On a bright, sunny Miami day like this, the last place you’d be is at the hospital. That is, unless you were attending the O, Miami Poetry Health Fair, which took place on April 7 at Alamo Park, located in Jackson Memorial Hospital. Hosted in partnership with the Jackson Health System, volunteers from O, Miami and Jackson worked together to bring a little lyrical healing to attendees while they enjoyed free, healthy snacks from the Kind company, free massages from Lumina massage, and some soothing jazz music from the Mike Levine Quartet as part of the Jazz @ Jackson lunchtime concert series.
The highlight of the event was attendees getting their very own poetry prescriptions to enjoy, complete in a handy medicine vial filled with restorative verse in English, Spanish, or Creole. Poetry-deficient patients were asked to fill out specially created prescriptions with volunteers like Vanessa Goodnow and Hoda Masmoue (both with Jackson’s pharmacy), which asked what ailment they’d like relief from, such as sadness, boredom, etc., or if they wanted to enhance the good feeling they already had. Volunteers like Tere Figueras Negrete, also with Jackson, filled the prescription in one of the available three languages, according to the answers patients gave on their prescriptions.
Patients were also invited to test their visual poetry health with a special eye chart designed by local designer Amanda Funnicio made from a poem by National Book Award finalist Ross Gay. Lyrically acute patients enjoyed making out his lovely little poem:
I woke smiling
They even got to take a copy of the eye chart home, the better to keep their poetry acuity sharp.
By noon lunch-goers enjoyed the mild, breezy weather along with the festivities. According to Tere, between 400 and 500 prescriptions were handed out that day. As I opened my own prescription, I was treated to an excerpt from the poem, “Six Years Later,” by Richard Wilbur:
So long had life been together that once
the snow began to fall, it seemed unending;
that, lest the flakes should make her eyelids wince,
I’d shield them with my hand, and they, pretending
not to believe that cherishing of eyes,
would beat against my palm like butterflies.
It was the perfect remedy for my desire to focus more on the beauty of poetry.
Clidiane Aubourg is a writer living in Miami, Fl. She will be contributing blog posts for O, Miami Poetry Festival 2016.