Hospital Poets Australia

2016 launch performance with Kevin Gillam at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Nedlands, WA.

Newspaper article: The Echo, 21 April 2016, Hospital Program Offers Respite

KSP Writers’ Centre is proud to be running the Australian branch of an innovative poetry program designed to benefit over-worked hospital staff and subsequently, their patients. The Hospital Poets program invites an established local poet into a medical setting for an hour-long performance for staff members, to entertain with an informal poetry reading interspersed with commentary about poetry and life. The goal is that staff members will come away feeling centered, and with stress levels reduced.

The Australian launch of Hospital Poets occurred in April 2016, following negotiations with long-time member of the KSP Writers’ Centre, Dr Anna Soter, who founded the original program in the United States in January 2010. At the time, it was one of the inaugural programs offered by the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University, as part of a ground-breaking initiative to establish Humanism and the Arts in medical training. The programs offered under this framework focus on all levels of medical and nonmedical personnel in a hospital complex as part of a broader objective to ‘humanise’ medical training and practice.

 

In essence, the focus of The Hospital Poets is on poetry and its power to move us from wherever we are to a space where we can re-center, reconnect with ourselves as ‘human’, pause to embrace beauty, strength, solace, and recharge our depleted inner batteries through poems that are specially selected by the poet presenter.

 

Anna and the management team at KSP decided to trial the program in Perth, with award-winning poet Shey Marque (MA - Writing, PhD - Pathology) now heading up a dedicated committee to continue running the program.

 

The Hospital Poets program entails an established poet who is a great performer and can engage an ‘everyman’ audience – not necessarily, Dr Soter says, those who are typically ‘into’ poetry. The poet presents informally rather than formally, and includes brief comments about poetry and the selections themselves. The emphasis of the readings is on the poet’s personal reasons for poems chosen and on the personal impact the poems have had on him/her. There is no analysis, although poets welcome questions about how they write their own poems, and about poetry in general.

 

Hospital Poets’ poems are typically a blend of serious subjects as well as lighter, more humorous subjects. The intent is also to take poetry off its academic pedestal and encourage attendees to see it as part of daily life. We want listeners to have a sudden realisation, similar to that of polio victim, Frank, experiences in Joan London’s most recent novel, The Golden Age, when he says ‘words are lovely’, and to experience how poetry gives ‘relief’ from ‘everything else’ (p. 77).

 

Each session will run for an hour in a quiet room of a select Perth hospital, with staff invited to drop in and pop out anytime throughout the reading, and even bring lunch.The program funded by the KSP Writers’ Centre launched in April 2016 at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Nedlands, featuring Kevin Gillam as the debut feature poet.

To get involved or offer sponsorship, please contact Shey at hospitalpoetswa@gmail.com

For a sample of the 2016 launch performance, see the video above.

About the Founder

Dr Anna Soter is a language and literacy educator for many years in settings that have ranged from secondary English classrooms to doctoral level seminars as well as in professional development programs. She has published six academic books on subjects related to the interpretation and analysis of language. She also provides workshops on the role of poetry and other kinds of writing for healing and reconnecting with ourselves as well as the world around us. She enjoys working with language and is passionately convinced that becoming aware of how we use language in our daily lives is the key to personal and systemic transformation.

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