UCSF Library and San Francisco poets create space for the San Francisco community to “Pause, Breathe, and Re-Connect” during the COVID-19 pandemic

This is a guest post by Dr. Michelle-Linh (Michelle) Nguyen, a primary care doctor and researcher at UCSF and the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. 

As social distancing rules and regulations begin to relax, many of us are feeling the strain of prolonged social isolation and re-learning how to reach out to others.

On April 29th, 2021, 48 San Francisco and UCSF community members gathered virtually during the lunch hour on Zoom for a series of poetry readings and discussion centered around the human experience of medicine. Farah Hamade, the inaugural UCSF Library Artist-in-Residence, took visual notes and created an art piece that represents the event and experience (featured below).

Pause, Breath, Re-Connect artwork.
© Farah Hamade 2021. All rights reserved.
© Farah Hamade 2021. All rights reserved

Three poets—Kathleen McClung, Sharon Pretti, and Peggy Tahir—were selected through a submissions process from the San Francisco community to read their work. Sharon Pretti read a series of poems written during and after her brother’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis, treatment, and eventual death. Kathleen McClung read a sequence of sonnets inspired by her partner and her experiences navigating his treatment and surgery for a pituitary mass.

© Farah Hamade 2021. All rights reserved.

Peggy Tahir read a series of poems written for each radiation treatment she underwent for breast cancer. The readings were followed by a 10-second pause to create space for reflection and a rich discussion.

Michelle-Linh (Michelle) Nguyen closed the event with a reading from The Book of Delights by Ross Gay, which can be accessed here: https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2019/02/14/sharing-love/.

© Farah Hamade 2021. All rights reserved.

The introduction of the event and poetry readings were recorded with the poets’ permission. The recording was turned off for the discussion and closing to create a more comfortable, intimate space. After the event, the poetry reading recording, Farah Hamade’s art piece and a poem by Michelle-Linh (Michelle) Nguyen was shared with event registrants and the public.

© Farah Hamade 2021. All rights reserved.

The public can access the recording at the following link: https://archive.org/details/ucsf-pause-breathe-re-connect-poetry-and-discussion-2021-1.

The event was organized by Michelle-Linh (Michelle) Nguyen, Farah Hamade, Polina Ilieva, and Joanna Kang with support from the UCSF Library.

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