The Idle Class Quarantine Creative series features local creators and their spread of good fortune and creativity in a time of quarantine. What exactly are these artists doing to lift the spirits of our community while practicing social distancing? We’re here to find out. Next in the series: local writer Noelia Cerna. 

Fayetteville-based Latina poet, Noelia Young, is a first-generation immigrant of Costa Rica. Moving to the United States at age 7, she eventually went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in English from Westminster College. 

Cerna is working on a book of poems that discusses her experience as an immigrant as well as a book of essays about the Arkansas prison system. As a woman who wears many hats, she now serves as a reader and editor for Tinderbox Poetry Journal, writing mentor for Pen America’s Prison Writing Mentorship program, board president of Ozark Poets and Writers Collective and associate editor with Sibling Rivalry Press. To say the least, Cerna is a woman of many words. 

As artists find ways to be creative during a time of social distancing, Cerna shared what she is doing to spread light and art in a time of seeming darkness with The Idle Class.

What have you been doing creatively during the self-distancing period?

Creatively what I’ve been doing during this self-distancing period has really been to take the time to sit with my writing and consider what direction I want to take it next. I feel like I’ve had a pretty solid set of poems on one specific topic but now I’m trying to really look within me and think about how I can capture the times we are living in and place it next to the hopefulness that has become part of my brand. So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m basically trying to work on new stuff. 

I have also been participating in Wednesday Night Poetry’s virtual open mics on Facebook by submitting videos of a poem every Wednesday while working on a plan to do a virtual poetry feature with the organization I head Ozark Poets and Writers Collective. I am also trying to come up with a plan to do a virtual writing workshop and another poetry live stream with a friend of mine. Just trying to figure out how to move my creativity completely online.

Why are you doing it? 

I am the kind of person that believes the arts are crucial, particularly during times of hardship. Being a musician and a writer, I know during times when my life feels like it is falling apart I have turned exclusively to my writing and to my music. I think we as a nation are collectively doing that right now. Poetry and music and art bring us together and remind us of our collective humanity. I think this is crucial during these times. 

I also do it because it reminds me that even though I feel restless and lost about so many things that I still have a place and I still have purpose. I may be “stuck” in a lot of things but I can still create. I can still DO something. 

Why is staying active in your art and finding new ways to express it important at a time like this? 

Humanity has historically turned to the arts during the darkest times. I think it’s important because it connects us. When everything else is so uncertain, what we can know for certain is that we are ALL human beings together and that while we are all feeling a certain level of fear and anxiousness about what’s to come, we are not alone. We are collectively feeling the same things and if we can hang on to each other we will come out of this together. The arts are a beautifully crucial way of reminding people of this. It has never just been entertainment. It’s been a beacon of light and will continue being such. It gives us all a feeling of connection and purpose and that is so important right now.