‘Poems for Patience’ unveiled at Galway hospital
21 pieces of work selected for waiting areas by poet Theo Dorgan
Poet Theo Dorgan introduced his selection of 21 pieces of work by Irish and international writers, which are framed and displayed during Cúirt. Photograph: Pat Boran, Dedalus Press
Hospitals remind us that everything in life is “contingent, tentative and fragile”, the late poet Dennis O’Driscoll said, and that “we are indeed what Shakespeare calls ‘poor, bare, forked’ animals”.
His reference to the inspirational nature of medical institutions, where “our emotions are intensified and our experiences heightened”, was recalled at a special event at Galway University Hospital (GUH) as part of the Cúirt international literary festival.
Three years ago, O’Driscoll selected work for the “Poems for Patience” project, which GUH and Cúirt have run annually since 2004. This year, poet Theo Dorgan introduced his selection of 21 pieces of work by Irish and international writers, which are framed and displayed during Cúirt, and which are then installed in waiting areas of University Hospital Galway and Merlin Park University Hospital.
Authors ranging from Carol Ann Duffy, Samuel Green, Sharon Olds, Moya Cannon and Jean Valentine to Persian lyric poet Hafiz, the Greek poet Sappho and Minamoto No Morotada of Japan are among the selection, while a piece entitled Just the On e by Galway poet Síghle Meehan – the winner of this year’s annual contest as part of the project – is also displayed.
Recalling how the project was initiated by Prof Pat Finnegan at GUH, Dorgan said the biggest “illness” at the moment was that “we are being poisoned by words that don’t mean anything . People come into hospitals and they are caught between different kinds of language,” Dorgan noted, contrasting the language of “soothing, nurturing, healing” used by nurses and medical professionals and care workers to the “dead language of administration”.
“There is a single management style across all State institutions and it is profoundly unhuman,” he said, and a form of “MBA-speak”.
Poetry can enact “that dance of words between the private and the public, between the ordinary language of everyday life and the carefully crafted language that’s designed to endure,” he said, explaining how he had selected work which could “speak to different ways of being human”.