Cover to a booklet with strange figure
The cover of a new booklet by U of G MFA writing students.

Nine students in the University of Guelph’s creative writing MFA program have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic — through writing. Their efforts have been compiled in a booklet called tbd: A Mixed-Mode Response to COVID-19.

The works of short fiction, poems, personal reflections explore life under COVID-19 – the isolation, the encounters in grocery stores, the fears.

Kyo Maclear teaches the course “Hybrid Forms and Mixed-Mode Narratives” in the MFA program. In the booklet’s introduction, she said students had to shift gears as measures to control the spread of the virus altered their lives and their coursework.

“Teachers frequently have plans and these plans frequently go awry,” wrote Maclear, an essayist, novelist and children’s book author. The idea of a short volume was hatched as an alternative to planned projects.

“At a time when so much feels ungraspable, we are hoping this assembly of stories and congregation of words provides company in our isolation,” she added.

In the story blazer, student Nathanya Barnett writes about a blazer worn as part of a work-related wardrobe. The blazer is always at the ready, hanging on a chair.  But as COVID-19 measures take effect and the workplace shuts down, the blazer is folded up and tucked away, no longer able to fulfill its role.

Jonathan Bessette contributes gloves, a reflection on a pair of gloves that served their purpose admirably over the winter. But now they are worn through at the fingertips and no longer adequate as protection against the virus. Exposed fingertips become a cause for increasing concern.

In the frog you bought, Genevieve Paiement writes about the people made more vulnerable by COVID-19: the friend with a fever, the other friend with cancer and all those with elderly parents.

And in wash your hands, Banuta Rubess writes of an obsession with bars of soap amid the pandemic. Having experienced deprivation in the former Soviet Union, where toilet paper and soap were hard to come by, the main character collects bars of soap and cannot seem to get enough of them.

Other contributors are Farah El Bakkouri, Manpreet Kaur, Dhaliwal, Miriam Gallou and Sahar Golshan.

tbd: A Mixed-Mode Response to COVID-19 is available here in PDF format.