Oregon State University Visiting Poet Jennifer Richter has been chosen as one of seven Oregon poets to have their work on permanent display at Kaiser Permanente Westside Medical Center, which is set to open next year in Hillsboro.
Richter said the medical setting is personally meaningful to her, especially following a long illness that took place after the birth of her daughter.
“I spent a lot of time in waiting rooms, doctors’ offices, and hospitals,” Richter says. “It would have been very meaningful for me to have seen poetry on my way out of a hospital.”
Richter’s book of poems, Threshold, was named a 2011 Oregon Book Awards finalist by former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky. Her work has appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, The Missouri Review, and A Fierce Brightness: Twenty-five Years of Women’s Poetry, and is forthcoming in Subtropics and Poetry Northwest.
The poem selected for display at Kaiser Permanente was chosen from among 400 entries, and explores her daughter’s curiosity about a flower bud.
“My daughter opens buds before they’ve bloomed,
a careful peek into each sweet secret center.
Only three, she knows already they’re wise inside —
the flowers saying Look at all this light.”
The poem will be displayed on the hospital’s third floor near the Labor & Delivery unit.
“The image I wanted was of flowers bending toward the light, because that’s a gorgeous symbol for us all,” she says. “That’s how you go on living — you reach for the light.”
“Illness can be a time when people reflect on the larger meaning of life, and poetry can speak to us when we are in that state,” said Cindy Davis, chief nursing officer for Westside hospital. “We chose poems that bring to mind themes of healing.”
For more information on Richter and her work, see http://jenniferrichterpoet.com/