This anthology of "healing poems" is designed, according to the editors, "to find readers who might not usually read poetry." They say it should also be read "by those sitting in waiting rooms in surgeries and outpatients' clinics." These are definitely large tasks to expect this small collection of poems to accomplish, but in a different world (for example, a world in which people believed in the power of poetry to heal), this particular anthology would have a good shot at becoming a standard waiting room fixture.

The therapeutic intervention is well thought out. The editors have arranged the book into eight sections, each containing poems that exemplify a different theme, or situation, or style of treatment. The sections include: Admissions, Poems to Make You Feel Better, What It Feels Like, For Those We Love, The Language of Pain, Healing Rhythms, Body Parts, and Talking to the Dead. There is considerable overlap among these categories, because good poems speak several languages and can't be pinned down to a single feature. However, the classification does serve a heuristic purpose. It is another way to hook the reader, by choosing a topic he or she likes; once inside the covers, the reader may explore at will without regard to categories.


One of the delights of The Poetry Cure is the opportunity to renew acquaintance with old friends, as well as making new ones. This anthology contains some of the finest healing poems that I know. One, for example, is Derek Mahon's "Everything is Going to Be All Right," which is in itself worth the price of admission: "There will be dying, there will be dying, but there is no need to go into that. The lines flow from the hand unbidden / and the hidden source is the watchful heart. / . . . Everything is going to be all right."

The editors sprinkle their collection with powerful work by celebrated poets like Jane Kenyon's "Otherwise" and "Let Evening Come," Adrienne Rich's "Final Notations," and Sharon Olds's "In the Hospital, Near the End." But along with them are dozens of fine poems by poets who are less well known, at least, to me.

I like, for example, the honesty and dignified resistance of Carole Satyamurti who writes of her doctor in "Out-Patients": "He's taking over, / he'll be the writer now, / the plot master, / and I must wait / to read my next installment."

And the wonderful healing energy of Sheenaugh Pugh's poem "Sometimes," which strongly asserts, "Sometimes our best efforts do not go / amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to. / . . . may it happen for you."

And one final example, the music and mystery of Kathleen Raine's haunting poem, "Spell Against Sorrow": "Pluck out the heart / And the nerves of pain, / Tear away grief."


Bloodaxe Books

Place Published

Newcastle upon Tyne, England




Julia Darling & Cynthia Fuller

Page Count