Poetry and Medicine, The Language of the Body

July 27, 2014 — 6 Comments

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.

Raphael Campo

rafaelalternative medicine

More about Rafael Campo on his website.

Natasha Tretheway


More about Natasha Tretheway at the Academy of American Poets and at the Poetry Foundation.

More information and lesson plans for the classroom

PBS NewsHour page with more information and lesson plans for teachers about poetry in the classroom:

PBS NewsHour Article: Raphael Campo uses his stethoscope to explore rhythms of poetry

PBS NewsHour Article: For these medical students, poetry nurtures the soul

PBS NewsHour Lesson Plan: Discovering your voice through poetry

6 responses to Poetry and Medicine, The Language of the Body

    andreakbeltran July 27, 2014 at 10:41 pm

    Thanks for the links to all these resources!

    andreakbeltran July 29, 2014 at 8:13 am

    Reblogged this on Andrea Beltran and commented:
    Some great resources included in this post.

    Women in Poetry August 9, 2014 at 11:30 pm

    Another good health related magazine for literary work is Kaleidoscope.

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