A Poem from Waiting For Saint Brendan in Radiolab's Latest Podcast

Dear listeners, I'd like to report that my poem "I carried your oxygen" (from the first section of Brendan) is in Radiolab's latest podcast on the Periodic Table of Elements! Photo Credit: Jamie York

Sam Breslin Wright

Naturally, I'm delighted, and excited, to hear actor Sam Breslin Wright perform my work with such power and sensitivity. How this came about was due to a stunning poet by the name of Thomas Dooley who is a good pal of mine. His publicist sent his powerful book Trespass to NPR (click on the link for a piece about T. Dooley's work); Trespass, Thomas's first book, was one of five National Poetry Series winners for 2013. Robert Krulwich of Radiolab noticed it on someone's desk and asked to borrow it. A poetry lover, he read it, loved it, and noticed that Thomas organises something called Emotive Fruition, an event in which actors interpret and act out poems on stage. Robert came to one of the events and thought it was dynamic, beguiling, and surprising, and asked Thomas to collaborate with them on an upcoming show.

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Thomas put out a call far and wide, as well as close and near: the poems had to be about, or involve, one of the elements from the Periodic Table. I thought that I had nothing to send, and then realised that I had a poem about my aunt, the late Edwina Hamill, and I sent that. The poem is dedicated to her courage in the face of ovarian cancer, and sets the scene during dinner in the restaurant in Bewley's Hotel, Ballsbridge, Dublin, one summer when she realised that the discreet oxygen tank that she carried in her handbag, was running out. Casually, she asked if I'd go and get the reserve tank from the boot of the car. Apprehensive as to what the reserve would look like, I went, and found a tank that was gun-metal grey, heavy, and definitely bigger than a scuba diver would use.

She hooked up her O2 tubing, and the meal continued as normal, the waitresses and waiters politely not noticing the tank standing beside the table. It was a summer evening, and the lobby was full as we left the restaurant, everyone casually not noticing us as we left. As I carried the massive tank, she linked me, and stopped to pretend to search in her bag or chat about something or other as she caught her breathe again. After she passed away, that night came back to me as an example of great courage under fire, and I dedicated it to her (and for her children Anna and John).

Poets Sarah Sala, Christina Quintana, Jason Schneiderman and Emily Alta Hockaday also have wonderful work in the same episode. And, look at Emotive Fruition's website for a limited edition chapbook of the thirty poets whose work was featured in the two great events Emotive Fruition did with Radio Lab on the Periodic Table (the book is made by Michael Parrish):

They are NYC-based, and wonderful, all: KC Trommer, Jameson Fitzpatrick, Sarah Sala, Monica Wendel, Chrissy Malvasi, Mary Block, Becca Myers, Nicole Callihan, Theta Pavis, Jason Schneiderman, Lauren Neefe, Peter Longofono, Ama Codjoe, Thomas Dooley, Jason Baker, Arden Levine, Matthew Rohrer, William Dowd, Ryan Siegel-Stechler, Jeff Musillo, Geer Austin, Brandon Menke, Dustin Luke Nelson, Carly Rubin, Christina Quintana, Julia Guez, Jerome Murphy, Emily Brandt, Emily Hockaday, and Jackie Sherbow.