Isolating with Our Minds explores a mélange of quarantine experiences through poetry and art

From the hollowness of seclusion to the hope for a better future, Isolating with Our Minds is an anthology that dissects every facet of the individual quarantine experience. Compiled by Shyla Gheek, a second-year student from India, the book includes poems and artwork by 103 people from across 11 countries.

One of the poems details the unrelenting passage of time, while another one describes the rebirth of a peaceful inner self as the outside world dissolves into chaos. Each page sets the reader on a new journey, interjected with captivating paintings that explore concepts from self-acceptance to self-destruction.

What makes this anthology poignant even outside its pages is that the profits from its sales are being donated to the Indian relief fund for COVID-19, a choice Gheek made because she wanted to help people with inadequate resources in this situation.

She added that she felt a personal connection because her own grandfather had tested positive for COVID-19 and recovered a while ago.

Despite Gheek originally expecting the book not to sell too well, Isolating with Our Minds hit the nineteenth position on the anthology bestsellers list on its first day.

Creativity as a means of healing

Thea Bergh, a third-year UBC student who contributed poems to the anthology, said that it was nice to be part of a creative project that benefits those in need.

The first piece displayed in the book is a hauntingly beautiful painting of a doctor wearing a mask by Sanjana Jeswani, a second-year Sauder student.

The first piece displayed in the book is a hauntingly beautiful painting of a doctor wearing a mask by Sanjana Jeswani, a second-year Sauder student.
The first piece displayed in the book is a hauntingly beautiful painting of a doctor wearing a mask by Sanjana Jeswani, a second-year Sauder student. Sanjana Jeswani

“My grandfather had COVID-19. He was hospitalized, and he recovered last month,” said Jeswani. Out of gratitude, she made the painting as a gift for the doctor.

Gheek believes that art can be an important form of self-expression and hopes that the book can inspire others to express themselves too. “My writing helps me discover who I really am, outside of what society wants me to be,” she said. “If I wasn’t writing, I wouldn’t be able to get through my day.”

Writing for this anthology also sparked Bergh’s joy for poetry again. “It has definitely kept me going,” she said, explaining that the process of reflecting on her experiences was healing.

Isolating with Our Minds presents a myriad of overlapping perspectives in the form of art, and Bergh brought up that it was ironic that the theme of the book was isolation. Being an anthology of different experiences, it instead became a book about “sharing our minds.”

“That sense of coming together when you actually feel so apart from everything can be very good and therapeutic,” she added.

Reading the poems in the book made her empathize with what people were experiencing as they wrote it.

Gheek believes the book can give a sense of comfort to its readers, by showing them that it’s okay to feel sad or lonely in today’s world and that there are others who feel the same way. “Even if one person is touched by what they read in the book… that’s all I want,” she said.