Talking Cure

Talking Cure: New and Selected Poems
By Jack Coulehan

In The Talking Cure, physician-poet Jack Coulehan provides new poems plus a selection of work from six other books. His work explores the mysterious tension between tenderness and steadiness in medical practice plumbing into life’s essential minutiae: the observed moment, the healing gesture, the internal response. These poems look beyond the difficulties of physical existence to see the worth and holiness of the individual. With directness, passion and even humor, they evoke an ethic of compassionate solidarity between patient and doctor, person and family, the individual and the community.Jack Coulehan’s The Talking Cure takes us on a wild, wonderful and wide ranging journey, sweeping us along on a current of poems: accomplished, fierce, gentle, intelligent and, above all, compassionate. Coulehan writes about the joys of medicine, of family, of love and faith, while not ignoring the frustrations of caring deeply for others, how sometimes even the most compassionate must struggle to “squeeze a portion” of the heart, allowing “a few drops of compassion” to escape (“Lift Up Your Heart”). The author writes most often in the voice of a physician, but also in the voice of patients, revealing their terrors and ravages, fears often shared by the narrator as he deftly balances the clinical and the humane in poetry that is rich with images, deeply personal, and often simply beautiful.—Cortney Davis, author of Taking Care of Time, www.cortneydavis.comIn The Talking Cure, distinguished physician and poet Jack Coulehan gathers thirty years of his work at the intersection of storytelling and healing. Here we encounter us all: a six-hundred pound man propped up in side-by-side hospital beds, a wife of a doctor turned by illness into patient herself, a man in the clinic of a local Starbucks becomes a woman, the absent fathers and distant mothers, each afflicted with the same need to be heard, and to be seen, in the miserable beauty of our shared human condition. We hear their heartbeats in this skilled poet’s iambs and see their swollen legs in the full shapes of stanzas. Like Chekhov and Whitman, kindred spirits he evokes, in his every line Coulehan asks, “How can I open up, give voice // turn these words into flesh?” His answer is this unflinching, humane, and always attentively listening of poetry.—Rafael Campo, author of Comfort Measures OnlyHere in your hands is the best glimpse available into our world of medicine, its joys and sorrows, its discoveries and its mysteries. Here are poems that will stay with you, poems of courage, poems of value to you. Dr. Coulehan gives us the best words in the best order. You can’t do better than that.—Michael A. LaCombe, MD, MACP, FRCP (London), LHD (hon.); Poetry Editor, Annals of Internal MedicineJack Coulehan, the author of this remarkable collection, once wrote that physicians need both steadiness and tenderness to practice their trade. I would add, as do poets. Each poem in The Talking Cure brings a disarmingly honest and steadfast gaze to the joys and sorrows of the human condition, filtered through profound observations about doctors and patients, people and places. Simultaneously, each piece is suffused with a fierce compassion that acknowledges human vulnerability and finitude, while celebrating our resilience and indomitable spirit. These poems will inspire and uplift you, even as they break your heart.—Johanna Shapiro, PhD. Director, Program in Medical Humanities & Arts, UCI School of Medicine.


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