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Apr 21, 2022

In celebration of National Poetry Month, we are delighted to share with you the second podcast in our series on poetry and medicine.  In the first podcast, we talked with Guy Micco and Marilyn MacEntyre about poetry and aging.

In this second part in our series, we welcome Mike Rabow and Redwing Keyssar to talk about palliative care and poetry.  

As with aging, poetry operates on multiple levels within the palliative care space.  

Poetry puts us in our patient’s shoes. As Redwing’s poem says, “why not live as long as possible?”  

Poetry holds us in that liminal space so many of our patients are in. Paradox.  The impossiblity which is life, which is everything, and death, which is the end of life. As Mary Oliver tells us In Blackwater Woods, and I’m paraphrasing here, we must to hold it to our bones, knowing our lives depend on it, and when the time comes, to let it go. To let it go.  

Or as in Mark Nepo’s poem Adrift, I am so sad and everything is beautiful.

Poetry helps us grapple with our own experiences of illness.  Redwing, who is a cancer survivor, shares poems about her experiences with cancer.  Mike Rabow shares his award winning poem about coming out to the world about his diagnosis with multiple sclerosis.  

We talk not only about reading poetry, but also writing poetry, and using poetry in medical education as a healing modality.

And along the way, we really felt like we got to the heart of things.  To the deeper emotions - of loss and grief, of wonder and transcendence - that are at the heart of the complex care we provide.


Links to Redwing’s poetry workshops:

Food for Thought Poetry for Resiliency 

Loss, Losing  and Loosening, poetry for grief and loss  

Wounded Healer poetry sessions 

Advance Care Planning

Links to Redwing Keyssar’s
poetry collections 

Redwing’s website:

Institute for Poetic Medicine

Mike Rabow’s Comprehensive Care Team randomized trial of outpatient palliative care

Look also for a forthcoming article by Mike and Redwing in Journal of Pain and Symptom Management on poetry as a healing modality, to be published mid May (will add link when out).

In addition to Redwing’s own songs and poems, other poems read by Mike and Redwing during the podcast:

In Blackwater Woods by Mary Oliver

Therapy by John Wright

Adrift by Mark Nepo

Talk Before Sleep by Elizabeth Berg

Late Fragment by Raymond Carver