Imagine What It's Like: A Literature and Medicine Anthology
672pp. May 2008
Imagine What It's Like: A Literature and Medicine Anthology
Editor: Nadelhaft, Ruth; Bonebakker, Victoria;
The intersection of wisdom and science is the territory of this anthology—ground that is contested, sometimes harrowing, and often ennobling.

The human experience of health care, whether ancient or modern, has always engaged those who practice it and those who encounter it as patients. Both those who live with illness of body and mind, and those who live and work alongside the patients, crave the opportunity to reflect on their experiences. In recent years, practitioners and patients alike have called attention to a crisis in our collective experience of medicine. There is a growing awareness of very different cultural expectations about the nature and treatment of illness.

The intersection of medicine and the humanities is busy. Machinery seems to crowd the space, while human encounters are often brief and deeply unsatisfying to patients and caregivers alike. Despite disparate approaches to the crisis in health care—from economics to ethics—there is agreement that patients and the world of medicine need more time together, so that illness does not find expression only in the context of the emergency room.

It is as a response to the collective sense of crisis and alienation that Imagine What It’s Like has been constructed. Inside and outside the health care community, many have called for the chance to use the humanities not only as opportunities to reflect on their own experiences, but also as a means of improving the experiences of all of us whose lives will be touched by illness and healing, birth and death.

Created by the Maine Humanities Council for its Literature and Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Health Care programs, Imagine What It’s Like contains eighty-three selections ranging from poems to short stories to excerpts from longer works. The selections are divided into five sections—The Experience of Illness, Beginnings and Endings, Trauma and Recovery, Coming to Terms, and Healing Costs—and are followed by suggestions for longer readings.

A Biography Monograph
Published for the Biographical Research Center, University of Hawai‘i

Editor: Nadelhaft, Ruth; Bonebakker, Victoria;
Ruth Nadelhaft taught at the University of Maine until 1997. She has been actively involved in the Literature & Medicine project of the Maine Humanities Council since its inception.
Read the introduction (PDF).

General Introduction

Section 1: The Experience of Illness
Musée des Beaux Arts by W. H. Auden
Of Training by Michel Eyquem de Montaigne
Innocents Abroad by Robert Lipsyte
Applicants by Felicia Nimue Ackerman
The Cast-Away by William Cowper
Dejection: An Ode by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Doctors by Anne Sexton
The Wall by Anne Sexton
The Poet of Ignorance by Anne Sexton
Cleaning by Darcy Wakefield
In Kafka’s House by Leonard Kriegel
Homage to Isaac Bashevis Singer by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer
Silent Snow, Secret Snow by Conrad Aiken
A Sense of Threat by Jane lazarre
Hospital by Molly Holden

Section 2: Beginnings and Endings
Milk by Eileen Pollack
Three Generations of Native American Women’s Birth Experience by Joy Harjo
Labors of Love by Ruth Nadelhaft
I’m Born a Crow Indian by Fred W. Voget, assisted by Mary K. Mee
The Sandbox by Edward Albee
The Enduring Chill by Flannery O’Connor
Rappaccini’s Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Black Mountain, 1977, by Donald Antrim
Let Us Have Medicos of Our Own Maturity by an anonymous patient
Hello, Hello Henry by Maxine Kumin
The Last Words of Henry Manley by Maxine Kumin
What Remains by Emma Donoghue
A Summer Tragedy by Arna Bontemps
Elegy by Dylan Thomas
Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas
And Death Shall Have No Dominion by Dylan Thomas
A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London by Dylan Thomas
The Smile Was by Dannie Abse
Delivery by Toi Derricotte
Homeless by Juliet S. Kono
Son, After the Attempt by Juliet S. Kono
The First Time by Juliet S. Kono
Royally Pissed by Juliet S. Kono
Nest by Juliet S. Kono
The Struggle by Juliet S. Kono
The Permission by Juliet S. Kono
In a Rush by Juliet S. Kono
The Way by Juliet S. Kono

Section Three: Trauma and Recovery
The Steel Windpipe by Mikhail Bulgakov
This Red Oozing by Jeanne Bryner
A Jury of Her Peers by Susan Glaspell
Betrayal of "What’s Right" by Jonathan Shay
The Day My Father Tried to Kill Us by Pat Staten
What I Saw from Where I Stood by Marisa Silver
Mending by Sallie Bingham
Torture by Jean Améry

Section Four: Coming to Terms
The Work of Talk by Marianne A. Paget
Without by Donald Hall
Orinda Upon Little Hector Philips by Katherine Philips
The Mother by Gwendolyn Brooks
On Being Asked to Write a Poem in Memory of Anne Sexton by Maxine Kumin
Ooctober, Yellowstone Park by Maxine Kumin
Ponies Gathering in the Dark by Anita Endrezze
Cathedral by Raymond Carver
Ashes to Ashes to Ashes by Ruth Nadelhaft
Wisteria by Leslie Nyman
Premature Elegy (A Sequence of Poems) by Florence Elon
Report from the Hospital by Wislawa Szymborska
The Suicide’s Room by Wislawa Szymborska
In Praise of Feeling Bad About Yourself by Wislawa Szymborska
Astonishing the Blind by Jack Hodgins
People Like That Are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk by Lorrie Moore

Section Five: Healing
Admission, Children’s Unit by Theodore Deppe
The Eleventh by Henri Barbusse
Baptism by Rotation by Mikhail Bulgakov
What the Nurse Likes by Cortney Davis
Excerpts from The Hospital by Jan de Hartog
A Woman’s War by Frank T. Vertosick, Jr.
Mystery and Awe by Rachel Naomi Remen
The Wound-Dresser by Walt Whitman
A Night by Louisa May Alcott
A Nurse’s Story by Peter Baida
A Separate Species: Relationships with the World and with Ourselves by Marion Deutsche Cohen
Excerpt from Elegy for Iris by John Bayley
Case History by Dannie Abse
Ten Patients and Another by Raphael Campo
The 10,000th Aids Death in San Francisco by Raphael Campo
On His Blindness by John Milton

Suggested Longer Readings
Notes on Authors and Selections
Index of Authors and Selections