Listening RoomThe Poet Speaks

The Other Man Was Me: A Voyage to the New World


Poet’s Commentary:

“I wrote The Other Man Was Me during a break I had between my third and fourth years of medical school. It was a time in my life when I was quite conflicted about my medical career. I’d had two years at Harvard working very diligently to memorize anatomy and understand physiology and then was thrust into the world of the hospital wards and was really in a crisis about that. I felt that all the scientific knowledge I had accumulated during my first couple of years at medical school in some ways hadn’t prepared me well for the care of patients and so I decided to take a year off to write poetry. At the time my advisors looked at me like I was crazy because no one had really taken a year off to write poetry before. There were people who had done all kinds of research and scientific publishing, but literary writing wasn’t something that there was much precedent for in terms of taking time off. And so I somehow persevered and ended up spending a year at Boston University in the creative writing program there. That’s how the Other Man Was Me came about. It was really through the writing of these poems that I think I found a way back to an empathic relationship to patients that I somehow wasn’t able to establish as a medical student that third year on the wards.”

*Audio and text of commentary reproduced with the permission of Rafael Campo, 1996.

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