Uncharted Lines: Poems from the Journal of the American Medical Association

Breedlove, C., ed.

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Anthology (Poems)

Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney
  • Date of entry: Sep-09-1999


This anthology presents a selection of poems from the hundreds that have appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The poets are physicians, nurses, patients, technicians, lay caregivers, and family members; their poems "display the many ways people have of perceiving, conceiving, and coming to terms with what unsettles us." A sampling of titles hints at the variety of topics--occasionally humorous and often startling--that are examined in this slim volume: "Tinnitus," "Dear Left Knee," "Thoughts of a Nurse Returning to the Base Camp at Cu Chi," "Lovesickness: a Medieval Text," "Since the Accident," "Body Language: 5 East, NIH."


Many of the strongest poems in this collection present the patient's point of view, revealing the pain, confusion, and vulnerability that illness causes, as well as the courage, resistance, and transcendence that one might summon in response. In "Geometry," Jay Auslander writes about the actual physical fragility of illness, as if the body was "torn / by the hard / geometries of / living," and in "Poet Dying of Alzheimer's" Judith Boudreaux visualizes death as a lover who brings relief and some joy.

Poet Floyd Skloot's nine poems examine chronic illness and his attempt to come to a place of peace in spite of memory loss and physical failure. An intelligent introduction by John Stone, MD evokes the spirit of William Carlos Williams and reminds us that these authors, like Williams, find art in their daily tasks and observations, thereby sustaining themselves and their readers.

Overall, this collection celebrates the arts of living, healing, and dying. The effective juxtaposition of poetry by patients, caregivers, and family member reminds readers that "healthcare" is multi-faceted and always a product of individual stories and experiences.



Place Published

Albany, Cal.




Charlene Breedlove

Page Count