Creative Quarantine: Writer Bayo Ojikutu

Author Bayo Ojikutu

1How are you holding up?

I am well, thanks for asking. Frankly, I feel as if Phase 2 of COVID provisions amounted to cheating circumstance in our household (I’m literally knocking on two separate wood stations, just in case one is mostly synthetic). We are among the blessed by whatever gods may be – whatever the names by which they go along this current turn of our world. The family is healthy and remains comfortably sheltered.

My son just wrapped up 6th grade in a mighty way, the scourge of e-“learning” notwithstanding. We miss what the Americans call “soccer”. I miss it especially: my son is becoming more of an acolyte of basketball (as was I at his age. Function of inclination & surroundings). But aside erstwhile “The Last Dance” tribute to a GOAT, basketball is all sequestered for safety, too. Looking forward to the return of courts & fields & groves & pitches of play.

My wife smiles more often now, as she has not been in her office space for 90+ days. As bright and wide as she smiled when I met her as a 20 year- old co-ed. all this time, I thought it was me who’d turned her exhibitions of joy more reluctant. What a relief! Now we can carry-on for the next 30+ years…

My wife smiles more often now, as she has not been in her office space for 90+ days. As bright and wide as she smiled when I met her as a 20 year- old co-ed.

And yet, the ravages waged on what was the known world have been a source of daily woe. Too many good friends have lost elderly parents — particularly their fathers and uncles — during the spread of this corona-virus. Lost them and been left unable to memorialize, mourn, and receive the support and shared grief of friend and family. Devastating. Too many artists born of the Baby Boom and prior that — particularly among those living in greater New York City — fell victim when COVID landed Stateside.

This is a loss of generational knowledge, of linkage to where we’ve been; we are further deprived wise foresight as to where we are going. Inequity, governing iniquity, social deficiency, all laid bare amid tragedy here in the “last, best hope.”

This is a loss of generational knowledge, of linkage to where we’ve been; we are further deprived wise foresight as to where we are going.

2. Has Covid-19 had an effect on your work? If so, in what way?

Again, selfishly, sheltering has impacted my work in ways similar to whatever these recently encountered crows have detected. While peering down from the near-suburban skies, these birds must have noted something absent, rendering landing unusually safe. Diminished traffic, scattered predators, cleared flourishing space? Recently, this new terrain has freed the crows to graze in a nearby neighbor’s lawn and flit about wide-winging in an adjacent courtyard. With daily rat race pace diminished, fewer obliged destinations, and not quite as many needful things clamoring at the gates of my conscious, I can actually hear what I am intending to say on the page. Hear to linger an extra beat, ponder, and reflect for a measure. I think, I hope, this has enhanced revision work on my current novel.

With daily rat race pace diminished, fewer obliged destinations, and not quite as many needful things clamoring at the gates of my conscious, I can actually hear what I am intending to say on the page.

3. Is there anything you’ve added to your practice that you’d like to keep after this is over?

Yes, as suggested above. Shelter has furthered my appreciation and regard for the conversation inside my own mind and highlighted what Woolf 90+ years ago called a room of one’s own. “In my solitude”, as Billie Holiday put it in song. That quiet solitude is so necessary to maintain discourse with that which is within (room to dive deep in there, without losing sight of aesthetic aims & intentions nor find oneself mired and wallowing in the surface navel). This time has highlighted the necessity of the interaction between quiet, still haven, mind, muse & the page/screen. I hope to maintain this managed space as the setting for my work in the New Known to be encountered…



4. Of the artists you follow, who’s handling this particularly well?

Spike Lee did a beautiful short film, scanning the New York landscape during the early Spring 2020 phase of the pandemic. Haunting and resonate, backed by the ghost of Frank Sinatra’s voice. My friend Rick Perlstein is producing fascinating analysis in essay form on these times, in various tomes, and online. He reflects on the political consequences of the pandemic, and the civic unrest witnessed in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, et.al), because that’s what he does – but also in preparation for the forthcoming release of his latest book. Lastly, my wife and friends have kept me abreast of a trend whereby world-renowned music disc jockeys have taken to the wireless airwaves to mix tunes & psalms from deep in their soul crates for hours through the day and into night. Seeking to uplift all of us among the affected and impacted – we, all of us — and soundtracking our stride and stumble and soar through a dilemma toward what we hope, wish, pray and sing will lead to a better day. Of these turntable maestros, I am most impressed with Philadelphia’s own music historian and rhythm keeper, QuestLove, and the Chicago mixologist, Vince Adams.



Bayo Ojikutu is a creative writer based in the Chicago metropolitan area. He is the author of the critically-acclaimed novels Free Burning and 47th Street Black.  Ojikutu’s work has been recognized by the Washington Prize for Fiction and the Pushcart Prize, among other notaries.  His essays and short stories have been anthologized widely.  A graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Ojikutu has taught creative writing, literature, film studies, the business of publishing, etc. at DePaul University, the University of Chicago, Roosevelt University (among other institutions) for many years.