Poetry and Medicine can cover a huge range of themes. At the 2011 Symposium on Poetry & Medicine at the University of Warwick, speakers gave talks ranging from syphilis in the plays of Shakespeare to helping underprivileged kids in Auckland NZ express themselves through poetry. Many talks considered the use of poetry as therapy, whether for patients, nurses, or doctors, by escaping the pressure of a difficult situation or facing it head-on.
The Hippocrates Prize readings were fascinating, and I highly recommend the 2011 anthology for anyone interested in the expression of illness, well-being, healing, and death, through the genre of poetry. Medicine and poetry can be about grief or recovery, being a patient, knowing a patient, or patiently waiting to be diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. It can be about depression, yoga, sex, memory, or the loss of memory through dementia. It can be about personal, individual memory, or communal memory, such as facing HIV in Africa. It can be about sexuality, issues of gender, and ideas of liberation.
Poetry and Medicine can also be about the history of medicine, which is where I stepped in to talk about my latest poetry project, Venus Heart. Inspired by the anatomical wax models in the Museo La Specola in Florence, Venus Heart is going to draw composite characters from real historical figures in the wax workshop, as well as draw inspiration from classics such as Frankenstein and the Pygmalion myth. The photo here is a small selection of books I have at home which I’m using to research the poetry project. I’ve been delighting in a mountain of books at the Wellcome Library as well.
Congratulations to the Hippocrates Prize-winners for their well-deserved accolades, and congratulations to the Committee of the Symposium for running such a hospitable and interesting event!