“There is much to admire in this collection of poems by fifty-two doctors. The number alone is astonishing, when one remembers that half a century ago, there were only one or two of us engaged in both medicine and writing. It is a measure of the growth and the maturity of medicine that our profession can so powerfully declare its own humanity through the art of poetry.”—Richard Selzer, surgeon and author, Letters to a Young Doctor
Medicine has always been an emotionally and spiritually challenging profession. Today, confronted with the rapid progress of technology, the shifting sands of health care economics, and glaring disparities in health care and human rights, physicians experience challenges that grow constantly more demanding. As a result, many doctors attempt to build into their lives opportunities for reflection and self-awareness. It is in this context that medical poetry has blossomed.
Primary Care, the second anthology of physician poems edited by Angela Belli and Jack Coulehan, proves that the poetry movement in medicine continues to flourish. Fifty-two contemporary physician poets contribute one hundred poems that explore medical practice, interpersonal relationships, and the modern world. Their poems record instances of pain and suffering, joy and grief, humor and irony. Their subjects range from caregivers, patients, trainees, and teachers to poverty, injustice, and war throughout the world.
In some cases we find the poets in their professional milieu as they reveal interactions with patients and colleagues. Other poems address private worlds and family relationships. In others the poets turn outward and direct their attention to social and global concerns. Characterized by an immense and kind-hearted sympathy for and empathy with those who are suffering, the poets recognize that everyone's life is diminished by the trauma of illness and death.