Since 2014, Charlene has helped coordinate Hospital Poets at the Ohio State University Medical Center hospitals and Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Founded by Anna Soter, retired Professor of English Education at OSU, Hospital Poets launched with support from Dr. Linda Stone in 2011. Its mission is to nurture and sustain with the power of poetry those who treat, heal, and comfort patients. The series is supported by OSU’s Medicine and the Arts and Humanism in Medicine, including the medical students’ Writing Group who organize writing workshops with local poets and help edit and publish Ether Arts, the literary and visual arts magazine.
Since 2011 Hospital Poets has hosted four to five live readings a year at various locations on the vast Ohio State medical campus and Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Guest readers are published poets, mostly from central Ohio: Ohio’s Poet Laureates and other often locally or nationally recognized poets who are not only strong in the art but also skilled presenters. Guest poets are asked to emphasize the work of others by reading one third their own work and two thirds work by poets they admire from the past and present.
The Hospital Poets’ audience members are medical students, residents, doctors, nurses, techs, office and custodial staff, and sometimes patients and their families. Readings usually happen during the lunch hour: “Poetry and Pizza” (come for the pizza, stay for the poetry) or people are encouraged to bring lunch and drop in and out as needed. Committee members, all published poets, sometimes give readings, but they mostly emcee. Over the years Hospital Poets acquired a good sound system. Readings are advertised via social media, display screens, and posters.
Charlene came on board in 2014 to a committee distilled to three co-coordinators: Anna Soter, Fred Andrle, and her, a simpatico trio who meet several times a year to assess recent readings and brainstorm venues and prospective poets. Recently, Anna Soter has returned to Australia, and Dr. Beth Weinstock has joined the HP committee. Dr. Stone joins them in early summer to finalize dates and poets for the coming year. Charlene finds the work gratifying, interesting, and fun. Her extended family has many doctors and her son is a Pathologist, so she feels at home in this world.
As the future rises from the past during the pandemic, Hospital Poets is offering “Poetry Bites,” video-recordings of poets reading a poem or two.
Here is a recent Hospital Poets reading performed by the coordinators to share poems in the time of the pandemic: