Review of Paul Marion’s “Lockdown Letters & Other Poems”

Lockdown Letters & Other Poems

By Paul Marion

Review by Richard Howe

Sixteen months ago life in Lowell proceeded at its typical late winter pace. It was cold and there was a bit of snow but all indications were that 2020 would be a busy year in the local historical and cultural scenes. Mill No. 5 and Western Avenue Studios were both buzzing with activity on Saturdays. The Pollard Memorial Library unveiled its superbly restored Washington at Dorchester Heights painting and on March 7, the Lowell National Historical Park and Lowell Walks launched an eight-month season of 24 walking tours with a downtown walk on Women’s Activism in Lowell.

Then everything shut down. Or locked down.

Paul Marion’s superb new book Lockdown Letters & Other Poems captures that life-interrupted feel of early 2020 by opening with a batch of emails Paul sent in March and April to regular correspondents with the emails edited and reformatted as sonnets. For example, this on March 13 to Fred:

“This emergency feels vastly consequential.
Our nation will be altered in body-and soul when
We-the-people come out the other side of this,
The lucky ones with butts intact, maybe by Fall.
We’ll be at risk until a vaccine is ready. . . “

The pandemic poems are in-the-moment and capture the fear, frustration and uncertainty we all experienced.

But just as life was interrupted by the pandemic, so was this book of poems. Other chapters capture life in Lowell (and vicinity) in all of its variety. There are poems about favorite places, favorite foods, familiar events, family history, sporting memories, journeys to distant places, and much else.

Reading this book now is almost therapeutic. It acknowledges the trauma of the pandemic but reminds us of what life was like before and what it will be like as we emerge from our collective lockdown.

Besides being the co-editor of this website, Paul is a prolific poet, author, and editor. This from his Loom Press biographical page:

Paul Marion (b. 1954) is the author of Union River: Poems and Sketches (2017) and editor of Jack Kerouac’s early writing, Atop an Underwood (1999). His book Mill Power (2014) documents the twentieth-century revival of the iconic factory city where he was born, Lowell, Massachusetts. With Tina Neylon and John Wooding, he edited Atlantic Currents: Connecting Cork and Lowell (2020), featuring writers from Ireland and America. His recent work has appeared in So It Goes, the journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum & Library in Indiana; Café Review in Portland, Maine;, a national online publication; SpoKe Seven, a Boston-based poetry annual; Résonance, a Franco-American journal at UMaine Orono; and Merrimack Valley Magazine. With his wife, Rosemary Noon, he lives on a high hill in Amesbury, Mass., in sight of the seacoast and uplands of New Hampshire and Maine.

Lockdown Letters & Other Poems is available from Loom Press