Showing 1 - 10 of 12 annotations associated with Campo, Rafael
The poems in physician Rafael Campo's latest collection examine familiar themes: lost homelands, the agonies of patients and providers, local and global abuses, love and betrayal, of both the heart and the body. In this book, Campo expands these themes, writing of child abuse, war, and the certainties and uncertainties of maturing love. As in his earlier collections, Campo investigates these themes in poems that are expertly crafted and often in form, as if form might contain this poet's empathic and deeply felt connection to the world. While Campo has always been a reliable witness, especially to the world of healthcare, in this volume his vision becomes even more incantatory, paradoxical and mature. The narrator's personal losses and responsibilities expand into the universal, into a world that cries out to us to care, to act, to heal, to notice, to tell, to "realize the human" (92).
Divided into four sections, the first section begins with a poem, "Dialogue with Sun and Poet," dedicated to June Jordan, a deceased activist and poet whose poems once made Campo uncomfortable but now mobilize him to "arise." Following poems tell of local abuses--an abused woman ("Addressed to Her"), the displacement of memory ("Elsa, Varadero, 1934" and "Night Has Fallen"), the crushing of the spirit ("Personal Mythology") and the reality of evil, evil that calls poets to "refuse nostalgia's reassurance that the way was clear" ("Brief Treatise on the New Millennial Poetics"). This section ends with a translation from Neruda's "Book of Questions," a poem that asks if we are in control and if we are indeed capable of change (22).
In the second section, Campo takes us, in sonnets, through "Eighteen Days in France," another country and yet one in which he is still haunted by melancholy, by both sadness and joy--when one sees clearly one cannot leave behind suffering or the potential for suffering. These sonnets speak of loss, fear, doubt and death grounded in moments of pure happiness.
The book's third section, "Toward a Theory of Memory," opens with another masterful Neruda translation, one that speaks of love's convolutions, "just as life is of two minds" (47). Following are exceptionally beautiful poems that speak of the misuse of love and power ("Granymede, to Zeus") and of the deep joy and deep complications of long-married love (see especially "The Story of Us").
Section Four, "Dawn, New Age," is a collection of laments for human selfishness, for war, for the inevitable passage of time, for the emotional depressions we might lose ourselves in, for the patients we cannot cure. In "Tuesday Morning," the poet says, "No poet cares / for such deceptions anymore, and words / don't cure" (93). Perhaps words alone cannot cure, but these poems, intelligent and very often incredibly beautiful, can sustain us and remind us that only human connection, human love might help us survive.
- Mathiasen, Helle
Summary:The Cuban-American physician-poet Rafael Campo tells a story in this poem. His speaker is both a curandero, or folk healer, and a modern-day American physician. Returning home after a trauma-filled day at the Emergency Ward, the speaker immerses himself in a soothing bath with "Twenty different herbs at first (dill, spices / From the Caribbean, aloe vera)." He weeps and prays to his patron saint and curandero St. Rafael, who has the same name as the poet himself. Rafael announces his arrival: "Rafael, / He says, I am your saint." The speaker tells his healer about two female patients he has seen that day, one, an abused wife, and the second a little girl killed on her tricycle. St. Rafael listens, touches the speaker, and carries him to bed. Sleep "takes the world away."
- Aull, Felice
This poem by physician, Rafael Campo, is No. 5 in the sequence, "Canción de las Mujeres" ("Song of the Women"). A drag queen is dying of AIDS, as she and the physician try to maintain her dignity and her identity. "Her shade of eye shadow was emerald green; / She clutched her favorite stones."
The patient is resigned, "almost at peace" while she remembers the strength that she drew from the community of drag queens who were her friends, now dead. The physician turns up the morphine drip, and straightens her wig, "[b]efore pronouncing her to no applause."
In his third collection, Campo presents visceral poems that grow organically from the body: his own body and the bodies of patients, lovers, family, and friends. He doesn't write about being a gay physician of Cuban background--rather he crafts poems that address pain, love, and memory within a metrical framework so seamlessly that readers might feel they are healing, seeking, and singing alongside him.
Outstanding poems include "Sonnet in the Cuban Way," "The Return," "The Dream of Loving Cuba," "Madonna and Child," "Baby Pictures" (a prose-poem sequence), "A Poet's Education," "The Changing Face of Aids," and "Recognition." Section V, "Lorca," gives us Campo's translations of Federico Garcia Lorca's Sonnets of Dark Love.
The subtitle of this collection is "A Voyage to the New World." In the first section, Campo begins his voyage to a new world of self-understanding by experimenting with the language of family, intimacy, healing, and magic. In "I Don’t Know What I Can’t Say, or, Genet on Keats," the poet writes: "There are two sides to life. The side where life / Remains unconsummated, reticent" and the other, which is "the act itself laid bare--a hand / Inside the lion’s mouth . . . . " Campo chooses the latter.
In the next section, his voyage takes him through several connected series of 16-line sonnets; each of these series plumbs the depths of a different intimate relationship: Song for My Grandfather, for My Father, for My Lover, and for Our Son. Some of Campo’s finest poems are in this section, including (just a handful from the many) "Grandfather’s Will," "Anatomy Lesson," "Planning a Family," "My Father’s View of Poetry," "Translation," and "Political Poem."
