In glowing white text set against the website’s black background, the entries in the “Recording Corona” digital series glimmer like distant porch lights, beacons of life continuing, if far away. Posted in April, one laments, “I should be good at this, I have the tools to succeed in a crisis, I’ve been prepping for doomsday all of my life.”
A kind of community diary, the “Recording Corona” live feed documents the pandemic’s everyday experiences through submitted poetry, essays and more. It’s the brainchild of Purpled Palm Press, an independent local press Lou Barrett founded in 2018 that publishes memoirs, fiction and educational books celebrating queer experiences. Launched in March, the series accepts under-1,000-word submissions.
“People are posting about it on social media, but that’s going to go away. We wanted to have something that will last,” says Barrett.
Barrett and Elaine Schleiffer, a friend who came up with the idea, edit and publish every raw submission: literary prose, anxious notes dotted with typos, confessional poetry, even archived Facebook posts. Many pieces come from queer authors, such as a transgender man who shaves his newly grown beard to wear a facemask, an “essential worker” whose boyfriend worries about him, and Barrett’s piece about being berated over the phone during a customer-service day job.
“When I think about what the queer viewpoint is, we’re sitting in this intersection of all of these economies that have forced us into lower-paid, lower-security jobs,” Schleiffer says. “When I read Lou’s piece about ‘There’s a pandemic and you’re still screaming at me about your 10% off coupon,’ that’s the queer story [overall]. It’s just queer lives being lived right now are at the epicenter of what’s happening.”
Even after the stay-at-home order has been lifted, COVID-19’s impact will continue, and so will the series. The call for submissions may stay open for up to a year, creating a time capsule of day-to-day memories.
“I know I’m losing context. I know I’m not following linear narratives,” Schleiffer says. “I wanted to make sure that we could look backwards.”