It has been over two years since America experienced not just one but a handful of social upheavals and movements. These have lit the creative spark of many poets like Christina Trezevant McGriff.

So, she published Simultaneously: Covid 19 Pandemic, Racism, and Black Lives Matter, a collection of poems that she wrote focusing on not just the Covid-19 pandemic but also the Black Lives Matter movement.

The fact that these two major developments occurred in roughly the same span was of immense importance to her. In her poems, she writes with an almost prophetic tone to describe why. Each one echoes the main theme of how the two events coincided and brought to greater light the most polarizing issues afflicting America.

McGriff wrote these poems in the rough span of six months in 2020, specifically between March and August. There are over 40 in total, and many of these allude to notable events that happened somewhere during that period.

Poetry About Two Pandemics

For McGriff, the year 2020 was not just a year of one pandemic but two. The first was COVID-19, which the poems express as coming in swiftly and intensifying the crippling polarization that gripped America. The second one, however, is the ‘pandemic’ of systemic racism that has long been suppressed and came to a head when George Floyd’s death triggered the Black Lives Matter movement.

Many of the poems written are lengthy yet still retain rhythmic meter and phonetics. After each one, there are little footnotes that add a little more detail to what inspired the poem. These range from developments of vaccines to the grave injustices and neglect of the Trump administration during the year.

Other topics include the controversies surrounding police brutality, racial profiling, and the inequality experienced by the black community (both during the pandemic and through the course of the BLM movement). There is at least one poem that also broaches the topic of African slavery’s impact on American history, its resulting generational trauma, and the often downplayed systemic ills that persist despite surface attempts to address it.

The poems have a spiritual element to them as well. Each one has a passage from the Bible written prior to the first verse. While McGriff’s words make her strong Democrat leanings clear, she remains a firm Christian believer and sees no conflict between her faith and the message she wants to send with her book.

Of course, the backbone that serves much of her poem’s politics are day-to-day experiences during the pandemic. These include the struggles of adapting to the new normal as well as the determination to see it all through. A few of the more haunting poems talk about life directly on the medical frontline, from emergency rooms to the trauma of COVID-19 patients themselves. Side by side with such imagery are the daily experiences of the black and brown in a country that still has not provided them the economic opportunities it claims to provide.

Poetry Born from Commitment

While McGriff’s poems have a lot to say about the twin pandemics that polarized America, she has not much to say about herself. The only thing that mattered was she loved poetry and felt committed to using it for documenting the events of 2020.

Looking back, one might notice that the book’s original purpose was to instill hope in those still coping with the anxiety, economic uncertainty, and political tension that lingered strongly in the aftermath. Vaccines had only just rolled out, both inside and outside America. The world was yet a few years away before achieving pre-pandemic normalcy.

Now, in 2023, this book also serves an additional role as a poetic retelling of recent history. The twin pandemics have left their mark on American society, and McGriff hopes that the people will not forget. 

If you’d like a copy of Simultaneously: Covid 19 Pandemic, Racism, and Black Lives Matter, check out the book today on Amazon.