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1 Introduction When I selected medical poetry as a topic Iexpectedtheresearchand writing process to be demanding and I realized that I would be saddened as I read


Mary Ball Markow,ALL RIGHTS RESERVED,ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS. I offer my deepest thanks to Dr Ann Fisher Wirth whose patient guidance. encouragement and help made my thesis possible I also thank Mr Gary Short and. Dr Deborah Young for their continued support I am thankful for the advice and. friendship of Merrill Lee Girardeau I am grateful for the Sally McDonnell Barksdale. Honors College which has enriched my university experience and I am grateful for. the Honors College staff who have always inspired me to pursue the life of a citizen. I am thankful for the physicians patients and poets who have courageously. written about their experiences,Campo Rafael, Health in Alternative Medicine Rafael Campo pp 58 Copyright 2014 Rafael. Campo All rights reserved Republished by permission of the copyright holder and. the publisher Duke University Press www dukeupress edu. The Abdominal Exam in Diva Rafael Campo pp 40 Copyright 1999 Rafael. Campo All rights reserved Republished by permission of the copyright holder and. publisher Duke University Press www dukeupress edu. Tory Dent Apology to the Doctor from What Silence Equals Copyright 1993 by. Tory Dent Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company Inc on behalf. of Persea Books Inc New York www perseabooks com, Fourteen Days in Quarantine from HIV Mon Amour Used with the permission of. the publisher The Sheep Meadow Press,Pereira Peter. Peter Pereira poetry from What s Written on the Body Copyright 2007 by Peter. Pereira Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company Inc on behalf. of BOA Editions Ltd www boaeditions org,Perillo Lucia.
I ve heard the vultures singing field notes on poetry illness and nature by Perillo. Lucia Maria Reproduced with permission of Trinity University Press in the format. Republish in a thesis dissertation via Copyright Clearance Center. The Body Mutinies from The Body Mutinies Published by Purdue University Press. included under Fair Use, Thinking About Illness After Reading About Tennessee Fainting Goats from The. Body Mutinies Published by Purdue University Press included under Fair Use. Williams William Carlos, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS by William Carlos. Williams copyright 1951 by William Carlos Williams Reprinted by permission of. New Directions Publishing Corp, THE DOCTOR STORIES by William Carlos Williams copyright 1938 by William. Carlos Williams Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. MARY BALL MARKOW Physicians Patients and Poets,Under the direction of Dr Ann Fisher Wirth. I examined the works of William Carlos Williams Peter Pereira Rafael Campo Tory. Dent Lucia Perillo and John Rybicki to gain a better understanding of the field of. medicine I selected these authors based upon their varied experiences with illness. disease and loss Their prose and poetry illuminate the nature of medicine and. provide insight into human nature as well The thesis has been edited for the SMBHC. Thesis Repository to protect the copyright interests of some authors and publishers. The table of contents has been edited to reflect the changes. TABLE OF CONTENTS,INTRODUCTION 1,WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS 2.
PETER PERERIA 15,RAFAEL CAMPO 25,TORY DENT 30,LUCIA PERILLO 40. CONCLUSION 48,WORKS CITED 51,Introduction, When I selected medical poetry as a topic I expected the research and. writing process to be demanding and I realized that I would be saddened as I read. the poems of people suffering from incurable diseases and tremendous loss. However I could not have imagined how challenged I would be by the haunting. words of physicians and patients alike as they struggle to define the indefinable. how to live each day and know that mortality is real and imminent I have learned. that one can never know what someone with an illness or one who has suffered loss. is truly experiencing however the inability to completely understand should not. serve as a deterrent from attempting to do so The poems short stories and essays. of physicians and patients record their thoughts hopes sorrows and legacies. Studying and absorbing the pieces that each author left behind in his or her works. teach the ability to empathize, The works of William Carlos Williams Peter Pereira Rafael Campo Tory. Dent Lucia Perillo and John Rybicki have challenged me to view the many. complexities of disease Each author sheds a different ray of light into the bleakness. of illness by contributing a unique voice on the problem of mortality I focused on. the works of three physicians two patients and one poet who suffered the loss of a. loved one These authors varied experiences and strong voices allow them to share. their insights into the nature of medicine with the world. William Carlos Williams,William Carlos Williams once said. There s nothing like a difficult patient to show us ourselves I would. learn so much on my rounds or making home visits At times I felt like. a thief because I heard words lines saw people and places and used. it all in my writing I guess I ve told people that and no one s so. surprised There was something deeper going on though the force. of all those encounters I was put off guard again and again and the. result was well a descent into myself qtd in Coles xiii. Williams writes about many of his patient encounters through both prose and. poetry in The Doctor Stories and in each he also reveals something deeper about. human nature Through his life from 1883 1963 Williams dutifully served. Rutherford New Jersey as a family practitioner and observed the intimacies of. everyday life which inspired many of his writings William Carlos Williams 1. While Williams mentions that he feels like a thief for using his patients words and. situations he knows that the words of his patients actually reveal the common. desires and fears of humanity Williams revolutionized American literature by using. the intimacies of his relationships with his patients as inspiration. In the Autobiography of William Carlos Williams he states. The poem springs from the half spoken words of such patients as the. physician sees from day to day He observes it in the peculiar actual. conformations in which its life is hid Humbly he presents himself. before it and by long practice he strives as best he can to interpret the. manner of its speech In that the secret lies This in the end comes. perhaps to be the occupation of the physician after a lifetime of. careful listening 362, Throughout The Doctor Stories Williams strives to deconstruct the half spoken.
