‘Hanford: A Conversation’ at White Salmon Library

The Friends of the White Salmon Valley Community Library invite the public to join former Washington State Poet Laureate Kathleen Flenniken and Patricia Hoover, Hanford Downwinder and activist, as they share insights, poems and personal experiences living in the shadow of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation during the 1950s to 1970s.

The program takes place Thursday, March 9 from 6:30-8 p.m. in the library’s Sprint/Baker Gallery. A related gallery exhibit will be on display March 1-25 in the library’s Sprint Baker Gallery.

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Kathleen Flenniken

The evening will include a “conversation” between Flenniken, reading from and discussing her poetry collection, “Plume” (University of Washington Press, 2012) and Hoover, sharing personal and family experiences prompted by the selected poems. A question and answer period will follow. A limited number of copies of “Plume” are available to borrow at the library’s front desk.

The event is co-sponsored by the Friends of the Library, Envirogorge and Columbia Riverkeeper. Light refreshments will be provided by the Friends of the Library.

The accompanying gallery exhibit will include a series of seven fabric posters titled “Atomic Footprints: Excerpts from Particles on the Wall” developed by the “Particles on the Wall” coalition of Richland, Wash., with support from the Washington State Department of Ecology and Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Interspersed with the posters will be original works by local artist Janet Essley, visually exploring the themes of an expanding plume of toxic waste inspired by the art of Helen Frankenthaler.

The “Atomic Footprint” poster series was originally created to accompany a larger exhibit shown in Richland, titled “Particles on the Wall,” its founders and curators Dianne Dickeman (visual), Nancy Dickeman (literary) and Steven Gilbert (science). The posters integrate visual art, science, poems and historical memorabilia to illuminate Washington State’s nuclear history, environmental concerns regarding radioactive contamination, and the broader examination of history in the quest for peace.

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Patricia Hoover

The gallery exhibit will be on display March 1-25 during regular library hours. For more information on this and other library programs, exhibits, resources and services call the library 509-493-1132 or visit the Fort Vancouver Regional Library website at www.fvrl.org.

The poems in “Plume” are a meditation on the Hanford Nuclear Site in Flenniken’s hometown of Richland at the height of the Cold War, where "every father I knew disappeared to fuel the bomb," and where she worked at Hanford herself as a civil engineer and hydrologist.

By the late 1980s, declassified documents revealed decades of environmental contamination and deception at the plutonium production facility, contradicting a lifetime of official assurances to workers and their families that their community was and always had been safe. She served as Washington State Poet Laureate from 2012–2014.

Hanford Downwinder and activist Hoover holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. She has worked in the radio and television industry in both commercial and public broadcasting.

Hoover has been active in the anti-nuclear environmental movement for the past 27 years. A founding member of the Northwest Radiation Health Alliance, she is a native eastern Oregonian, born in The Dalles, Ore., in 1947 and raised in Hermiston. She served on the first Oregon Advisory Board to the Hanford Health Information Network (HHIN), resigning that position along with four others to protest inadequate efforts by HHIN on behalf of the Hanford Downwinders.

Hoover’s life and health, and those of her one remaining family member, continues to be impacted by exposure to emissions from Hanford in the 1950s and ‘60s.

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