Reading the Lockdown: Responding to Covid Poetry

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During 2020, sales of books increased as readers found more time to engage with fiction and return to books that provided both comfort and a sense of escapism. The Covid-19 pandemic also provided the space for a whole new genre, ‘covid fiction’, to emerge. This article examines the sub-genre of ‘covid poetry’ by integrating text and reader response data analysis in order to examine the representation of the pandemic experience in Michele Witthaus’ poem “The new shape of fear”. Analysis of the data reveals that participants interpret and discuss the poem by drawing on foregrounded language features in the text and reflecting on their own pandemic experiences, and that they often respond to the poem in ways that recognise and empathise with the experiences of others. The findings demonstrate that covid poetry may have particular interpretative effects that are geared towards self- and other-understanding. Overall, the article sets out some first steps towards examining the stylistic characteristics and interpretative effects of this emerging and important genre.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Poetry Therapy
Early online date16 Dec 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2022, The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis GroupThis is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


  • Covid-19
  • covid poetry
  • stylistics
  • reader response
  • reading group


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