Showing 1 - 10 of 13 annotations associated with Campo, Rafael
Summary:Physician Rafael Campo's collection of new and selected poems is a lovely look back (selected poems are from 1994 to 2016) and an exciting look at thirty-one new poems that continue his trademark use of a variety of poetic forms (the title poem "Comfort Measures Only" is a Villanelle, pg 135) and the moving and personal examination of his interactions with patients. This collection begins with Campo's excellent introductory essay, "Illness as Muse" (pgs 1-9).
As the essay opens, an audience member tells Campo that his poems are "really depressing." Even Campo's spouse advises him to lighten things up, a counsel I hope the poet never heeds--for it is precisely Campo's unwavering examination of sorrow, regret, death, and despair that set his poems apart from poems that find "butterflies or snowflakes or flowers as more suitable." Campo responds: "Try as I might to take all of this concern to heart . . . I keep finding myself drawn to write about illness" (pg 1).
Campo recalls how singing and praying consoled his grandmother and seemed to lessen her physical ills: "No wonder I have come to believe in the power of the imagination if not to cure, then to heal" (pg 4). On page five he notes "To write about illness, to heed this terrible muse, is to reject distancing and to embrace empathy, for which there is no reward or claim on greatness other than perhaps the perverse joy of recognizing oneself as being susceptible to the same foibles and neuroses as anyone." Indeed it is this vulnerability--the ability to see physician and patient on the same plane, as equal players in a moment in time--that has become another hallmark of Campo's poetry. Selected poems from previously published collections follow the essay: nine poems from "The Other Man Was Me" (1994); eight poems from "What the Body Told" (1997); nine poems from "Diva" (200); five poems from "Landscape with Human Figure" (2002); seven poems from "The Enemy" (2007); and twenty poems from "Alternative Medicine" (2013). Of these collections, all but "Landscape with Human Figure" and "The Enemy" have been reviewed in the database.
- Terry, James
Summary: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 short (13 line) poem in which the poet-as-doctor describes his "transformation" from flesh-and-blood person into a machine in which "My hands are hypodermic needles, touch / Turned into blood . . . ." This doctoring-machine desires "a kind of intimacy / That won't bear pondering." For example, his mouth turns into "a dry computer chip" that cannot touch or feel or even say consoling words.
Summary: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)
Summary: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."
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."
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.