Knockout Genes. Taryn Möller Nicoll. Ink and watercolor on paper. Fall 2015 Intima

Knockout Genes. Taryn Möller Nicoll. Ink and watercolor on paper. Fall 2015 Intima

Finding clarity in narrative: a note from the Editors

In On Elizabeth Bishop, Colm Toibin writes the following about the American poet: “She began with the idea that little is known and that much is puzzling…. It was essential for [her] that the words in a statement be precise and exact.” When reading those words, we were struck by the resonance it has with what our contributors do: search for meaning in a clinical encounter and express that experience in a precise, exact way. We’ve all seen lives unravel during an illness, when little is known and much is puzzling, and we value clinicians and patients who articulate the chaos and assign it meaning in poems, stories, videos and artwork. This idea is at the core of Narrative Medicine and the work we publish in the Intima.

 So we invite you to join us and find clarity in the remarkable work we offer in our Fall journal. The act of “being together” via an online journal is exhilarating and soothing at the same time: We welcome a global community that will connect to the work, be inspired by it, and share it with others; let the talk, tweets, and posts begin! Dip in and read a poem about odes, a mother and grief from UC San Francisco Biomedical grad student Jenny Qi (“Writing Elegies Like Robert Hass”), or Field Notes by Pranav Nanda (“Suffer Little Children"), a third year medical student at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, who confronts the idea of being a “cool case” clinician in the pediatrics ward. Take an hour and look at the paintings by Betsy Andersen (“My Father’s Blood Draw Kit”) and Cara O’Regan (“Syndrome”), who both draw upon medical memories in evocative ways. Watch "Plain Talk," Deborarh Starr's meditation on the difficulties of speaking about death and end of life care. Or commit to an inspiring piece of research by Emily Mayhew and David McArthur  (she a British historian, he a Colonel trained as a psychiatric nurse), who penned “Writing Patient Diaries: A Century of Skill in the Silence, from the Great War to Afghanistan and Beyond.” It is a moving account of the benefits of “a special book kept for the purpose” of recording a patient’s progress during wartime injuries.

            Enjoy this issue and let us know what you think. After all, as Bishop once wrote in a letter to her friend and fellow poet, Robert Lowell, “Since we do float on an unknown sea, I think we should examine the other floating things that come our way carefully; who knows what might depend on it?” The Editors of Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine know that the future of healthcare depends on each of us becoming “skilled and deft translators” (Rita Charon) of the medical encounter. We hope you’ll be buoyed and transported by the insightful work we share to further that effort.