Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Reading Recap: Goldwater Hospital Workshop Reading - May 15, 2013

This fall and spring, I spent Tuesday afternoons on Roosevelt Island as a Goldwater Fellow.  I worked at the Coler-Goldwater Specialty Hospital & Nursing Facility, co-teaching a group workshop for patients with nine other fellows and leading an individual tutorial in poetry with one of the Golden Writers who attended the workshop each week, Sandra. Each week, I was reminded again of the power of writing as the residents, many of whom cannot communicate in traditional ways, gained a voice through their poetry.  The island felt very far from Manhattan, from my normal life, and I left my afternoons there feeling deeply inspired by the Golden Writers and their work.

The Golden Writers, the fellows, and the volunteers with Sharon.

Working with Sandra, in particular, was a joy.  We worked together for the entire year, writing poems about her passion for education, her grandchildren, and her life and experiences from childhood to present day.  Though confined to a wheelchair, Sandra was always running from place to place.  The very first day I met her, she was running a drive to register patients to vote, and over the course of the year, it was hard to keep up with all that she was doing and accomplishing.  Her work is bright and narrative, and even in pieces about the darker aspects of her life in the hospital, she has a sense of humor and light.

Me and Sandra after the reading.

I was so proud to introduce her at our year-end reading on May 15th, and listened in awe as she read three of the poems we'd worked on together during the year.  The reading started a bit late because of car troubles, but once all the patients had arrived, it went off without a hitch.  Sharon Olds, who helped found the fellowship program in 1986, read a few beautiful poems to open, and then each of the residents read from their work.  At the end of the evening, we all enjoyed refreshments and looked over the anthology of work from the previous year.  It was a perfect way to come full-circle and celebrate all the hard work the residents and fellows had put in over the year.