Covid diary poem wins prize for Alister

Alister Hichens.

Nineteen-year-old Alister Hichens’s poem, Covid Diary, tells of his and his mother’s experience with Covid-19 in June.

Alister, from Muizenberg, is a Westerford High School matric who was runner-up in the AVBOB Poetry Mini-Competition. Held last month, it invited young poets around the country to put into words how the pandemic had affected them.

Matric Kiara Naidoo, from Saheti in Johannesburg, won the contest with her poem, Rising Thespians, while Athikshay Maharaj, from Raisethorpe Secondary School in Pietermaritzburg, came third with Suffering Day.

Alister’s poem, which won him a R700 cash prize for his efforts, is written as a daily diary of his experience with Covid-19.

“When someone of your family has Covid-19, it’s really scary,” he says, “I thought I would write a poem about what happened. The actual emotion is strong enough that you can convey the message in a poem.”

When his mother was diagnosed with Covid-19, she and her partner, Rob Turrel, had to self-isolate at home with Alister.

Alister developed a new routine that involved checking regularly on his mom and taking her food and medication.

“I was concerned about her because her Covid-19 was pneumonia induced.”

Alister’s mom recovered and made it to the end of her isolation period and he was looking forward to finally being able to go out again. Then he got his Covid-19 test results. He was positive, despite taking every precaution, he says, while looking after his mom.

Alister was asymptomatic but he still had to self-isolate for ten days.

“You always hear of someone having the virus, though once you have it yourself you are more aware and alert, you take way more safety precautions,” he says.

Alister traces his interest in poetry back to Grade 9 when he visited an art gallery with his school and was told by his English teacher, Steven Anderson, to write a poem about a piece of art. “He was so impressed and told the other teachers and said I must continue writing poetry,” he says.

Alister is now doing his BA Law at Wits University.

The fifth AVBOB Poetry Competition opens on August 1 and poets are welcome to send up to 10 poems each. A first prize of R10 000 will be awarded in all 11 official language categories. Visit to register online.

Covid Diary by Alister Hichens

7th June: Mom has Covid. We don’t know who or where from.

8th June: Panic. I have no clue where Mom can stay… I can’t leave the house… who’s going to buy the food… What if I catch it?

9th June: Relief – Jessica orders us groceries. We can eat for a week. Doctor says I must stay inside and self-isolate until next Friday. 10 more days

10th June: I fear things are getting worse – Mom has Covid-induced pneumonia. She isn’t eating, and her cough is horrible. 9 more days.

11th June: Mom’s oxygen monitor readings are low. I sit in my room with my door wide open listening out in case she calls me at any time.

12th June: Mom is still not in good shape. I have to take a new wet towel for her forehead every 2 hours. I spend my day worrying about her.

13th June: The Doctor does some tests on Mom; she says she will be OK. 6 more days.

14th June: She is stabilising… back to normal life on Friday… I can see my girlfriend… go to the gym with some friends… 5 more days!

15th June: Mom is back on her feet.

16th June: I am SO excited to go outside!

17th June: Getting a cautionary Covid test today… don’t want to endanger my girlfriend and her family…

18th June: Just got the results back from the Doctor… Covid-positive.

19th June: 10 more days.