In the final section, Campo brings the insight of a seasoned voyager to his day-to-day life experience as a gay Latino physician: "To teach me my own life, to share my grief." ("Planning a Family," p. 49)
- Henderson, Schuyler
One of Campo's projects has been to interrogate the methods used by physicians to understand patients. These methods can be expertly employed to hone in on certain diseases and pathologies, but can also come with a price, most notably a blindness to that patient's experience and personhood. Campo's message might be, It's hard to see the big picture through a microscope.
In this sonnet, he turns to the mental status exam. The inadequacy of a dualist perspective of mind and brain and the reductionism of simple interpretations are the starting point. Campo then turns to several questions from the Feinstein mental status exam (remembering three objects, interpreting a phrase, etc.). Ever attuned to the life of being a physician, Campo has captured the embarrassed way in which many of the (very simple) questions are asked ("Just two more silly questions").
He does grant the divergence of mental experience, with the reminder that the mind is "timeless, dizzy, unscrupulous" as well as "sometimes only dimly lit," and acknowledges the limits of the mental status exam, one in which a certain type of memory is tested (three objects) but not another (that the patient might sing).
Physician and poet Rafael Campo sometimes gives poems to his patients, tucking them in with educational materials and prescriptions. He knows that poetry can be therapeutic for both patient and caregiver, and in this beautifully organized and executed book he tells readers why and how poetry can enhance healing.
The chapters (in which Campo ponders questions such as: Is poetry necessary for survival? How does poetry locate us inside the experience of illness? Why is poetry therapeutic?) follow the arc of illness itself. In Chapter 4, "Inklings," Campo discusses how not-yet-diagnosed symptoms of sickness may be revealed in poetry, the patient "divining" signs of illness "from the clues discernible in a sentient relationship to the world around us" (p. 52).
In following chapters ("Diagnosis," "Treatment," "Side Effects," and "End of Life"), he expertly unfolds, through brilliant poem analysis, how "At every station of the disease experience, poetry has suggested an ulterior discourse that, as it accumulates, forms a composite picture of a humane idea of wellness" (p. 127). In other chapters ("Daniel," "Clara," "Sunny," "Eduardo," and "Mrs. Twomey") he discusses how poetry has changed and informed his clinical and personal interactions with patients.
Fully aware that poetry is not a "cure" for illness and that relationships between patients and caregivers are not always ideally sympathetic, Campo demonstrates how, nonetheless, poetry can be a valid healing modality. In the "Afterword," he urges readers to imagine poetry "as a metaphor itself for the process of healing" and "to experience it through the stories and voices of real people who have themselves called upon it as they faced illness" (p. 188), and he states his wish to see "non-poet physicians use this book with their own patients and medical trainees" (p. 190). An excellent "Further Reading" appendix provides wide-ranging selections for further study.
A four-part poem that begins with glimpses of a man suffering the ravages of AIDS: "He stayed / Four months. He lost his sight to CMV." The man connects with his doctor through the stories he tells, but also through blood: "I'm drowning in his blood . . . . "
The doctor at first tries to maintain distance from his patient ("I can't identify with him.") and even feels "residual guilts" when the patient says it's okay that "doctors could be queer." In the end, though, the healer has formed a bond with his patient. After the man dies, the doctor further identifies with him: "His breath, / I dreamed, had filled my lungs--his lips, my lips / Had touched."
- Terry, James
Many of these poems are confessional accounts of gay love and sexuality. Another group clearly draw on the author’s clinical experiences as a physician. A few poems (e.g. "For You All Beauty", "Her Final Show") mix those broad categories in talking about the care of AIDS patients.
The 11 short poems under the sequence title "Ten Patients, and Another" are the most clinical. They mimic clinical presentations during rounds in several ways: individual poems under patient initials--Mrs. G, John Doe; opening lines with the patient’s age, race, and gender; even presenting complaints with hospital shorthand. For example, in "Kelly" Campo begins: "The patient is a twelve-year-old white female. / She’s gravida zero, no STD’s. / She’s never even had a pelvic. One / month nausea and vomiting. No change / in bowel habits. No fever, chills, malaise." But in this poem and others of the sequence, the clinical gradually turns to the personal: "Her pelvic was remarkable for scars / At six o’clock, no hymen visible, / Some uterine enlargement. Pregnancy / Tests positive times two. She says it was / Her dad. He’s sitting in the waiting room."
The cumulative effect of the series is a kind of horror at hospital cases and how they get there: a three-year-old who’s ingested cocaine, a homeless man with eyelids frozen shut, one man beaten, another man shot, an abused wife, a suicide, a drug overdose. To feel empathy for these cases, and to turn them into poetry, Campo has practiced the art of medicine as a form of love.
Campo also writes as a patient who has experienced a serious arm fracture and subsequent threat of cancer in the 16-poem sequence "Song Before Dying." This changes his perspective on care-giving, as he writes in "IX. The Very Self." " . . . more dying waits / Downstairs for me. I almost hear their groans. / Same hunger, bones. Same face we all consumed. / As I examine them, I find the tomb / Toward which they lead. I know it is my own."
Summary:A patient is dying of AIDS. The physician-speaker repositions a drain in the patient's wound, taking care "to slap on latex gloves" before he does so. Another physician, "a hypocrite / Across the room complains that it's her right / To walk away . . . ." She acknowledges no obligation as a physician to care for this patient. Does she think it is too risky? What kind of risk? Might contact with this dying man somehow upset her ordered world and expose her vulnerability? Of course, nothing she could do "Could save him now." Even the physician-speaker must leave the patient "pleading" and continue with his other work: "There's too much to do."