Showing 1 - 10 of 65 annotations contributed by Davis, Cortney
Summary:Physician Rafael Campo's collection of new and selected poems is a lovely look back (selected poems are from 1994 to 2016) and an exciting look at thirty-one new poems that continue his trademark use of a variety of poetic forms (the title poem "Comfort Measures Only" is a Villanelle, pg 135) and the moving and personal examination of his interactions with patients. This collection begins with Campo's excellent introductory essay, "Illness as Muse" (pgs 1-9).
Summary:"Sky the Oar," Stacy Nigliazzo's second full-length poetry collection, contains 52 poems in four sections. These poems are gems--and gem-like, each poem has been created by a compression of words into unique forms. Nigliazzo's poems wander along the page, floating in white space as margins move in and out. In the three "Triptych" poems, pages 36, 46, and 61, Nigliazzo uses an article written in 2015, the report of a woman's murder, as a pale background. By choosing words to highlight, the poet creates spare poems that emerge as commentary on this crime--"Triptych III" offers only 6 highlighted words (pages 61-62). Nigliazzo has abandoned the more common narrative form--long or short lines that tell a story--and instead gives the reader hints, sign posts along the way. These poems are not meant to be read quickly. It is only by pondering them, allowing the imagination and intellect to fill in, so to speak, the white space around the words, that the impact and complexity of these stunning, impressionistic poems becomes evident.
Summary:Author Christie Watson begins her memoir with these words: "I didn't always want to be a nurse." Indeed, the first several pages of the introduction give witness to Christie's many interests, her career starts and stops, and a peek into what she names her "flightiness," including leaving school at age sixteen to move in with her older boyfriend and his four lodgers (page 5). Then, still sixteen years old, she begins working with the "Spastics Society" helping to assist disabled adults. This is the first time she sees nurses in action, and one of them offers Christie a suggestion: "You should do nursing. They give you a grant and somewhere to live" (page 6). At age seventeen, the author enters nursing school--and like most nursing students, she is "terrified of failure." During her health screening blood draw, Christie faints; a nurse suggests she rethink her career. But Christie persists, graduates, then spends twenty successful years in nursing. This memoir--densely written, action packed--is her account of her work especially in the Special-Care baby Unit, in the medical ward, and in Accident and Emergency. The author brings us as well into the cancer ward, pediatric ICU, and the geriatric ward, painting vivid portraits of her patients and the many acts of kindness she offers them along the way.
Summary:When poet and writer Amy Nawrocki was nineteen years old, a college student returning home after her freshmen year, she suffered a sudden and mysterious illness. She was transformed, in an eye-blink, from an active young woman to a bed bound and comatose patient. "There is nothing to embellish--I got sick, I fell into a deep sleep, I woke up. No fairy tale" (page 3). Months of her life went missing: this brief and lovely memoir is her attempt to reconstruct those hours and those experiences. She begins with reflections on journal entries written before her illness began, giving the reader (and herself) a persona, a personality, a living breathing young woman who already writes, who lives in her head, and who always felt "totally comfortable" in her body (page 3). Then we lose her, as she lost herself. She re-visions the story of her months of suffering and recovering from encephalitic coma through the various medical records and family memories she gathers in order to reconstruct the missing pieces of her life. "The coma girl has detached herself from me. I have to dream her up or rely on what others saw, eye witnesses who had to detach themselves in a different way" (page 21). Coming back into life after a serious illness is a strange and often prolonged journey. Nawrocki writes, "Waking up took as long as sleeping" (page 33). And in this waking up time, she begins to see who she was (or how she looked to others) during those blank months. "The images still frighten me. My face was a mess; hair cropped short, puffed up without styling, ragged, like I just woke up. My eyes seemed empty but weirdly wild" (page 35). During her recovery, the author begins journaling again. "In my college notes, I focused on the art of reflection; after the illness, I wanted mainly to observe" (page 42). And in recovery, she begins to build memories once again. She lists her recollections during weeks in rehab, and she remembers "the final trip home, a cake decorated with blue and yellow icing waiting for me" (page 45).
Summary:"joy: 100 poems," edited by poet and editor Christian Wiman, is a collection of 100 poems that examine, in various ways, the state of consciousness we call "joy." The poets represented here are for the most part well known, as are many of their poems. But, happily, there are poems here that seem new, especially when viewed through the lens of "joy."
Summary:Jean Sands' second full-length poetry collection, "Close But Not Touching," was published a few months after her death in October, 2016. Sands had been working on this volume for more than a year, a process slowed by debilitating illness. This collection, like her first book, "Gandy Dancing," is autobiographical, raw, plainly written, and powerful. Both books deal with sexual abuse, marital abuse, dysfunctional family dynamics, divorce, poverty, and a woman's struggle to survive. And in Sands' case, to write about that survival.
Summary:In "Mandatory Evacuation Zone," Felice Aull has gathered 63 beautifully crafted poems in which she examines the intricacies of language and loss, of grief and healing. Each of the book's five sections considers these themes in slightly different ways, always in language that is understated, vivid, and exact. In Section I, we read poems that focus on the author's complicated family history and her early loss of homeland. In "Tracings" (page 15), an unknown relative (thanks to online genealogy searches) reaches the narrator and wants to meet her. She, however, only wishes to learn ". . . how my parents / and my infant self / made our tortuous way out . . . . " Brought in infancy from Germany to America, the author suffers the loss of both native homeland and native language ("Notes from an Alpine Vacation" page 16). She searches photos of her mother and ponders museum note cards illustrated by Holocaust survivors ("Museum Notecards" page 18), imagining what she can't quite know and yet can't quite forget.
