(CNN)People in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, receive a coronavirus newsletter four times a week updating them on the latest information about the pandemic.
It’s often filled with grim news about outbreaks and death tolls. But once a week it includes an uplifting poem — offering a sense of peace in a world of chaos.The poems are written by Tammi Truax, a school librarian and Portsmouth’s own poet laureate.”It’s very gratifying. We have heard from quite a few people who feel the poems are helpful, and that they look forward to reading them. One day I ran into a woman in the supermarket who wanted me know that they help her,” Truax told CNN.”I’m also hearing from people who are saying, ‘I never liked poetry before.’ People are recognizing that poems can help us make sense of the inexplicable.”Read MoreThe idea to include a weekly poem was born when Stephanie Seacord, the public information officer in Portsmouth who compiles the newsletters, recognized a need to give people something besides statistics and information.”After doing it daily for about two weeks, I thought the newsletter was just so grim. Portsmouth is a small, vibrant destination that’s so loved. There’s only 24,000 people, so it tends to be very neighborly,” Seacord told CNN. “I just really needed to brighten the darkness and give people something else besides sad news. When all other words fail somehow a poetic voice, especially in New Hampshire, brings the truth to the forefront.”The August 2 newsletter featuring a poem by Truax.That’s when Seacord reached out to Truax, the city’s 12th poet laureate. The Portsmouth Poet Laureate Program is dedicated to supporting local poets and celebrating the written word. Each poet laureate serves a two-year term.While part of Truax’s job as a poet laureate is teaching people about poetry and delivering poems at inaugurations, now it includes spreading joy at a time when it’s so desperately needed.”These poems always brought emotion with them, adding a very human voice to the newsletter,” Anne Weidman, a Portsmouth resident, told CNN. “Some days in the spring when the newsletter hit my inbox I felt fatigued by its contents, but always opened them to see if there was a poem.”A moment to reflectThe newsletter is mostly packed with helpful tips and information, like where to get personal protective equipment and updates on mask mandates.But since April 5, every Sunday edition has included one of Truax’s poems. So far she’s written 19 for the newsletter. The topics range from tributes to nurses or the difficulty of saying goodbye to fishing — to toppling monuments amid the Black Lives Matter movement.A nurse is being celebrated for starting a free pantry at her hospital to help health care workers in needTruax, who is used to slowly writing poems and editing them before rewriting and editing them again, writes the newsletter poems on the same Saturday she submits them for publication.Sometimes the ideas come easily to her, flowing from mind to pen to paper with seamless grace. Other times it’s more difficult. Regardless, Truax said it’s the highlight of her week.Along with giving readers an excuse to stop what they’re doing and sink into her words in peaceful reflection, Truax sees her poems as a way to show how the arts can help people cope during troubled times. “I think in our community it reminds people that we are all in this together, and the only way to the other side of it is to help each other in whatever way we can,” Truax said. “This just happens to be my way.”With no end in sight to the pandemic, it’s not clear when Portsmouth will stop publishing its coronavirus newsletter. But Truax says she plans on contributing poems to the very end.