A collection of poetry written by a family doctor  who practices in New Zealand. They are grouped around themes: patients (20 poems), diseases (10 poems), spells (9 poems), a doctor (9 poems), and end with “Playing God,” which is a collection in 10 parts about clinical practice. 

Miracles and wonders are found in the physiological workings of the body. Myths and spells are identified in the rituals of practice guidelines. 

The poet loves medicine even as he realizes some of the unpleasant challenges and distortions it brings to his life and behavior.



A delightful collection ideal for use with students. The short poems are lucid, poignant, ironic, and playful. Most tell engaging stories rarely more than a page in length.

Some poems adopt the language and form of liturgy, which will enrich the appreciation for those who recognize the original– but this familiarity is not essential to enjoyment and learning.

In particular, the poems about patients and diseases might inspire readers to attempt similar creative writing of their own.

The text is illustrated with some famous medieval and early modern images– Vesalius,  William Hogarth, Vigevano, Scultetus and a 19th-century advertisement.

For an digital conversation with the poet, go to:


Playing God was awarded the Montana New Zealand Book Award for Poetry and Reader's Choice in 2003; the New Zealand Booksellers Platinum Award for selling 5000 copies in 2006; and the Glenn Schaeffer Prize in Modern Letters in 2004.


Steele Roberts

Place Published

Wellington, NZ



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