Wordfall

Installation by Francie Hester and Lisa Hill

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Josie Robertson Surgery Center

1133 York Ave, New York, NY 10065

Wordfall

Text is integral to Wordfall. The catalyst is the poetry of Brendan Ogg, an aspiring writer who was diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of 19 during his sophomore year in college. In the face of his illness, he created a collection of poetry entitled Summer Becomes Absurd, which reveals the energy of youth, the wisdom of one who has met and acknowledged mortality, and an embrace and celebration of life. It was heartbreaking when Brendan succumbed to brain cancer at the tender yet insightful age of 20.

Wordfall weaves together six of Brendan’s poems as a tribute to his life and spirit. Friends, family, and others who did not know Brendan wrapped more than 80,000 paper clips with his words. A new community emerged among those who shared in the wrapping, in Brendan’s story and in the idea of words as legacy. Each participant found something unique in the artwork, reflecting that pieces of those we lose stay with us in new and sometimes surprising ways. The wrapped paper clips transformed the written work into an enduring memorial, linkages of words, random at times, but with inherent messages.

Below are two poems from Summer Becomes Absurd by Brendan Ogg. The book is available at Amazon or through Finishing Line Press.

{L’CHAIM} (To Life)

Feather rug, soft bed of matted grass,

Why did I question this place of endless beauty,

life,

Where was my heart before this time?

Put your hand there, fingers spreading from the palm,

And feel the warm, insistent pulse.

to my friend, in weakness?

Now I feel it in my breast.

{KEEP ME FROM FEAR}

Keep me from fear,

that cold paralysis,

the squirming nausea.

I have my whole life to be afraid.

I am sick of these half eaten fingernails. No.

There! With that declaration, the anvil weight of dread

falls loosely from the chain around my neck.

I have my entire life,

however long it is.

I have my own eternity in a hundred years,

or in an instant

More than 300 people across 50 states, and 2 continents, and were mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, who ranged in age from 10 years old to 91 years old, friends, teachers, and strangers, some who had survived cancer, others who were cancer caregivers, wrapped 6 of Brendan Ogg’s poems healthcare workers, and the homeless, around 80,000 paperclips using 60 pounds of paper. Thank you.

WITH SPECIAL GRATITUDE TO: The Ogg family & Howard Connelly, engineer and fabricator


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Francie Hester Studio
Boulder, CO
‍Silver Spring, MD
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