A group of us are trying to start a special interest group within the Medical Library Association around the theme of medical humanities. We’re all coming at this from the common love of Graphic Medicine (comics in healthcare), however we decided to propose the broader concept of medical humanities as one that encompasses graphic medicine, while offering flexibility, room to grow, and opportunities for creative partnerships. This came in part from realizing that 1) graphic medicine is only one of the emerging new literacies combining a variety of media in information delivery and storytelling, 2) preferred modes and names and media/mediums change over time, and 3) the long term value for sustainability of working under a broader umbrella. Please note, this expresses my views on our process, and I am not speaking for anyone else. If you want more info on the SIG (which is meeting for the first time at the MLA Annual Meeting on Monday) you can comment on this blogpost or reach out on Twitter to any of the co-conveners: me (@pfanderson), Matthew Noe (@NoeTheMatt), or Alice Jaggers (@AJaggers324).
Anyway, the field of medical humanities IS rather broad and large, with lots of subdivisions, one of those being ways in which poetry is used in healthcare, therapeutically for reading, therapeutically with writing, and educationally as a tool for creating insight in healthcare practitioners for the patient experience as well as the reverse. I’ve been collecting books of poetry on science and healthcare themes for literally decades. With yesterday being World Poetry Day, I scrounged around on Twitter to find examples of what other people were highlighting that might fall in this area.
In this small selection, you can find poems about hospitals and hospice, illness and injury, social determinants of health, pain (emotional and physical), dementia, grief and recovery, reasons to live, happiness and healing, and more. Poems included are written by a broad range of authors, near and far, old and new, soldiers, parents, friends, patients, doctors, activists, and more. Some of the names may be familiar (Shakespeare, Thomas Jefferson, Bob Dylan, Robert Service, Emily Dickinson, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Shel Silverstein, Maya Angelou, Seamus Heaney, Dorothy Parker), while others may be less so (Kobayashi Issa, John McCrae, Kayo Chingonyi, Mark Strand, David Orr, Joelle Barron, Shawn Hunter, Helen Dunmore, Louise Gluck, Ali Jazo). I’ve divided it into two sections. The first section (“Poems to Read”) is tweets about or of poems by notable literary poets, which may make a nice place to find poems to read therapeutically. The second section (“About Poetry in Healthcare”) includes examples of poems written by patients, or clinical spaces as part of education and outreach, as well as articles about how poetry is being used in healthcare environments and settings, with some rather interesting projects and descriptions of patient experience. And remember — this is just the tip of the tip of the iceberg. There are so many more. Feel free to share soem of our own favorites in the comments!
POEMS TO READ
ABOUT POETRY IN HEALTHCARE
How did I find these? Because someone always asks. Here — I searched in Twitter, like this: #WorldPoetryDay (cancer OR care OR clinic OR death OR doctor OR dying OR health OR healing OR hospice OR hospital OR illness OR injury OR injured OR medicine OR nurse OR nursing OR pain OR recovery OR “waiting room”)