2020 was filled with many twists and turns, but one thing that stayed consistent was Reggie Johnson’s commitment to poetry. One of my favorite books I’ve read this year is Cuarentena, Johnson’s ninth poetry collection in five years. Cuarentena is a melodic full-length collection reflecting on Johnson’s experiences of the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic. This book is broken into several sections, beginning with “Life Before Quarantine,” and culminating with “The New Normal.” Johnson reminds us of how carefree life once was with lines like “Saturday’s used to be the night to unwind,” in “Saturday Shenanigans.”
As the book progresses, the reader gets to engage a section titled “Unrest.” Here, Johnson draws the audience into his interpretation of race relations in America. This section features pieces like “Divided,” Johnson’s viral poem, which was featured on WLWT 5 NBC Cincinnati in June. As a Black American, I personally connected with this book. Johnson lays it all on the table for me with lines like “No matter the time period, I am more than a statistic . . . a stereotype,” featured in the poem “Look at Me.”
Cuarentena hits home for the reader, in a timely collection where Johnson dives into the political. I would recommend this book to anyone, but especially those experiencing the duality of living in the pandemic as an oppressed person.
Cuarentena by Reggie Johnson. Rad Press Publishing, September 2020.
Reviewer bio: Chris L. Butler is an African American and Dutch, Pushcart nominated poet, and essayist. Chris was selected as a 2020 HUES Scholar. He was a participant in the 2020 Palette Poetry BIPOC Chapbook Workshop. His work can be found in The Daily Drunk Mag, Rejection Letters, and others.