Playwright Novelist Screenwriter

“My Plague Diary” in The Pandemic and Me

Edited by 2021-2022 University of Alberta Writer in Residence Ifeoma Chinwuba, The Pandemic and Me contains eleven pieces that attempt “to capture this zeitgeist for posterity, to chronicle our generation’s experience of this cycle of this phenomenon.” Katherine Koller’s personal essay, “My Plague Diary” recounts how words helped her survive the pandemic. The collection is available for free download.

My Plague Diary, by Katherine Koller

In March 2020, I began to keep a gratitude diary amid the lockdown, closures, loss and fear. Words on a page continue to keep me sane.

Weirdly, I came across this comparison between words and virus in a disaster diary/artbook by Laurie Anderson on March 16, the day before lockdown in Edmonton:

Both virus and language act like they’re alive but are not. A virus is lifeless, has no cell

structure and has been called one of the organisms at the edge of life. Technically, it is an

agent. Like language, it can wedge its way into the codes, into the DNA and change the

basic meaning. (All the Things I Lost in the Flood, 171)

I’d had that book on my desk for weeks before I randomly leafed through it that day. The similarity of virus and language both scared and calmed me. Perhaps the latter was an antidote for the former; at least the two seems pitted against each other. We all read news and searched for facts to step on as the sickness became a tsunami, marked by its waves.