Summary:Physician Ron Domen's first full-length poetry collection, "Plaintive Music," deserves, and requires, close and attentive reading. In these 47 poems, Domen favors short lines and keen attention to both sound and image.
"I studied in medical school to learn / what actually lies under thick / layers of skin and how the heart / hides behind the breastplate" ("Armadillo" p. 33).
Summary:In this wonderful short story, author Jeanette Brown describes a woman’s first visit to an alternative medicine healer. The woman has a persistent cough. Unhappy with the "five seconds per visit your doctor lavishes on you after your two-hour wait in his sterile lobby," she has taken her yoga instructor’s advice and made an appointment with a tall, olive-skinned man whose voice is "low and soothing" and whose manner is slow, relaxed, and personal.The woman, whom the healer diagnoses as "the roadrunner, a busy fidgety type," alternates between interest, skepticism and dismay. She cracks jokes; he doesn’t laugh. He recommends diet, exercise, no caffeine, and colon cleansing. She mentally rolls her eyes until, his hands massaging her foot, she feels her stomach lurch, a twinge in her armpit and begins to think of her body as "a human pinball machine." Whenever her self-defensive, rational, traditional beliefs almost propel her off the exam table and into her clothes, the healer "nails" her, reading her personality and her lifestyle exactly.Well into the visit, she realizes she hasn’t coughed once. Then, when she’s the most relaxed, incense wafting, his hands kneading all tensions from her back, her mind registering "this is bliss," her esophagus becomes blocked. Sitting up, she coughs, and the healer confronts her. "You have something to say," he insists, and she counters with "You expect me to believe all this mumbo-jumbo?" He tells her she swallows her feelings, and when she coughs again a "feather? A butterfly?" escapes from her mouth and disappears.When the healer pats her back and asks her to cough once more, she can’t. Taking her hands, he declares her "cured." At the story’s end, still not quite able to admit that this strange physician has helped her, yet knowing that he has, the woman struggles to count out his fifty dollar fee, finally dropping a handful of bills onto his bench, "hoping he won’t be offended by a tip."
In 2008, editor and physician Paul Gross launched a new online publication, "Pulse--voices from the heart of medicine" (published by the Department of Family and Social Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center). This anthology contains every poem and first-person narrative published during Pulse's first year, arranged in five sections corresponding to publication date and not to theme: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring. Paul Gross, in his introduction, states "After more than a decade of practice as a family doctor, I came to appreciate that the science I'd learned in medical school, though powerful and useful, was also incomplete . . . . it contained much truth about illness and healing, but not the whole truth" (xvii). Like many other caregivers, Gross discovered "that writing and sharing my healthcare stories with others was therapeutic" (xviii). He looked to "Sun Magazine" as an example of how first person narratives, both prose and poems, could turn "hurts and triumphs into something potentially beautiful, funny or moving" (xviii).
The poems and prose that arrive every Friday online to Pulse's thousands of subscribers (and the selections in this anthology) are carefully screened by the editors according to these guidelines: the stories have to be first-person, and they have to be true, recounting the writer's own experience. Submissions are accepted from any person involved in healthcare. The language used must be "clear, simple language. No medical jargon. No arcane literary devices" (xx). Gross and his editors decided that Pulse would not be a medical journal nor a literary magazine--its purpose fell outside the perimeters of both genres--and so Pulse, and this anthology, offers work that is, in a refreshing and honest way, different from the slick or more polished poetry and prose that might be found elsewhere.
In reading this anthology from cover to cover, and so from season to season, I found that the poems and prose seemed to fall into several categories: Personal musings, in which authors relate healthcare experiences that engender intimate and revealing narratives about their own lives--among the best of these are "Well Baby Check," p.3; "Finding Innisfree," p. 31; "First Patient," p. 39; "Losing Tyrek," p. 45; "Carmen's Story," p. 62; and "Chemo? No Thanks," p. 106. Other pieces are commentaries on the other side of healthcare, the one that cries out for reform and affects both patients and caregivers. Among the best of these are "Redesigning the Practice of Medicine," p. 9; "A Brush with the Beast," p. 22; "Rx," p. 60; "Halloween Horrors," p. 69; and "Brain Cutting," p. 136.
Other pieces are humorous ("Aunt Helen Sees a Ghost," p. 6) or political ("My War Story," p. 11), and many poems and prose pieces speak of patient encounters or about being a patient, some more anecdotal, relating a specific incident that affected the author ("Once," p. 41) and others multi-layered, some relating medical student or intern experiences ("Jeannie," p. 48; "A View from Nepal," p. 87; "Ripped from the Headlights," p. 90; "Snowscape," p. 97; "First Night Call," p. 100; and "Wounded Messenger," p. 114.) The "category" I found most interesting and most unique are the selections I will call "confessions." These writings--demonstrating openess and bravery on the part of the authors--tell of regrets, mistakes, sorrows, wrong calls and other mishaps that occur, daily, in the practice of healthcare. In these, the most human face of caregiving is revealed. Although most of the pieces in this anthology contain elements of "confession," the most specifically revealing include "Mothers and Meaning," p. 14; "Physician's Exasperation," p. 44; "Confidential," p. 53; "My Patient, My Friend," p. 73; and "Apologies," p. 104.
Editor's note: Coincidentally, a recent relevant paper on confessional writing by physicians expounds further on this topic:"Bless Me Reader for I Have Sinned: physicians and confessional writing" by Delese Wear and Therese Jones (Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, Vo. 53, No.2, Spring 2010, pp. 215-30).