In this collection (80 pages), Marc Straus speaks of the inadequacy of communication and knowledge in medicine; the pauses, the distance, the hesitations. You think you know what you are doing, "But no, they always ask the question / I never knew." ("The Log of Pi") "The question / might be so simple, so clear / that you’re unprepared to answer." ("Questions and Answers") Though words are in one way inadequate, the medical word carries great power: " . . . I knew that moment / I would say one word for her and nothing / would ever be the same again." (One Word, annotated in this database.)The poet comes to understand that he represents both sides of medicine, both the detached and distant Dr. Gold, and the warm and trustworthy Dr. Green. (See annotation of Dr. Gold & Dr. Green) Unfortunately, this knowledge only comes about after the patient has died ("Dr. Gold & Dr. Green, II"). We learn from experience, sometimes too late.


In this fine collection of poems, Marc Straus struggles with the distance between physician and patient, and the imbalance of power between them. The physician appears very powerful (he can change the course of a life with "one word"), but in another, deeper way he is unable to communicate and knows none of the right answers. These poems are skillful, cool, controlled--beneath them, though, the reader feels a well of emotion under pressure. Will it emerge? Would it be good for it to emerge? These are the important questions with which Marc Straus leaves us, balanced at the edge of our seats.


Northwestern Univ.: Triquarterly

Place Published

Evanston, Ill