This interesting and meaningful book of poems is difficult to describe and to classify. The author has had three kidney transplants and so is knowledgeable about chronic illness and its impact. Though he does write about dialysis and transplantation, he also writes about many other kinds of illness, including the chronic fatigue syndrome, dementia, autism, cancer, and mental illness.

"Three Doctors" describes the gathering of physicians each morning to check on their narrator/patient, regardless of who overhears their conversation. The "Non-verbal Autistic Man" traces the daily, lockstep gait of a human being who speaks only one phrase and who walks the same path over and over. Not all of the poems concern the failure of the body. There are also descriptive poems about the Midwest and about various well known personages. The constant reinvention of the individual, even in the face of difficulty and death, is a common theme of this collection.


I heard the author read poems from this book to a class of medical students--it was a meaningful experience for them. Many wanted to purchase the book afterwards. Obviously the poems about illness were the most pertinent but the others were equally interesting. The poem, "Three Doctors," sends a valuable lesson about the physician-patient relationship. A non-physician described its effect in this way: "Anyone who has ever felt powerless in the glare of white coats cannot help but feel moved by that."


This collection won the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry.


BkMk Press, Univ. of Missouri-Kansas City

Place Published

Kansas City, Mo.



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