PLAGUE 2020, edited by poet, painter and artist Mahnaz Badihian, comprises 300 pages of art and poetry created by a diverse set of artists from around the world, including those heard only on the margins. The artists are drawn from regions such as USA, Canada, Spain, Germany, Iran, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, China, Philippines, Nigeria, Tanzania, Cameroon, Sri Lanka and many more. Poems written in local languages are published in English translations >>>


It happened quickly, like a slap to our face, and before we knew it our life changed. It is possible that, to some extent, it is changed forever. It is like a plague involving the entire world. And during this quarantine it was time to read Albert Camus and his famous novel The Plague. “It felt like during the plague in the city of Oran.” Written in 1947, it quickly became a bestseller worldwide.

I could buy the book for $30 and wait weeks to get it. I decided on the Kindle edition.

Camus wrote:

“Each of us has the plague within him, no one, no one on earth is free from it.”

Camus believed that:

“Pestilences have a way of returning in the world. Yet somehow, we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from the sky, there have been many plagues as wars in history, yet plague and wars always take people by surprise.”

This surprise happened to us in 2020 as a pandemic worldwide. We are still in shock after two months! While reading the plague and world news about COVID-19, as a poet and artist I decided to collect the feelings of artists and poets and writers from around the world. I started getting submission slowly, but within two weeks the numbers increased rapidly. As I was organizing the submissions and was in quarantine with my husband, I started having fever, significant body ache, coughing, and more. I consulted my daughter, a doctor in Palm Springs who took care of Corona patients. She recommended seeing someone ASAP. I was very sick by now, and it took me all morning to finally see a doctor at 1:00 pm. The doctor said you have Corona without any doubt! She did a Corona test and sent me home with a prescription. The test came back negative after two days, and my condition worsened. I was on combined medications recommended by my two doctors. I was taking a strong dose of Tylenol every 3-4 hours for fever. Probably for only a few hours in those 24 hours was I able to check my email and send thank you notes to those who submitted to this Plague 2020 anthology. While very sick and not knowing where this condition would take me, among all things to worry about was this anthology.

Finally, after ten days, my fever was coming down day by day. I felt the slap of COVID-19 and was surprised by the sudden change in my life and health. But the excitement of this anthology and the responsibility I felt kept me going day and night to compile this book. This is probably the most exciting project in my life. I felt the stress, kindness, hope, and fear that people around the world were feeling. How amazing to see that we are all the same when it comes to disasters like this. We are all members of the big family called the world, as the world-renowned poet, philosopher, and humanist Persian poet Saadi Shirazi, who lived in the 12th century, says in his famous poem: Human Race. The poem is also inscribed on a sizeable hand-made carpet installed in 2005 on the wall of a meeting room in the United Nations building in New York.

“Human beings are members of one body.
In creation, we are made of one gem.
When the conditions in life bring
a limb (member) to pain,
the other members will suffer from the pain.
You, who are not feeling the misery of others,
Do not deserve to be called a human being.”

We all are living in a small world, and we should feel the pain of other members of our race.

This collection has an artist as young as 5 years old and a poet as old as 86. There were almost 2000 submissions, all good art and poetry, but I could only include approximately 300 for the Plague 2020 anthology. It was not an easy selection. I read each work several times to decide. I hope this beautiful and historic collection satisfies readers around the world and benefits hungry children via UNICEF.

Mahnaz Badihian 

May 2020, San Francisco