Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A dose of poetry

Has it ever struck you how many poems are written around the subject of illness? Many are by doctors. It seems in the last weeks I’m finding them everywhere. Here are some, written from various medical points of view:

“Pandora” by Kelley Jean White is disease and diagnosis seen through the eyes of a medical student. It begins:

Second-year medical student.
An early patient interview
at the Massachusetts General Hospital
Routine hernia repair planned, not done.
Abdomen opened and closed.
Filled with disease, cancer.

Read more

“Cases” by Parker Towle has behind it the experience and authority of the seasoned neurologist.

Man in his late seventies comes in with his wife,
weak, lost twenty-five pounds, can’t eat, hard to talk,
seeing double off and on past eighteen months
been to a family doctor and two specalists.

Read more

The Poetry Ward” is an essay by Danielle Ofri, a physician instructor at Bellevue Hospital in New York. In it she explains how she dispenses poetry along with medical wisdom to the interns, residents and medical students she supervises.

A poem she refers to in the piece is "Gaudeamus Igitur" by Dr. John Stone, parts of which are often quoted at medical school graduation ceremonies:

...For this is the day you know too little
against the day when you will know too much
for you will be invincible
and vulnerable in the same breath
which is the breath of your patients...

Finally, not to leave out the patient, most of us will relate to Diane Lockward’s “You Should Avoid Doctors”:

Because they find something you don’t
want. That’s their job, finding trouble. They impose
music you’d never choose, a paper gown, a cold room ...

Read more

(Guess where I'm going this afternoon.)

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