Practitioner-poets do the footwork
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Practitioner-poets do the footwork book
In a democratic gesture to include more voices than our own, we made a widespread call for texts from poet-physicians and physician-educators on the topic of poetry in medicine. The responses were heartening. Toronto-based psychiatry resident Bahar Orang suggests how poetry might work as “a method towards abolition medicine” in terms of several interlocking systems of political oppression focussed on the plight of Palestinian healthcare workers. How can poetry write against “global and border imperialism” where medicine might hesitate? Calgary-based Monica Kidd, a family physician, considers the “readerly ethic” one brings to poetry is necessary too in medical encounters. Washington-based family physician Caroline Wellbery offers a cogent reflection on a chance metaphor from clinical experience (“drowning in fat”) from a woman who “ate her way out of sorrow”. Oxford-based Italian Marta Arnaldi, who switched from medicine to study languages and literature and is a prize-winning poet and ballet dancer, argues that patients are “foreign texts that call for translation”. A “translational imagination” transcends both poetic and medical imaginations. Toronto-based psychiatrist, seasoned medical educator and health humanities expert (originally a family doctor) Allan Peterkin provides a poem that exhorts us to “Make every diagnosis / a poem”, unknowingly shadowing the theme of our book. Tennessee-based pathologist Quentin Eichbaum favourably compares medical and poetic kinds of attention and reminds us that such approaches are key to an enlightened medical education. “Attendings” are both persons and activities, while the activity of paying attention in medicine must be slowed down and given room to breathe. Primary care physicians UK-based Megan Brown and Calgary-based Martina Kelly narrate the process of co-writing a poem based on their reconstruction of a mutual encounter with a patient who used the metaphor “ropes of phlegm” to best describe his condition, where “poetry too coughs up metaphors”. We gain living illustrations of the key ideas of our book from these contributions, where poetry and medicine cohabit.