Poetry and Medicine

Two of my poems will be published in March in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Every issue of JAMA includes, in the words of the editor, a poem related to the medical experience, whether from the point of view of a health care worker or patient, or simply an observer…

For many years I have worked part-time as a hospice chaplain, and from this work I have been given a certain field of experience. I cannot say with certainty that these poems grew out of that field, however.

Art grows where knowledge fails. That leaves a wide field for art.  I feel encouraged that JAMA in all its prestige and importance turns to the edges of knowledge where human understanding fails. Art helps us get through life, not in the same way that science helps us, but it helps just the same. We can improve, see things a little clearer, make things better. Art-poetry included-fills the moments of failure and hope with color and texture and human creativity.  Art may not move science forward but it may create space that lets hard-pressed human beings breathe for a moment. A work of art may provide a rest or a challenge, pose a question or offer a blessing, without explicitly intending any of these things. Congratulations to JAMA for publishing poems.


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