Showing 81 - 90 of 131 annotations in the genre "Collection (Poems)"

Cut to the Word

Metcalf, Tim

Last Updated: Nov-12-2002
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

Tim Metcalfe is an Australian general practitioner who gave up medical practice to become a full-time poet and writer. A statement on the back cover summarizes the process in relation to this collection of 38 poems: " ’Cut to the Word’ is a moving account of one man’s transition from doctor to poet." He begins with the customary initiation: "We were introduced, respectfully, / to the volunteer dead . . . " (p. 13) He discovers the limitations and uncertainties of his new profession: "In tense moments / I wish my stethoscope / was all they want it to be." (p. 18) And the omnivorous demands of medicine: "I come home from work / and there it is: the family / the oldest crying / at the youngest crying / at her mother’s anger / at her crying . . . " (p. 21)

Metcalfe carries the reader through a series of short, incisive poems describing the doctor’s day-to-day work ("Morning Session, " pp. 47-50), as well as through a number of disturbing poems about the world of mental illness, but the book’s climax--so to speak--arrives with "The Doctor’s Complaint, " in which the physician heals herself "by laying down her stethoscope / and walking right out / of that in-patient clinic." At the end the poet writes, "Like a patient I have learned silence . . . Fine steel scissors in hand, / I cut to the word." (p. 63)

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Standing by Thistles

MacLeod, Anne

Last Updated: Aug-28-2002
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

The poems in this collection, written by a dermatologist, are not specifically about medicine or medical issues. Threading through them, however, is a sensibility that sees both the natural world and human relationships in terms of the great cycle of awakenings, rising passions, complex relationships, change, aging, and death. Many, though few run more than a page, have a narrative thrust; they offer windows on ordinary life that tie the particulars of events and encounters to large, seasonal, mythic rhythms and stories.

History is present in many poems, in the character of Persephone, for instance, in lacings of Gaelic language, in allusions to old stones and fires and (in the final long poem) to the historical Macbeth, immortalized inaccurately. Natural objects--bird songs, dolphins, nettles, an old pear tree--feature largely as anchoring images of poems that move gracefully from memories to metaphors, linking life observed with interior life lived alertly by a poet who plumbs small experiences for cosmic connections.

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The Painted Bed

Hall, Donald

Last Updated: Aug-08-2002
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This collection continues the work of mourning that characterized Hall's collection, Without (see this database). Hall's wife, poet Jane Kenyon, died of leukemia in 1995, at age 47. Hall, considerably older than Kenyon, was married to her for more than 20 years; they wrote their poetry at home, in the farm house that he inherited from his family. The painted bed of the book's title is their marriage bed, as well as the sick bed where Hall nursed Kenyon, and the bed in which she died.

The book is divided into four sections. The first is a six-page poem, "Kill the Day," a detailed rendering of the huge absence so present in Hall's daily activities during the month and even years following his wife's death. The poem is rich with expressions of loss and the daily effort to continue living, and, as time passes, the need to remember a fading presence. "When she died, at first the outline of absence defined / a presence that disappeared." "There was nothing to do, and nothing required doing." " . . . her pheromones diminished. / The negative space of her body dwindled as she receded . . . ."

The second section, "Deathwork," is a series of short poems about the final period before Kenyon died--during which Hall and Kenyon both knew that she was dying--the period after her death, Hall's recollections of earlier times together, the painful process of disposing of Kenyon's belongings ("Throwing the Things Away"), of letting her garden go untended, of "letting go" ("Her Garden," "The Wish"). There are many striking lines: "You think that their / dying is the worst / thing that could happen. / Then they stay dead." ("Distressed Haiku") "Now I no longer . . . call her 'you' / in a poem" ("Ardor"), and, indeed, Hall in this book refers to his dead wife as "she," and "Jane," in contrast to the direct address he used in Without.

Section 3, "Daylilies," is a long (13 page) chronicle of life in the family farm house, reflecting back to Hall's childhood and moving forward to his adult ownership of the house. This poem evokes the life cycles of nature, the march of generations, the repetition of birth and death, the farm house in New Hampshire as a microcosm of the universe, and seems to mark the beginning, in Hall, of some renewed joy in life. In the final section, "Ardor," Hall writes of re-awakened sexuality.

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Say Yes Quickly

O'Connor, Mary Bradish

Last Updated: Aug-07-2002
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This collection of poems chronicles moments of felt experience in the writer's life before and after her diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Starting with a memory of a carefree childhood lived in an era when streets were sanitized with DDT, and a poem entitled "The Body is the Repository of Memory," the poems move freely from close-ups of moments in the hospital or grieving at the waterside to wide-angle views of a life that has been and still is normal, worth living, pulsing, albeit a bit more irregularly, with creative energies.

Cumulatively the poems explore the paradox that illness (and a terminal prognosis) changes everything and also, but for the shadow it casts, changes very little. "Still," she writes in a final line, "my wild heart beats." The poems are interspersed with prose-poems that shift the focus toward the writer's reflections upon the project and circumstances of creating this "memory board"--a term borrowed from the Luba people of Africa, who bead boards that represent memories to pass on as visible legacies of lives they believe worthy of being remembered.

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The Andrew Poems

Wagner, Shelly

Last Updated: Aug-02-2002
Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This book contains 47 poems about the accidental drowning of the author's son, Andrew, when he was almost six years old. This cycle of elegiac poems begins with the author's memory of Andrew's birth, then quickly plunges into the specifics of his drowning and the details of his family's daily life and survival since. All of the poems are excellent--direct and well crafted.

