I recently discovered a great segment on PBS NewsHour about poetry and medicine titled “Student physicians embrace poetry to hone art of healing.” It features interviews with former poet laureate Natasha Tretheway and physician poet Rafael Campo. The two discuss how poetry can broaden the education and empathy of medical students and physicians. Rafael Campo has written six collections of poetry, the latest of which is Alternative Medicine.
If you have problems accessing the video, the url is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKP2rmEO1RM
The most interesting bit for me was the idea that patients who are trying to describe their illness are often using the language of poetry, of metaphor and simile, to communicate. A patient might describe pain by saying, “I felt like I was hit by a truck” or “a knife was stabbing me.”
Where to publish poems with a medical theme
If you have poems on the themes of illness, health, or healing, be sure to look at the Bellevue Literary Review here.
Also, Louise Aronson MD has collected a list of journals where physicians and poets can publish literary writing with a health theme here.
More about Rafael Campo on his website.
More information and lesson plans for the classroom
PBS NewsHour page with more information and lesson plans for teachers about poetry in the classroom: