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Narrative Medicine featuring Poets Abigail Wender and Owen Lewis

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The Stockbridge Library, Museum & Archives announces a new virtual program Poetry and Narrative Medicine: a program that includes live interviews and readings. This program will air on Thursdays in April from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and organize around topics at the interface of medicine and poetry.

About this week’s poets:

In her debut collection, Reliquary, Abigail Wender addresses losing a brother to prison and, ultimately, opiate addiction. The text also considers womanhood, motherhood, and marriage in lyric poems that confront the complicated nature of grief, the effects of illness on family, and how love—even bliss—figure into grief’s equation. The collection suspends time, as the speaker weaves between flashbacks and the present, assembling fragments and vignettes of her childhood and marriage. In the book’s moments of solace and interiority, such as in the poem, “Hiking,” Wender contemplates how to hold on and to what. In this particular poem’s reflection on forgiveness, the speaker asks, “Are there words for us, America, / high on an uppermost branch?” and the collection responds with a resounding yes.

Owen Lewis, author of three collections of poetry, most recently Field Light (Distinguished Favorite, 2020 NYCBigBookAward), and two chapbooks including best man (recipient of the 2016 Jean Pedrick Chapbook Prize, New England Poetry Club.) Prizes include Finalist, 2017 Pablo Neruda Award, and first prize, the 2016 International Hippocrates Prize for Poetry. His poetry has appeared in Nimrod, Poetry Wales, The Mississippi Review, Southward, Stay Thirsty Poets, and Presence. A professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, he teaches Narrative Medicine in the Department of Medical Humanities and Ethics. Field Light, set in Glendale, Mass., weaves a poetic tapestry of Berkshire history.

Curated and co-hosted by Stockbridge poet and physician Owen Lewis, the five topics are:
Addiction and Recovery, by Kate Daniels; Addiction and the Loss of a Brother, by Sheffield poet Abigail Wender and Owen Lewis; Autism–Two Mothers’ Perspectives, by Rebecca Foust and Jennifer Franklin; Cancer–Acceptance and Hope, by British poet Wendy French; and A Doctor Speaks, by Dan Becker. As poetry in general offers Medicine for the Soul, this program seeks to offer comfort and understanding on these specific topics, both for individuals, their families, and caregivers.

Lewis, who presented his latest book Field Light, a weave of poetry and Berkshire’s history, on the Library’s regular Wednesday program in October, is a professor at Columbia University and teaches various aspects of Narrative Medicine at the medical school. He is also an adjunct professor at Einstein Medical College. In this series, he will present on “Addiction and the Loss of a Brother” reading from his book best man, in conversation with Sheffield poet Abigail Wender, whose book Reliquary was just published.

The program will begin on April 1, 2021 with Kate Daniels reading from her recent book In The Year Of My Son’s Recovery which details a mother’s struggles to support her son in recovery. Daniels is the Director of the Creative Writing Department at Vanderbilt University. Autism–Two Mothers’ Perspectives features Rebecca Foust, former poet laureate of Marin County reading from Dark Card, and Jennifer Franklin, program director at The Hudson Valley Writers Center, reading from No Small Gift. Both poets are mothers to developmentally challenged young adult children. Wendy French, a poet who has worked with various organizations and charities in the field of health as a poet-tutor, will read from Thinks Itself a Hawk, and speak about her extensive experience working with individuals with cancer. The series concludes with internist Daniel Becker from the University of Virginia Medical School, whose first book Second Chance won the 2019 New Issues Poetry Prize. Becker brings us inside the process of a physician’s listening.

All of the books from which the poets will read are now in the collection of the Stockbridge Library, donated either by the authors or their publishers. The series will be hosted by Library Director Wendy Pearson.