Subtitled "New and Selected Medical Poems," this volume includes poems on illness and healing from Downie's three previous collections, along with several new poems. A longer piece called "Learning Curve Journal" serves as a framework for the book.

Beginning with the desperate voice he hears on his first night as a "suicide line" volunteer, the poet reveals the shape of his own medical learning curve, moving poem by poem from "Orientation" through the realm of "Patient Teaching" and "Teaching Rounds" to "Pronouncing Death." Among the many strong poems in this collection are "Diagnosis: Heart Failure," "Louise," "Sudden Infant Death," "Wishbone," "Living with Cancer," and "Ron and Don."


In "Reading the Entrails," Downie writes, "they warned me it can be dizzying to look down / into an open man." As this powerful image suggests, Downie's poetry carries us to the precipice where the heart of human illness and suffering is open, in full view.

These medical poems are harsh and intimate, ironic and tender. Much of the work grows out of the poet's years as a medical social worker--he not only worked with disabled and dying patients, he also opened himself and allowed them under his skin. These are courageous poems, full of tough hope.

In 1999 Downie became Medical Humanities Writer-in-Residence at Dalhousie University, the first poet ever to be awarded a residency at a Canadian medical school.

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Wishbone Dance


Wolsak & Wynn

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