words of patients and through them reveal glimpses of everyday life He discusses. the link between listening to patients and feeling compassion for them In Old Doc. Rivers and The Use of Force he explores the question of the place of compassion. in medicine In A Face of Stone and Ancient Gentility he demonstrates that. compassion can bring mutual understanding Through his works Old Doc Rivers. The Use of Force Ancient Gentility A Face of Stone and The Poor Williams. describes varied physician patient relationships in each the reader gains valuable. insight into the nature of compassion in the medical practice. Through Old Doc Rivers Williams introduces the reader to a moral. dilemma a doctor void of ethical boundaries who successfully heals a patient The. narrator of Old Doc Rivers describes him, In sum his ability lay first in an uncanny sense for diagnosis Then he. didn t flounder He made up his mind and went to it Furthermore he. was not as might be supposed radical and eccentric in his surgical. technique but conservative and thoroughgoing throughout He was. not nervous but cool and painstaking so long as he had the drug in. him His principles were sound nor was he exhibitionistic in any. sense of the word Williams Doctor Stories 18 19, Rivers does not abide by the rules for ethical medicine he goes into surgery without. observing proper protocol and he has a drug addiction Although he does not abide. by the code of ethics expected of a physician Rivers still heals patients Williams s. use of the word uncanny to describe his diagnostic abilities creates the idea that. Rivers has a raw power for determining diagnoses and healing patients In this. passage his drug usage does not seem to impair his natural abilities This passage. emphasizes Rivers s innate abilities as a physician despite his unethical nature. Williams emphasizes both Rivers s effectiveness as a healer and his lack of. compassion when Williams an assistant to Rivers tells the story of the man who is a. heavy drinker and therefore cannot be sedated for his surgery The physicians. struggle to sedate the patient and administer ether and chloroform Williams. discusses their growing anger at the situation By this time we were all sweating. and mad at the patient each other and ourselves Doctor Stories 20 Williams. mentions that the surgical team was mad at themselves which suggests that they. felt guilty of their emotional reactions to the situation As the tension in the room. mounts due to the difficulty of sedating the patient Rivers takes control of the. Rivers just took the chloroform bottle and poured the stuff into. that Bohunk I expected to see him turn black and pass out. But he didn t Williams Doctor Stories 20, Williams emphasizes that the medical team administered high dosages of multiple. anesthetics and were unsuccessful in sedating the patient and he also shows. Rivers s growing impatience and annoyance at the situation Rivers angrily proceeds. with the surgery Go ahead go ahead cried Rivers excitedly hold him down and go. to it Williams Doctor Stories 20 The patient requires physical force to restrain. however Rivers proceeds with the surgery In this passage the reader sees Rivers s. lack of compassion and his impatience Also he allows his anger to enter into the. surgery While this story calls attention to Rivers s lack of compassion during the. surgery Williams also seems to believe that there were no other options for. sedating the patient, While this episode questions medical ethics and leaves Williams feeling. guilty he rethinks his evaluation of the surgery when considering its outcome He. describes his encounter with the patient after surgery. It must have been a month after that I saw the patient one day. standing in front of the fire house Curious I went up to him to find. out if he had felt anything while the operation had been going on. At first he didn t know me but when I told him who I was. expecting to get a crack in the eye maybe for my trouble he came up. with a start, Did I feel anything Said he My God every bit of it every bit of.
