News & Reviews

Caregivers and patients explore writing as a bridge to health

Paul Liberatore // Marin Independent Journal, marinij.com


From the Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages November 2005

Healing Words: Poetry & Medicine

Filmed at the University of Florida's Shands Hospital, where pediatric oncologist Dr. John Graham-Pole and poet John Fox work in tandem, this documentary invites comparison to last year's Born Into Brothels : Both films salute the utilitarian integrity of artmaking as a means of transcendence. If this position seems to reduce the actual work to an exercise in self-actualization, Fox's pep talk to a reluctant chemo-ward bard--"It doesn't have to rhyme; just speak from your heart"--would seem enough by itself to hush any cynic. (That some of the patients are sharp wordsmiths is almost beside the point.) Though Graham-Pole provides a rational explanation of the therapy's merits by offering that inventive activity releases endorphins, I'd direct skeptics to some of the more evocative examples of healing--such as the teenage girl who performs a lyrical dance from her bed, tubes hanging from her fingers and years of scar tissue encasing her outstretched arms.

Eric Henderson