Poetry And Poetry In Poetry

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Physicians’ notes are in some sense biographies of their patients. Those that are unwell have to be encouraged to find a narrative and the clinician has to tease out the significant lines in their story. It is the stories of private lives offered up to doctors, often at times of crisis and vulnerability, which explain, at least in part, why so many doctors are also novelists.
We should consider poetry and its less obvious role within the medical humanities. Like the novel, poetry can tell us about human experience, but it does this in its own language and not the more straightforward language of prose. It works by suggestion, but this doesn’t mean that it cannot console, teach, amuse, enlighten, mimic, disconcert and so much more. It can capture – or cause us to reconstruct – experiences and feelings that we might otherwise not be conscious
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The same is not always true of textbooks. And a corollary of this is that it doesn’t take much time to read a poem. But it does have to be read with a particular attention to detail, and that could be a useful training for medical students. You can’t race through a poem – as you might a textbook – looking for what you want to find. So we see the benefits of marrying poetry reading to various aspects of medicine. This is essentially what the National Association for Poetry Therapy has been doing for the past 30 years. It describes itself as “a community of healers and lovers of words”.
At the same time, there are various ways in which the humanities are enriched by disciplines within the medical sciences. Psychology can certainly play a part in both biography and biographical readings of literary texts, for example. Pharmacology can enlighten us in relation to drug-induced creative states of mind. More importantly, thinking about literature from the point of view of readers who may not be as set in their ways encourages the literary reader to read
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