Tom Andrews


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Codeine Diary: A Memoir

Andrews, Tom

Last Updated: Jan-09-2010
Aull, Felice
Founder and Editor Emerita

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Contrary to what the title might suggest, this is not a memoir of drug addiction. Writer and poet Tom Andrews has hemophilia, and codeine is the analgesic he requires during excruciatingly painful internal bleeding episodes. In this diary, begun while recovering from a leg injury, Andrews reflects on his particular experience of life and hemophilia. He makes clear that " . . . hemophilia is only one of the stories my life tells me . . . " (p. 29)

The memoir interweaves the author's physical, emotional, and existential journey through the convalescent period with flashbacks of childhood and his relationship with his ailing brother, now dead, to whose memory the book is dedicated. Brother John's fatal illness with kidney disease shaped--and continues to shape--Tom's life as much as did the hemophilia.

On the one hand their parents' concern for John took Tom out of the spotlight and allowed him to pursue his own interests. These extended to motorcycle racing, playing in a punk band, and setting a record for continuous hand clapping--at age 11--that was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records. On the other hand, Tom's guilt over surviving John's early death may account for an almost reckless disregard of his own precarious physical condition. A constant subtext is the deep grief and abiding love of the living brother for the dead one.

But this is not a mournful book. It is an engaging memoir that provides unusual access and insight into the world of hemophilia, especially with regard to the painful "bleeds." It is the sense of exile and separation from others that is most disturbing for Andrews when in the throes of unrelieved pain. He takes us through the mental concentration required to endure this pain and the liberating relief to mind and spirit provided by codeine. Memory, perception, and writing provide the additional resources he needs to re-connect with the world.

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The Hemophiliac's Motorcycle

Andrews, Tom

Last Updated: Aug-24-2006
Coulehan, Jack
Annotator

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

May the Lord Jesus Christ bless the hemophiliac’s motorcycle, the smell of knobby tires . . . This long-lined incantation of a poem takes the reader from the motorcycle raceway to the Kanawha River to the "oak tops on the high hills beyond the lawns" and, finally, to the hospital wards and the writer’s elderly roommate, who reads his grandson’s Bar Mitzvah speech. Isn’t it dangerous for the hemophiliac to ride in motorcycle races when even "a mundane backward plunge on an iced sidewalk" can bring him to the hospital bed and the "splendor of fibrinogen and cryoprecipitate"? Of course, but why not do so anyway!

This poem is a psalm, a paean of praise and gratitude to God--gratitude for oaks, and hills, and catbirds, and star clusters. "I want to hymn and abide by, splendor of tissue, splendor of cartilage and bone." The poet is also listening--listening for the presence of God in the silence: "may He bless our listening and our homely tongues."

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A Language of Hemophilia

Andrews, Tom

Last Updated: Dec-30-2003
Coulehan, Jack
Annotator

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

This long poem in 20 sections seeks to explore, dissect, and create a language for the experience of hemophilia. "Blood pools in a joint / The limb locks . . . " The poet first dissects words like "trans / fusion" and "hema / toma," and showers the reader with images (like splatters of blood?).

In section 5 he states his purpose in the familiar jargon of educational objectives and later, in section 10, he utilizes spacing and line breaks to convert standard admonitions into poetry; for example, "These child- / ren should / not / be / punished, and / their / play with / other / children / should / be super- / vised . . . " Isolated phrases and sentences appear--some from the hospital and some from the "outside" world.

In some phrases the worlds of outside and inside mix, as in "Arterial sunrise, capillary dusk." Section 13 consists of laboratory reports. The poem breathes in and out, between syllables and long lines, between prosaic statements and poetic images. Finally, the poet finds words for the endless rhythm of hemophilia, "Gratitude and / fear--Your relentless / rhythm--I move to / it still . . . "

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