NewsHour to Air Poet Campo’s Prescription for Poetry

Viewers interested in the intersection of medicine and poetry can tune into PBS’s NewsHour Thursday, January 9, for the third installment of the “Where Poetry Lives” series, which will feature doctor, professor and poet Rafael Campo. In addition to Campo, some of Campo’s medical students will be interviewed. Campo said the medical students come to the workshop by word of mouth, and are generally interested in exploring poetry.

From the PBS site:

“For Shara Yurkiewicz, poetry is a way to deal with all the emotions that medical professionals have to face.

‘The very first time that I wrote a poem was third year after a patient passed away. I took out a piece of paper after this event and I just started writing by hand and there was just something more raw about poetry that I couldn’t get across in the prose that I had normally written in the past two years.’

Yurkiewicz is joined by Kai Huang and Samyukta Mullangi. They credit poetry with ‘feeding the soul,’ ‘doing justice’ to hard realities that prose couldn’t adequately address and giving them perspective on the parallels between medicine and writing.”

Campo told Coldfront that his new book, Alternative Medicine (Duke University Press, 2013), addresses these themes as well:

“I have witnessed first hand the power of writing poetry in abetting healing. Poetry is able to name when the diagnosis eludes us, calls us into community when symptoms makes us feel isolated or alone or even silenced, engenders empathy when the doctor would distance himself and it even allows us to transcend our mortality by creating something that endures on the page long after we’re gone,” he said.

Campo said he hopes to make a case that medicine should be more compassionate, rather than depersonalized due to over-reliance on technology.

“If my patients have taught me anything, it is that healing is just as important as curing—sometimes, even more so—and it is poetry that can help us bridge these two distinct responses to disease and suffering.”


Crystal Curry