How poetry influences illness and health

News Release
May 1, 2018 | Chicago – How poetry influences illness and health

by Marla Paul

How can poetry influence our experience of illness? How can the lyric form disrupt and reshape our understanding of illness and health care?

These and other provocative questions at the intersection of poetry and medicine will be discussed at the ninth Annual Hippocrates Poetry and Medicine Symposium on Thursday and Friday, May 10 and 11.

This is the first time the international conference will be held in Chicago. It is co-sponsored by Northwestern University’s Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities, the Hippocrates Initiative for Poetry and Medicine, the Poetry Foundation and Harvard Medical School.

“Poetry can have a powerful influence on how we experience and understand illness,” said symposium organizer Dr. Kelly Michelson, director of the Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Very creative people are integrating poetry into clinical care, but we need a broader conversation to understand what that looks like and what its impact could be for patients, families and health care providers.”

The symposium will kick off at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 10, with a reading by poet Mark Doty at the Poetry Foundation, 61 W. Superior St., Chicago.

The conference’s academic program begins at 8:15 a.m. Friday morning, May 11, at the Feinberg School of Medicine at the Robert H. Lurie Research Center in the Baldwin auditorium, 303 E. Superior St., on the Chicago campus.

Panels of the day will explore how poetry can influence the illness experience; how a body’s physiology and a poem’s language speak to each other; how poetry frames the witnessing of cultural differences and disparities; and how lyric form can disrupt and reconstitute our understanding and teaching of illness and health care. The day will also feature a keynote conversation between poet Mark Doty and physician-poet Rafael Campo and a lunchtime poster session.

At 4 p.m., the award ceremony and reading of winning entries of the Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine will be held at the Poetry Foundation.

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