Letter: Transcending the Prosaic

To the Editor:

About two years ago, I responded to your request for writing samples from local readers who might be interested in becoming a contributor to the Valley News. At the time, I made the suggestion that poetry might be an occasional interesting feature and asked if I might include some of mine. I received a response saying, in effect, that poetry was not something the newspaper published.

To my delight, that has not been the case. Over the past year, there have been some pretty terrific columns by Sidney Lea, Vermont’s poet laureate, in which he has included some poems published by other poets.

Then I read an article from Slate in the July 16 Valley News entitled “The Poetry of Medicine,” which included a beautiful excerpt from Harvard associate professor of medicine Rafael Campo’s award-winning poem, Morbidity and Mortality Rounds. I have admired Dr. Ira Byock, who is about to leave his position as head of palliative care at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, in part because he initiated the practice of beginning his daily staff meetings with a poem.

In her poem Writing in the Dark, Denise Levertov exhorts all of us to be prepared at all hours to write down the lines of a poem, in order to hold onto “words that may have the power to make the sun rise again.” Poems in the Valley News? Yes!

Judy McCarthy



The Poetry of Medicine

Monday, July 15, 2013

New York — Rafael Campo, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard, just won a major international prize. It wasn’t for his excellence in internal medicine, or his decades of teaching, or his scholarship. It was for a poem. A poem? Poetry often seems the least practical endeavor on Earth. It’s a smattering of words on the page, often with …