In the Land of the Body

Bloch, Chana

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poems (Sequence)

Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn
  • Date of entry: Nov-16-1995


Chana Bloch's series of eight cancer poems, collectively entitled “In the Land of the Body,” focuses on the experience of ovarian cancer, from diagnosis to surgery and beyond. The poems provide a loose narrative of illness and treatment, but each of them represents a slightly different approach to the inner life of illness. They are episodic; several evoke scenes--in the doctor's office before the X-ray machine, at home, watching her children color, in the hospital before surgery, and finally out of doors among the pines, released as “cured,” reveling in the qualified hope that they got it all.


Each poem in the series leads from the immediate experience of pain or fear to a recognition of how the inner landscape changes when loss and death seem immanent and uncertainty breaks open the frames of "ordinary" life. Ordinary words and experiences become charged with new meaning: clinical statements become metaphoric, parabolic; x-ray images take on a whimsical literalness like the occasional child's drawing that gets at what something looks like in a way that is startling because dissociated from the contexts of conventional meaning. The poems record the rawness and unprotectedness of having to face what we may usually devise ways to avoid.

Primary Source

The Past Keeps Changing


Sheep Meadow Press

Place Published

Riverdale-on-Hudson, N.Y.