Carilion Clinic’s Dr. Robert L.A. Keeley Healing Arts Program understands the power of words. At least two of the artists in residence have been writers; the Burden Boat transforms words of personal struggle in a ritual of community healing; and Poetry in the Waiting Room touches guests and patients across the healthcare system on a daily basis. And there’s more in store for National Poetry Month.
To mark “Poem in Your Pocket Day” on April 26, Carilion Clinic is handing out short works by six local poets on keepsake bookmarks. Two thousand of the bookmarks will be distributed by volunteer and guest services at Carilion Clinic hospitals.
One of the forces behind this effort, Healing Arts Committee Member Angela Charlton, a poetry lover and a registered dietitian-nutritionist gave BOOK CITY ★ ROANOKE some background.
BOOK CITY ★ ROANOKE: Angela, what do you personally get out of reading poetry?
Angela Charlton: Ahhh, where to begin! I have always loved the imaginative transport, the way poetry serves as a kind of vehicle or portal to other ways of thinking or feeling. I appreciate how it calls us to pay attention and provides validation of some of our more inward or emotional experiences.
BCR: What poets in particular do that for you?
AC: ee cummings, Emily Dickinson, Pablo Neruda, William Blake and Rilke seem to be the ones I come back to the most. Though I have to admit to have fallen completely in love with a number of local poets discovered through working with our collaborators at Roanoke College, Jackson Center at Hollins University, Virginia Western Community College and Artemis Journal.
BCR: How did you first connect your appreciation for poetry to the workplace?
AC: The Dr. Robert L. A. Keeley Healing Arts Committee strives to provide creative and aesthetic experiences to help support and inspire patients, staff and visitors to Carilion hospitals and clinics. As poetry always played such a supportive and healing role for me, I naturally wanted to help participate in any programs that might offer the same to others. Edward Hirsh’s book How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry, which describes the experience and the value of reading poetry also planted a seed.
BCR: I’m sure for many, the Poems in the Waiting Room brochures are a welcome surprise. And now you’ve taken them to another scale. What comments have you heard from viewers of the Poems in the Waiting Room exhibit?
AC: I have been continually impressed by how different works speak to different readers. Individuals will comment on a favorite piece, and I have yet to hear the same works cited. People have commented on the visual calm provided by the design of the works, as well as the layout of the exhibition along the passageway. The large scale of the pieces has also been frequently cited in contributing to the impact.
BCR: If folks didn’t see the full exhibit at Roanoke Memorial entrance, where can they see it next?
AC: Several of the works will move to the ART ALLEY, an exhibition space behind the pharmacy in the main lobby of Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. Others will transfer to The Institute for Orthopaedics and Neurosciences (The ION building at 2331 Franklin Road) for several months. Ultimately, they will find permanent homes at one or more Carilion sites.
BCR: Carilion Clinic is doing a haiku contest for Carilion staff. Have you done this before? What do you expect the response to be?
AC: We hold visual art contests and exhibitions of works by employees, and in fact, have one ongoing now, but this will be our first employee poetry competition! Staff enthusiasm is high, with several entries submitted already. The winner will have their work published in the next edition of Poems in the Waiting Room, which is being curated by Artist-in-Residence Meighan Sharp. Additionally the work will be framed to become part of the Carilion’s permanent art collection.
BCR: And then to close out National Poetry Month on the 26th you’ll be handing out the bookmarks to celebrate “Poem in Your Pocket Day.” What poem will you be carrying?
AC: You can bet that I will have a copy of each of the six of our local works in my pocket throughout the day. I love them all!
BCR: Do you know of any other workplaces in the region celebrating National Poetry Month?
AC: I’m not aware of any specific efforts, but would imagine at least some schools or libraries would be hosting celebrations.
BCR: Thanks, Angela. Maybe we identify and spark some more.
- Let us know below how you’re celebrating National Poetry Month and we’ll spread the word.
- Visit Carilion Clinic on April 26 to put a poem or two in your pocket. ★