Flying Beneath the Dog Star: Poems From a Pandemic

Flying Beneath the Dog Star: Poems From a Pandemic
Kathryn Winograd
Finishing Line Press $14.99

Memories of the initial global lockdown have become cloudy and distant in the two years since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Peculiarly nostalgic photographs of empty streets, posts about nature slowly creeping back into vacated cities, and videos of apartment balcony DJs blasting “Caramelldansen” all elicit feelings of unification compared to current discontent with vaccine and mask-mandates and their on-going debates. Life, curiously enough, has largely recovered from those days; cars flood the streets and deer have resumed their reclusive withdrawal into the deep woods. However, recalling those moments of solitude and eerie silence, Kathryn Winograd explores the quieter, less documented side of the pandemic.

“Flying Beneath the Dog Star” is a memoir of the struggles of the early days of the pandemic, whose free verse shines a light reflecting the isolation and feelings of being trapped.

“Last night, I stood alone in the deepening dusk, in the silence, as if I could rename each splinter of star I did not know,” writes Winograd in “Waking after the Pink Moon and Eight Hundred Dead,” ruminating a tired night brought upon by budding worry and concern for the days – and years, now – to come.

Winograd meanders in floaty, dreamlike verse as she guides the reader on a journey through the numbing realization of isolation in the infancy of the crisis. Beneath the words presented also lies an inspiring allegory of clichés now flipped on their heads – the caged bird singing for freedom and flight now become humanity, while ducks freely gliding beneath the boughs of branches inspire familiar wanderlust and a world lost to a shuttered doors, only to be viewed through stained windowpanes.

Although a prolific and expert poet, “Flying Beneath the Dog Star” challenged Winograd with a departure from her usual style. For this collection she embrace free verse, a lyrical form of poetry. Inspiration struck from authors such as James Wright and Stanley Kunitz, whose work she emulated in her own verse and form.

Winograd sought to complete a poem each day for the month of April, as inspired by National Poetry Writing Month project. Many of their prompts spurred her direction, and her poems follow a near chronological order of life in humanity’s own mandated captivity.

Captured on the pages are the tales of memory and nostalgia, of longing but also desire for the pandemic’s end. Caught within in a world that seems to stand still, even as all the world continues by. Bygone innocence and childhood wonder come to life on the pages, filling the heart with recollections of sprinting through summer fields and adventures of aimless wander.

To recall such youthful joys, finding kindred spirits in the lofty flight of ravens while remaining locked in the familiar cage of home, Winograd delves into a memory that will be easily forgotten with time by many, but lingers as an undocumented portion of individual lives. In her book, she succeeds in portraying a familiar struggle, while also tapping into the natural yearning for the good old days.

“Flying Beneath the Dog Star” may be Winograd’s own experiences early in the pandemic, but there is a commonality what humanity endured in lockdown. Her words, though personal, reflect a uniquely shared experience of solitude, loneliness, and desire to return to the norm. Winograd reminds readers that all across the world was this shared isolation; a unifying experience that elicits empathy with one another, if only it were duly considered.