Preliminary notes on topicality and recent pandemic poetry




coronavirus, Covid-19, poetry, topicality, postcolonialism, discourse, pandemic, World on the Brinks: An Anthology of Covid-19 Pandemic


In this article I appraise the aesthetic and ideological implications of the use of the topical as source material for literary creation, with special focus on poetry. I underscore how the shared knowledge between the writer and the audience influences the craft of poetry and is equally crucial for the reception of a work of art. I link postcolonial writers’ fixation on the topical to Edward Said’s influential revaluation of Western historiography and privileging of the political in literary scholarship. I demonstrate my thesis primarily by examining selected poems from the anthology World on the Brinks: An Anthology of Covid-19 Pandemic (2020) as an instance of literary responsiveness to a topical global experience. I highlight and appraise the poets’ obvious allusions to, replications, appropriations, and interrogations of well documented discourses on the Covid-19 pandemic as a contestation of imperialistic theories and assumptions, and show how the topical and its discourses fundamentally influence the reception of the work of art. Focusing on the poets’ examination of the international politics of healthcare, and dispensing of palliatives, I interrogate the politics of the notion of common humanity vaunted in the wake of the pandemic’s exposure of the intangibility of territorial borders. In this article I equally reflect on the mechanisms of the survival and transformation of the topical in poetry. 


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biography

Isidore Diala, Imo State University, Owerri, Nigeria

Isidore Diala is professor of African literature in the Department of English, Faculty of Humanities at Imo State University, Owerri, Nigeria. His recent publications include articles on the Nigeria Literature Prize and on Soyinka’s later satirical drama.



“Coronavirus: France racism row over doctors' Africa testing comments.” 15 June 2021.

Diala, Isidore. “A Writers’ Body and the Nigerian Literary Tradition.” Research in African Literatures 50.4 (2020): 121-141.

Ebeogu, Afam. “Contemporaneous Poetic Effluxion: A Discussant’s Interpretation of World On The Brinks: An Anthology of Covid-19 Pandemic.” (Unpublished paper presented at the book launch, 25 Sept, 2020; Umuahia, Nigeria.) 1-10.

Egbuta, Ikechukwu Otuu and Nnenna Vivien Chukwu. Eds. Lagos: Cityway Book Ventures, 2020.

Jeffares, Norman A., ed. W.B. Yeats: Selected Poetry. London: Macmillan, 1962.

Okereke, Caleb Okereke and Kelsey Nielsen. “The problem with predicting coronavirus apocalypse in Africa.” 15 June 2021.

Onyerionwu, Ezichi. “Foreword.” World on the Brink: An Anthology of Poems on the Covid-19 Pandemic. Eds. Egbuta, Ikechukwu Otuu and Nnenna Vivien Chukwu. Lagos: Cityway Book Ventures, 2020. vi-viii.

O’Rourke, Meghan. Introduction. A World Out of Reach: Dispatches from Life under Lockdown. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2020. xi-xviii.

Rajan, Balachandra. “Questions of Apocalypse.” William Butler Yeasts: A Collection of Criticism. ed. Patrick J. Keane. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973. 45-50.




How to Cite

Diala, I. (2022). Preliminary notes on topicality and recent pandemic poetry. Tydskrif Vir Letterkunde, 59(3), 210–227.



Research articles