In Secret Wounds, his second full length collection of poetry, psychiatrist Richard Berlin continues his exploration of the inner world of medicine with a sequence of 73 poems that flow seamlessly, uninterrupted by grouping into topics or sections. In the first poem, “Lay Down Sally,” the author attends a man dying on dialysis, and concludes with “A nurse hangs the morphine. / I write my blue notes.” In the last, “The Last Concert of Summer,” he reflects on his long experience with the sick and suffering, ending the poem with, “I place a stethoscope in my ears and listen / to the heart when I’ve run out of things to say.” In between, the poems reflect varied incidents, topics, conflicts, and wounds, as they occur from medical education (“Teaching Rounds,” “Touch,” “On Call, 3 AM”) through a life in medical practice (“Rage,” “The Scientists,” “How a Psychiatrist Parties”) to something like enlightenment (“Note to Pablo Neruda,” “A Psychiatrist’s Guitar,” “End of Summer”).


Richard Berlin’s poems are revelatory. They reveal the healing power of attention, empathy, witness, and love. He transforms the wounds of a life in medicine, a life on the line, so to speak, into affirmation, not with fancy language or heroic gestures, but with the eloquence of directness and honesty. He writes, “Each wound contains / its own beauty—“ True, but the beauty and power of Richard Berlin’s Secret Wounds as a whole lies in his healing presence throughout this collection.


Winner of John Ciardi Prize for Poetry


BkMk Press

Place Published

Kansas City



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