Poetry Critic Speaks Out About Bad Medical Poetry

The Hemorrhoids gleamed before Me

Like Fall apples in The sun.

the shadow Hanging O’er me

Meant I knew What must be done…

-Excerpt from “Call of the Proctologist” by Harold M. Watshering, MD, FACS

Thus begins a 24-line poem which is a disgrace both to the field of medicine and to the history of the written word.  This iambic debacle was published last week on a full page in the American Medical Annals Journal in its regular creative feature, “Voice of the Healer.”  Such art and humanities features have become quite popular among many major medical journals, giving physicians a public outlet for their imagined artistic gifts.  The above verse is only the most recent putrid whiff in a recent steady stream of noxious embarrassments to the English language.

While everything else written in these journals requires “peer-review” to achieve publication, these medical poems and short stories are published across the nation without so much as the discerning eye of a matriculating Freshman English major.  This fast-growing cancer of shoddy medical poetry must be excised, and I am, therefore, lending my service as a poetry critic to the field of medicine for a day.

First, I will begin by discussing the poem’s merit.

The sole virtue I can see in this work is that the “poet” had the decency to stop after 24 lines.

Next, I will follow with my critique.

The author’s use of completely random capitalization adds nothing to his endeavor.  His rhythm is stilted and his repetitive use of simile, exemplified in the line “…the scalpel in my fingers like his savior sent from heaven,” reaches new heights of banality.  Additionally, his language hints at a profound narcissism which I suspect makes meaningful personal relationships challenging.  His interest in the hemorrhoid seems sincere, and, indeed, his knowledge of the subject is horrifyingly intimate.  Unfortunately, his capacity to express his fascination with rectal problems in verse is about as developed as the capacity of a garden slug to sing Wagner.  The final heroic verse left me briefly without the will to ever eat again.

While I do agree that it is important for talented individuals to be allowed a public outlet to share their work, permitting physicians to publish haphazard, unfiltered poetry simply because they are physicians is equivalent to allowing the average two year-old a public outlet to defecate.  The medical world must not allow rhyming drivel to spoil the rich tradition of physician-poets like Oliver Wendell Holmes and William Carlos Williams.  This is my unsolicited, yet always humble, opinion.

Gwendolynn Blungeries, MA

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DISCLAIMER: All stories, quotations, medical reports, studies, and news entries are fictitious – created in the interest of humor. They are the ripe and, sometimes, rotten fruit borne from the imagination of the Daily Medical Examiner creative staff, and any relationship to actual events present or historical should be considered coincidental. The DME uses invented names for people, businesses, and institutions in its stories, except in cases where public figures are being satirized. Any other use of real names is coincidental.

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