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Anthology explores physicians' sensitivities to patients' suffering, illness through poetry

IOWA CITY, Iowa ­ A new anthology by physician-poets explores physicians' sensitivities as caregivers and shows that doctors and patients alike experience meaning in suffering and illness.

"Blood and Bone: Poems by Physicians," from the University of Iowa Press and edited by Angela Belli and Jack Coulehan, is a 100-poem collection exploring the profound connections between medicine and poetry through the eyes of contemporary physician-poets, including Robert Coles, Rafael Campo, and Dannie Abse.

At the heart of the medical encounter is the poetic act of witnessing -- simply standing in the presence of suffering -- an experience that cannot fully be expressed in scientific terms.

"Blood and Bone" records compelling and loving instances of pain and recovery, joy and grief, humor and irony within the restricted society of caregivers and their patients.

The anthology is divided into four sections to reflect the depth and diversity of the physician experience. Poems in the first group show doctors in the clinical setting, dealing directly with their patients and the diseases that plague them.

In the following sections doctors' private worlds and family relationships and the passing on of knowledge through the teacher-student relationship is explored, and larger social and cultural concerns are examined.

Angela Belli is a professor of English at St. John's University in New York. Jack Coulehan is director of the Institute of Medicine at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He is the author of two collections of poetry, "The Knitted Glove," and "First Photographs of Heaven."

"Blood and Bone: Poems by Physicians" is available in bookstores for $29.95 cloth, $17.95 paper or directly from the UI Press at (773) 568-1550.