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Lake Mills woman is a poet for the pandemic

Lake Mills woman is a poet for the pandemic

She’s been called the “poet laureate of the pandemic” by OprahMag.com and now fields requests daily from around the world to use her words inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic in books, music and more.

Kitty O’Meara, a retired teacher and spiritual care worker who lives just outside Lake Mills with her husband Phillip and five rescue dogs, captured the world’s attention with her poem “In the Time of Pandemic.”

The poem begins with “And the people stayed home.” Before showing readers the ways that the stillness and quiet could heal.

“My husband and friends kept urging me to start up (writing) again,” said O’Meara, who had stopped writing to deal with her health. “When we knew we’d be facing this pandemic, I began to worry about my former friends still working in health care, as I’d been in hospital and hospice as a spiritual care provider at the end of my working career. I knew I couldn’t be with these friends and I worried — I still worry — about them. I was also angry at the lack of preparation evident to protect them, and all of us.

“Anyway, Phillip, my dear one, urged me to write it out, which is how ‘In the Time of Pandemic’ came to be. I first posted it on Facebook, and then felt the way I could provide spiritual care and be useful during this time was to write the blog again.”

O’Meara is still getting daily requests from around the world to use her poem in music, videos, films, artwork and more. Although it has been inspiring, she does find it overwhelming at times.

“It’s been a huge blessing, and a bit of a bane, at times,” O’Meara said. “I’ve met so many wonderful people from all over the world, from huge metro areas and tiny villages, and they’ve shared their stories with me and the peripheral ways my words have touched them, so that’s been a complete gift.”

The poem is being turned into an illustrated picture book and will be included in an anthology of poems responding to the pandemic curated by Alice Quinn, poetry editor of the New Yorker and former director of the Poetry Society of America, O’Meara said.

O’Meara has also given four composers permission to use the poem with their music.

“My first degree and passions are theater and the arts, and I thought these choral and opera pieces would all be lovely ways to share the poem’s themes,” she said.

After graduating from Marquette University, O’Meara worked as a copywriter, editor and creative director at various Milwaukee firms for almost 10 years. She then went back to college to earn her teaching degree and taught middle school language arts and literature at private schools in the Milwaukee area and in Fort Atkinson for about 15 years.

O’Meara left teaching to care for her mother until her death. Then, she said, it seemed natural to take a spiritual path for herself and she returned to school again and became a provider of spiritual care in a health care setting.

But since she was a child growing up in Wisconsin’s Fox River Valley, O’Meara has wanted to be a writer.

The honorariums O’Meara has received from granting permission for use of “In the Time of Pandemic” have been donated to Paddy’s Paws (https://the-daily-round.com), “an amazing dog rescue” in Fort Atkinson.

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