Local poet provides light in the darkness of pandemic



For many, the pandemic has been a time of loss and isolation. For local poet Teri Coburn, that sense of loss and isolation proved to be an opportune time to write and release a collection of poems titled Inward Bound.

This collection is dedicated to the frontline workers during the pandemic, with half of the proceeds of each book being dedicated to the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital’s (PECMH) Back the Build Campaign.

Referencing the loss of her beloved dog at the onset of the pandemic, Coburn described urgency and space that was made for her writing given her sudden isolation.

“The loss of my dog, Tux, freed my mind to focus on my writing.  He had been sick for a long time, which made writing hard, since I was so preoccupied with his needs,” Coburn explained. “Once he was gone, I had a lot of time alone.  Instead of constantly dwelling on the loss, I wanted to fill that time with something meaningful.  Writing the poems was a good mental discipline to alleviate my grief and deal with the stress of Covid.”

Like any good art should, Coburn iterated that her work is intended as an antidote, of sorts, for the grim reality of the pandemic. She insisted the collection is not intended as a “downer” despite the pandemic subject matter.

“To contrast the heavy doses of negativity, division and violence we witness on the news, I dare to hope these poems will lighten and unite, both despite and because of the subject matter,” commented Coburn in her foreword. “Dark depresses. Light motivates. Hopefully, Inward Bound will inspire you to release your own creativity.”

Coburn’s work consists of everyday observations and musings, from the mental reflection upon hearing a buzzing insect stuck in a spider’s web to the reddening of dogwood and greening of spring fields despite the Covid-19’s growing stranglehold on humanity. More than this, they represent the simple beauty of these quiet moments found in isolation.

“I felt that readers would relate to the descriptions of simple, daily things, like being outside a senior’s residence, or noticing nature’s response to the lockdown, or how we reacted to various changes in our daily lives, or what inspired us,” said Coburn. “Sometimes simple things convey the most, if you notice them.”

When asked what inspired her writing, Coburn noted it was the desire to understand what was happening to the world around her along with her own private world.

“Writing helps me figure things out. Plus, I’m enamoured by words.  The sounds and rhythms words make together is a kind of music to me.  I’ve done many kinds of writing in my life, but I keep going back to poetry because of that magical combination of music with ideas,” Coburn enthused. “I keep thinking that if I find that magic combination of words and music it will all come clear! Of course it doesn’t, but the process is worth it.  And every now and then you get a glimmer of some deep truth.”

With regards to dedicating her collection to frontline workers, Coburn described it as a “no-brainer”. She also made sure to mention that by frontline workers, she is referring to all public facing, frontline workers, whether they work in grocery store, hospital, or some other business.

“When it came to writing the dedication for the collection, the first thing I thought of was the dedication of the frontline workers who were risking themselves for others. Not just the health care people, but workers in grocery stores and countless other businesses who continued working despite the risks and challenges. They all showed such courage and perseverance under so much pressure.  Just having to wear a mask all day and clean their hands and surfaces constantly, and deal with cranky patients and customers.  There was a lot of fear and frustration that frontline people had to deal with every moment of the day.  And still do in many cases.  Not to mention all the stresses they faced at home too,” Coburn explained. “For me, given the times, it was a no-brainer to dedicate Inward Bound to them.  They have made our return to ‘normal’ possible. They have saved countless lives. They have my utmost respect and gratitude.”

Inward Bound by Teri Coburn is available for purchase at Books and Company in Picton.