To stretch and move beyond the walls
To feel the air on skin exposed
To see and hear and reach and join
She longs to dive in headfirst freely longs to plunge in deeply feel the water coolly on her skin that parts the water as resistance gives in
But as she wakes reality does too: the touch of water is forbidden like the touch of friends she cannot embrace
She hovers above the pool but cannot enter it
The proscenium arch separates her from the man
Potential for companionship thwarted by time and place
By invisible threat made visible with death
She is the player and he the audience
But he cannot see her
Thursday Quarantine is based on a digital collage (with the same name) by my friend, artist Melissa Corbett. Melissa has documented her experience of self-isolating while living in Spain during the COVID-19 pandemic in a series of seven collages over a one week period in March. I love Melissa’s collages – they are always somehow humorous while at the same time often dealing with serious and/or political topics. You can read Melissa’s blog post (and see the other six collages) here.
To see more of Melissa’s wonderful website and art, visit https://www.melissacorbettart.com/
On International Women’s Day 2020, I feel honoured and excited to share this poetry and collage collaboration with you. My close friend Melissa Corbett — an Australian visual artist based in Spain — has created this magnificent collage based on my poem Mother Gaia is on Fire, written in response to the Australian bushfires earlier this year. Both works deal with themes of environmental destruction, misogyny and capitalism and the subjugation of both women and nature by these destructive forces. Both pieces are highly symbolic. Melissa says:
For the past year out of control fires have ravaged large parts of the USA, Siberia, Africa, Brazil and Australia. Forests that had never burnt before are now burning rapidly, destroying those remnant habitats that haven’t already been logged, mined or farmed. As the Australian bushfires were at their height, my dear friend Melita White wrote the poem “Mother Gaia is on Fire”. The Earth is indeed on fire, and the worst effects of global heating are now being seen years earlier than what scientists had anticipated.
Around the same time as this poem was written in January 2020, Melita and I discussed doing a collaboration on our respective blogs. For our first collaboration, Melita asked me to illustrate the poem “Mother Gaia is on Fire”. The plan for our following collaboration is for Melita to write a poem based on one of my artworks, however, I so enjoyed illustrating Melita’s poem that I plan to illustrate another one soon!
Mother Gaia is on Fire by Melissa Corbett
You can read (and see!) more about Melissa’s collage, her process and the symbolism in her work, as well as my poem, over at her website. And while there, be sure to have a look around and check out some of Melissa’s other amazing artwork, which often centres on environmental and political themes. Melissa’s art is colourful, bold and personal (and often includes a touch of humour), while at the same time investigating important contemporary issues. I look forward very much to future collaborations with Melissa.
Mother Gaia is on Fire – a collaboration by Melissa Corbett and Melita White.