it But he was a well man by that time Williams Doctor Stories 21. Here Williams weighs the cost of the surgery against its outcome The cost of the. surgery was high as the physicians recognized that the patient was conscious during. surgery but were uncertain if he could feel the pain or not However the outcome. was successful and improved the life of the patient The patient himself has accepted. the fact that while he was tormented by the surgery he has a healthy life because of. it Here Williams gives an example of a lack of compassion for the patient since. Rivers operated without knowing how much pain the patient would feel but he also. draws attention to the positive outcome The story of the surgery describes an. ethical gridlock the physicians cause the patient pain but heal the patient as well. While Rivers s actions are clearly unethical by modern standards the ethics. of the situation with respect to the tools available to these physicians is not as clear. Since Williams describes the multiple attempts at sedating the patient with different. anesthetics it could be that the physicians did not possess the tools that were. necessary to sedate the patient If this was the case then surgical team s behavior. seems more justified since the patient was healed as a result While the ethicality of. the surgery is unclear Williams does introduce the thought provoking tension. between compassion and medical necessity, In The Use of Force Williams describes Williams s compassion for the small. girl who is his patient his desire to properly diagnose her and his anger at her. behavior From the beginning of the story Williams has trouble getting the patient. to open her mouth for a throat examination however through his frustration he. sees the patient as an opposing force He states After all I had already fallen in love. with the savage brat the parents were contemptible to me In the ensuing struggle. they grew more and more abject crushed exhausted while she surely rose to. magnificent heights of insane fury of effort bred of her terror of me Doctor Stories. 58 Mathilda is a force of nature Williams recognizes her unlike her parents as an. equal Throughout the passage her parents desperately and unsuccessfully try to. appease her Their weakness and failure at controlling Mathilda are contemptible to. Williams and he is forced to confront the child himself. He battles with Mathilda in an effort to check her throat for signs of. diphtheria and reasons with himself The damned little brat must be protected. against her own idiocy one says to one s self at such times Others must be. protected against her It is social necessity Doctor Stories 59 He justifies his. confrontation with Mathilda by asserting that he is ultimately serving a higher good. by protecting both her and the public from this fatal disease However as the battle. between Williams and Mathilda escalates Williams begins to enjoy using force. against her But the worst of it was that I too had got beyond reason I could have. torn the child apart in my own fury and enjoyed it It was a pleasure to attack her. My face was burning with it Doctor Stories 59 While Mathilda s exposure to. diphtheria at school gives Williams a reason to use force to check her throat the. story turns when he realizes that he is enjoying the use of force The passion of. confrontation takes hold of Williams and changes his nature. Finally Williams wins, In a final unreasoning assault I overpowered the child s neck and. jaws I forced the heavy silver spoon back of her teeth and down her. throat till she gagged And there it was both tonsils covered with. membrane She had been hiding that sore throat for three days at. least and lying to her parents in order to escape just such an outcome. as this Doctor Stories 60, Williams emphasizes the blunt force needed to see the back of Mathilda s throat. against her wishes In this passage Williams utilizes the words assault and. overpowered to emphasize the violence of his confrontation with Mathilda an. assault suggestive of rape He emphasizes the use of the heavy silver spoon and. the power that he exerted to pry open her jaws and see the back of her throat. While Williams needs to see the back of Mathilda s throat he also realizes. that he is acting against her wishes He feels conflicted about the necessity of. performing his role as a physician and the respect that Mathilda deserves as a. patient and a person This story emphasizes the tension between Mathilda and. Williams and the tension between Williams desire to help the child and his fury. with her He realizes that the use of force is necessary to overpower Mathilda He. needs to view her throat since she has been exposed to diphtheria However. Williams allows his anger to enter into his role as a physician and he realizes that he. enjoys using power to assault Mathilda in the heat of battle His role as a physician. forces him to discover the truth about Mathilda s illness both for her own good and. for the good of society However the introspective tone of this piece suggests that. Williams feels guilty at his desire to use force against Mathilda He seems to feel that. his enjoyment of violence is unethical but the use of force is justified by the pressing. nature of the diagnosis, Both Old Doc Rivers and The Use of Force describe instances of forceful. physicians however each portrays a slightly different message In Old Doc Rivers. the physician s use of force to complete the surgery seems justified at the end of the. story when Williams later encounters the healed patient however the excruciating. pain that the patient went through to achieve a healthy life is also a heavy. consideration In this instance the patient has suffered horribly yet the patient. gains a healthy life in return In The Use of Force Williams s use of force is justified. by the medical need to know if Mathilda has diphtheria and Williams s anger may. be justified at Mathilda s bad behavior However Williams also realizes that his. anger should not have a place in his medical practice and that he should not enjoy. the use of force, In A Face of Stone and Ancient Gentility Williams seems to shift from.
addressing the struggle between ethical boundaries and compassion to addressing. the circumstances under which compassion is necessary in patient treatment For. example in A Face of Stone Williams encounters a family that not only causes him. inconvenience but also arouses his distaste The family s initial impression on. Williams is not favorable, She on the other hand looked Italian a goaty slant to her eyes a. face often seen among Italian immigrants She had a small baby tight. in her arms She stood beside her smiling husband and looked at me. with no expression at all on her pointed face unless no expression is. an expression A face of stone It was an animal distrust not shyness. She wasn t shy but seemed as if sensing danger as through she were. on her guard against it She looked dirty So did he Her hands were. definitely grimy with black nails And she smelled that usual smell of.

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