This event was organized by Michelle-Linh (Michelle) Nguyen, Farah Hamade, Polina Ilieva, and Joanna Kang with support from the UCSF Library.
As social distancing rules and regulations begin to relax, many of us are feeling the strain of prolonged social isolation and re-learning how to reach out to others.
On April 29, 2021, forty-eight San Francisco and UCSF community members gathered virtually during the lunch hour on Zoom for a series of poetry readings and discussion centered around the human experience of medicine. Farah Hamade, the inaugural UCSF Library Artist-in-Residence, took visual notes and created an art piece that represents the event and experience. You can also review the event recording.
Three poets—Kathleen McClung, Sharon Pretti, and Peggy Tahir—were selected through a submissions process from the San Francisco community to read their work. Sharon Pretti read a series of poems written during and after her brother’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis, treatment, and eventual death. Kathleen McClung read a sequence of sonnets inspired by her partner and her experiences navigating his treatment and surgery for a pituitary mass.
Peggy Tahir read a series of poems written for each radiation treatment she underwent for breast cancer. The readings were followed by a 10-second pause to create space for reflection and a rich discussion.
Michelle-Linh (Michelle) Nguyen closed the event with a reading from The Book of Delights by Ross Gay.
The introduction of the event and poetry readings were recorded with the poets’ permission. The recording was turned off for the discussion and closing to create a more comfortable, intimate space. After the event, the poetry reading recording, Farah Hamade’s art piece and a poem by Michelle-Linh (Michelle) Nguyen were shared.
Codes Her knees were knobs. They made me want to look away. Lifting the thin cotton sheet I check for pressure points. Discover an IV’s indent into thin, yellow skin. Family arrive, Carrying a pot of violets and a tablet checkered with moving images. I watch her brother strum a guitar from 4,000 miles away I see her as she was. Hand against mountain rock. Hairs levitating in the wind. Hunting, her mom tells me, She loved to hunt with us. Before they arrived, I listened to her wail Mouth wide and round the inner earth came through her, spilling out onto the sanitized floor After her family read the booklet on death, she left us. I was left coding and compartmentalizing her small voice and sobs into Alcoholic Cirrhosis of Liver with Ascites K70.31, click. Despite a lengthy search for Sister, Daughter, Best Friend Mountain, Tundra, Hunter I found no codes. © Michelle-Linh Nguyen 2021. All rights reserved.