SF State’s Poetry Center honored the work of a poet who has transformed her breast cancer diagnosis into messages of survival and strength during a poetry reading Dec. 6.
Anne Boyer is a friend to many, a well-known poet, a single mother and a woman whose life was suddenly interrupted at the beginning of this year with the diagnosis of breast cancer.
“At the fullest expression of its treatment, breast cancer is total strike: striking hair, striking eyelashes, striking eyebrows, striking skin, striking thinking, striking language, striking feeling, striking vigor, striking appetite, striking eros, striking maternity, striking productivity, striking immune system, negated fertility, negated breasts,” wrote Boyer Sept. 18 on her Tumblr blog.
In honor of Boyer and the effects her disease has had on her spirit and her work, the SF State Poetry Center held a poetry session, For Anne Boyer: a reading by friends in love and solidarity, at Ruth’s Table in the Mission.
“We wanted to do something that would encourage her and celebrate her work,” said Elise Ficarra, the associate director for the Poetry Center. “It was a beautiful event and there were about seven or eight poets that read. People chose to read their favorite poems that Anne wrote, plus many poets read poems that they had written for Anne or to Anne. It was a serious event but there was still a lightness both in people, presentations and the work itself.”
Boyer is an assistant professor of liberal arts at the Kansas City Art Institute, where she has taught since 2007. She has written several poems and books throughout her life, including The Romance of Happy Workers, Selected Dreams with a Note on Phrenology and Anne Boyer’s Good Apocalypse.
A donation of $10-$20 was suggested upon entry to the poetry reading to benefit Boyer’s costly medical expenses. Boyer was unable to attend the event herself, but the small crowd of attendees raised $380, according to Ficarra. In addition, the Poetry Center donated a $700 honorarium in appreciation of Boyer’s work.
“Anne’s work really helps people survive,” said Brandon Brown, the Donor Relations manager at SF State. “As she survives I think her work will make even more of an impact of people’s ability to thrive. I’ve seen people who have had their lives transformed and their thoughts transformed by knowing her and knowing her work.”
Brown, who is a poet himself and has been friends with Boyer for over a decade, assisted the Poetry Center at the reading as the emcee. The reading event was not intended to be a memorial service, but rather an opportunity to bring together fans and loved ones of Boyer’s to celebrate her life, her poetry and her past and future accomplishments.
Boyer was unable to attend the event, not only because of the many miles distancing her from San Francisco, but because she is currently undergoing her second round of chemotherapy. The chemotherapy is having a positive affect on Boyer, but she still has a few more weeks to go, according to Cassandra Gillig, a close friend of Boyer’s.
Gillig lives close to the poet and has the opportunity to assist Boyer with her everyday needs. Gillig believes one of Boyer’s biggest accomplishments in life has been her advocacy for female writers and push for women to become more vocal and confident.
“Anne writes poetry that is right now so necessary, considering the way the world feels completely full of insurmountable problems,” Gillig said. “She is always writing toward revolution–a new poetry and a new world. She makes poetry a dreamy sphere where anyone can live and write and I think where everyone would want to live and write.”