Outstanding poems include "The Boxes," which recounts how the police searched the author's house when she first reported her child missing; "Wet," in which Andrew's grandfather comes to his house for a blanket with which to cover his newly-discovered body; "The Limousine" and "Thomas Birthday" which describe the funeral and the birthday party held the day after the funeral for Andrew's older brother, showing how grief and happiness collide; "The Pearl," in which the author laments all things undone and not said, yet recognizes that "The pain that has come between us / will someday be our pearl"; "Faded," which expresses a common fear: that if grief fades, so will memory of the loved one; "Communion," in which, on the first anniversary of Andrew's death, the author mimics the religious ritual as she eats peanut butter and jelly at her son's place at the table, drinks from his plastic cup: "When I finished, / I wiped my eyes with your napkin, / gave thanks, / ate the bread and drank the milk."

Other important poems are "Dust," "In Our Beds," "Again," "Foxes," "The Dance," "Your Questions" (a long poem in which she speaks to those who wonder how she can bear such loss), "To My Parents," "Driving" (a stunning poem in which the author, years after Andrew's death, thinks she sees him in a passing car), and "I Thirst." In this last and final poem, the author's lines might well be taken to heart by all caregivers: "Fear of loss / and walls of self protection / will kill me / long before a broken heart. / I pray, / let every death / break me so."

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The Heavenly Ladder

Coulehan, Jack

Last Updated: May-02-2002
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

The Heavenly Ladder is physician-poet Jack Coulehan's most recent chapbook, bringing together 48 poems, many of which have been published individually in various medical journals and literary magazines. The collection is divided into four sections.

Poems in the first section, "Medicine Stone," are written in the voice of patients or in the voice of the physician who treats them. The second section, "So Many Remedies," consists of five poems inspired by physician-author Chekhov. The poems of "The Illuminated Text" section reflect a wide-ranging interest in people who lived in distant times or in distant places. The final section, "Don't Be Afraid, Gringo," stays, for the most part, closer to home and includes a number of poems addressed to, or about, family members.

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The Healing Muse

St. Andrews, B. A. (Bonnie)

Last Updated: Dec-19-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

The first poem in this chapbook ("Sonogram") contains two images of a small, mysterious life (the fetus imagined as a "white boat on whiter water" and as a "tiny orca") in the midst of the coldly technical medical world. This juxtaposition is characteristic of B. A. St. Andrews's poems in this small collection. In most of them, she uses disciplined and sparkling language to explore the interface between modern medicine with its impersonal machinery and the irreducible mystery of life.

Some of the images are simply breathtaking. For example, in "A Dying Art: Room 309," a terminally ill artist lies in bed, surrounded by "plastic bags that hang / like udders dripping pigment / into her." In a love poem called "The Body of Science," the poet confesses, "Each time your voluntary / muscles make contact / my involuntary ones / contract." And at the end of "Alzheimer's," she observes, "She stood at the big bay / window screaming but he never / heard what it was she never said."

The four poems entitled "Your Breast a Unicorn" consider the fate of breasts attacked "at consolation's center" by "one aberrant cell metastasized." These learned, wise, and witty poems are, in my opinion, among the very best of the breast cancer genre.

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Poems in Our Absence

Andersson, Claes

Last Updated: Nov-01-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This is the first "selected poems" by Claes Andersson to appear in English. Drawn from his 18 collections published in Finland, they are generally short (less than one page) poems without titles. As the Introduction notes, Andersson's early poetry features blunt language, while his later work strives for more musicality. Drawing on his psychiatric experience, Anderson uses "private life as a foundation for an investigation of all that shapes our identity."

Friendship is a frequent theme in these poems, as in "Philemon and Baukis": "If you become a fir / I'll be a birch/ Thus you protect and warm me / through the cold seasons / In return I'll dance for you / in the summer nights . . . " (p. 75) One of the most striking poems in the collection is "the new theology," which begins: "Disease is the conscience of the body / What would we be without our ailments . . . " (p. 112)

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An X-Ray of Longing

Downie, Glen

Last Updated: Oct-17-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

The first full-length collection of poetry by a Canadian medical social worker who cares for cancer patients and their families. The "longing" of the title expresses the human yearning for love, knowledge, completeness, and healing.

Many of these poems deal with the process of revealing the inner workings of the world (and the inner truth of persons) through photography; see "Darkroom: 1," in which, "I watched you emerge / take on form / and intensity." X-ray photography, of course, takes this one step further, allowing us to see the insides of bodies.

The long last section of the book includes 24 poems that deal explicitly with illness and health care. Among the best of these are "Worker Classification: Material Handler," "Hand to Mouth," "Wishbone," and a sequence of short poems called "Post-Mortem Report."

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Code Blue

Berlin, Richard

Last Updated: Aug-20-2001
Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

In his first chapbook of poems, Richard Berlin, a psychiatrist, writes about his current work with patients ("What a Psychiatrist Remembers," "Rough Air," "Berlin Wall," "Jumpology"), about his experiences on medical wards and as a student ("Anatomy Lab," "Sleight of Hand," "Alzheimer's Unit," "Obstetrics Ward, County Hospital"), about love and family and how medicine sometimes infiltrates even these sanctuaries ("How JFK Killed My Father," "Tools," "Our Medical Marriage") and, most effectively, about the complexities inherent in the role of physician and healer ("What to Call Me," "After Watching Chicago Hope," "Code Blue," "What I Love"). In other poems, he observes the human condition through the veil of medicine ("Hospital Food," "PTSD").

The lure of these poems is Berlin's facility with metaphor; he has a talent for spinning a particular image or observation into revelation. He is also willing to allow puzzlement, doubt, and fear into his poems, effectively conveying both the virtuosity of the teacher and the wonder of the student. Reading this collection, I felt as if the poet was a presence both within the poems and outside of them, like the psychiatrist who must enter the mind of the patient and, at the same time, step back and become a safe guide. It is this double vision that sets his poetry apart.

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