“So much more than a mere distraction from the tedium mixed with apprehension of waiting to see the doctor, this stunning second volume of The Waiting Room Reader is a powerful expression itself of the attentive and compassionate care we seek when confronted by illness. With extraordinary poems from the likes of Maxine Kumin, Martha Serpas, and Rosanna Warren, as well as astonishing new voices like Joanne Chin and Marie Terrrone, this anthology reminds us that every therapeutic act is a kind of poetry, born of empathy and full of transformative hope. For patients and those who care for them alike, what you will find here heals.”
Rafael Campo, M.A., M.D., D.Litt. (Hon)
Associate Professor of Medicine
Harvard Medical School
Director, Office of Multicultural Affairs
Director, Katherine Swan Ginsburg Humanism in Medicine Program
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
“I was surprised to find so few poems in The Waiting Room Reader about illness. No doctor or nurse appears in the collection. There are few if any scenes of physical suffering. (This is not to say there is no grief, no longing, no missing, no birthing.) Instead, the Reader seems poised in the opposite direction—not what am I waiting for but what is waiting for me? Here, gathered lightly in this surprising, evocative, and deep collection of texts are the things we wait for. Quite beyond the news of the biopsy or the report of the surgery, what we wait for are the juices of the white peach, the langoustine darting, the walking like herons, the look on the grand-daughter’s face that seems second sight of one’s own. As we wait, perhaps wherever we wait, we enter the silence of John Cage and the breathing of trees.
What good waiting requires is the power of poetry—the freedom to dwell in both ends of contradictions—light/dark, now/then, stasis/movement, smallest/biggest, first/last, inside/outside. What good waiting donates is the recognition of those things that matter—of the earth, of the family, of the body, of time, of love—a crazy, ignorant joy.
And so the Reader gently suggests that being sick brings us to face the extremes of living. Sickness exposes the things we are usually insulated from, from our gladness at the moon to our counting of our days. Waiting makes time real, and with it the remembrance and the reclamation, the repudiation and the reverence at its passing. Waiting for the surgeon to emerge from the OR with news forces us to wait for all that matters—the living, the meaning, the loving, the touching, the forgiving, the being forgiven, the being. By collecting these poems in this book, all we readers are reminded that poetry occurs when that which most matters breaks into words.”
— Rita Charon, Program in Narrative Medicine, Columbia University
“Patients and their families will discover an unexpected blessing in this collection of poems and short prose. The poems are warm and inviting. They sparkle with wisdom. The stories are little gems of insight and humor. The most beautiful thing about The Waiting Room Reader is its respectfulness. Medical waiting rooms are fraught with uncertainty, fear, fatigue, boredom, discomfort, and suffering. This unobtrusive collection acknowledges these feelings, while respectfully nudging the reader toward a poem or story that might well offer a moment of relief and, hopefully, leave the reader with a small dose of healing.”
— Jack Coulehan, MD, Author of Medicine Stone and Bursting With Danger and Music
If you are a healthcare professional and would like to inquire about free copies of the WWR, please contact Starr Troup at Starr@cavankerrypress.org.