Healing Voices: an R-Voices Event

With husband Roger Weir, cancer survivor, sitting next to her, Just Poets’ Karla Linn Merrifield stood up. “We’ve been coming here for 18 years,” Karla said to the 25 or so Oncology staff volunteers and caregivers who came to share lunch and words at the R-Voices’ Healing Voices: Poetry at Wilmot reading. Not 18 times, 18 years. Imagine that. It was my first time in this Family Resource Center. It was the first time Strong held such an event.

 Karla Linn Merrifield (on the left)     For more photos and a video of this event, please click  here .

Karla Linn Merrifield (on the left)

 

For more photos and a video of this event, please click here.

Karla read three strong poems: “At the Feet of Birds” “On Earth” and “Invitation in Maasai” from her chapbook The Urn. Then Just Poets members and cancer survivors Ruth Wright and Anita Augesen shared some cathartic poems of their own. Ruth read “The Salon,” her metaphor for the radiation room, and Anita read “Chemotherapy,” telling of losing her hair and finding so much more. They brought the poetic voice of “what’s-it-like being a patient.” Colleen Powderly, David Delaney, Precious Bedell, and Bart White also shared their work.

Several of staff and volunteers in attendance gave poetic voice to the warm and friendly gathering. Senior Social Worker Sandra Sabatka explained how she heard a poem on the radio coming into work one morning on WXXI’s“Writer’s Almanac.” She read that poem entitled “I Give Thanks” by Marie Reynolds.  Michele Allen, from the Oncology finance office read Mary Oliver’s “Summer Morning.” Caregiver Ellen Van Zandt read her poem “I Climbed a Mountain Today.” Hazel Pugh, assistant to Catherine Thomas, director of Patient Services, sang a beautiful rendition of “What a Piece Of Work is Man” from the musical Hair. Applause. Applause for all.

Dwight Hettler, the Wilmot Center’s Assistant Associate Director, and Catherine Thomas expressed their pleasure at this event. “This is the first time we have had poetry here” said Dwight, and enthusiastically welcomed a return next year. Catherine Thomas gave the poets and attendees a big thanks and a special thanks to Sandra Sabatka, Bart, and Karla for putting it all together.

But the last words came from Karla. 

“Cancer teaches us so much,” said Karla.

Imagine that.

David Delaney

Gail Hosking featured at Just Poets Open Mic in June

This month’s featured poet, RIT instructor Gail Hosking, churned through a number of turbulent and affecting poems about war, family, the “collision” of different points of view, as well as love and its devastating effects. Several stirred the audience to stillness as she recounted insanities played out as normalities. A clever reach was her grab at Marvin Gaye’s classic “What’s Goin’ On” threading it with impressive lines like “…rusted tanks left slow moving ghosts” reflecting her “army brat” upbringing.  “Crossfire March 1967” brought back Vietnam; “Damn the Moon” put a new spin on the old standby in the sky with her lunar persona watching the wreckage below.  Her work was cadenced, her complex thematic weave played deceptively easy. 

A schooled and accomplished essayist, Gail also spoke of how she came to tackle poetry –“I just sat down and wrote 100 poems” a comment that speaks to a modified slogan: “just doing it”. Her poems and list of accomplishments indicate years of work have paid off.  

David White began the open mic  with short burst poems that brought laughter and contemplation to the audience. Kitty Jospe’s persona poem “Dear Piano” is right at the top of her game. Breven Bell rolled out an intimate and fierce, yet delicate, five section love poem with several gutsy lines gutsy including “I murdered your indifference…” Jim Jordan read his poem “They Say that Normans Enrich the Language”—a look at our origins and what could have linguistically changed had history been altered. Roy Bent recited “Poetry Died on Friday” with professional presence. Bart White brought out a new poem “Brutal Proof” that too stilled the audience. JP MC David Yockel started and concluded the evening with Gail Hosking’s poet of choice, Stephen Dunn.

You know, this little bookstore, Before Your Quiet Eyes, in the heart of the Monroe Avenue, is a pretty cool place for a reading (thanks to Ken the owner). And Just Poets is pretty cool for making poetry happen there. Monthly open mics are second Wednesdays of each month at 7 p.m. Enjoy the neighborhood, some good poetry, or better yet, come out and share one!

Review by David Delaney

 Gail Hosking

Gail Hosking