To finish up, we left the writing of poems behind us, and tried writing a song together.

Started, though, with a mime: old man walking along, slips & hurts himself; finds a tree, breaks off branch & uses it as stick to walk safely across rest of room; looks behind him & sees a younger person about to walk across room, signals to her to wait, walks over & hands her the stick, which she uses to walk safely across rest of room.

Then, mimed a mime: three lines; first line, five syllables; second line, seven syllables; third line, five syllables; first line.

A haiku. Hurray! Then, sounded the following syllables, with vowel sounds only first:

‘A’ ‘E’ ‘U’ ‘A’ ‘E’

‘U’ ‘I’ ‘A’ ‘E’ ‘I’ ‘IH’ ‘E’

‘I’ ‘Y’ ‘A’ ‘E’ ‘I’


The sounds became more and more clear and defined with consonant sounds until words were indicated and eventually the Seamus Heaney haiku emerged:

Dangerous pavements

But I face the ice this year

With my father’s stick.

We began reciting this together with more and more confidence until a hint of pitch was introduced here and there, and this eventually became the melody of the Paul Simon setting of ‘Dangerous Pavements’ which eventually everyone was singing.

The poem connected with some of our themes (relations, health) & modes of working (empathy, objects).


Having thus illustrated a process, we returned to a poem we’d been reciting together for a few weeks, namely: ‘Bone Flute’ by Doireann Ní Ghriofa. The group split up into twos and threes and began sifting the poem for musical prompts and setting ideas. These included ‘cawing’ sounds, breathing sounds, grunts, chanting, whistling. For lyrics, the group focussed on particular moments in the narrative of the poem, reworking the words considerably to tell a sketched version of the story. Eventually, a few melodic themes were sung out, and one member of the group being a musician began consolidating those melodic lines on the fiddle, until everything could be recorded onto GarageBand for later editing.





In which is recited the famous doctor riddle

A father and son have a car accident and are both badly hurt. They are both taken to separate hospitals. When the boy is taken in for an operation, the doctor says ‘I can not do the surgery because this is my son’. How is this possible?



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“She wondered about the doctor.

When, finally, she went it was too late

even for chemotherapy…”




Last week’s session started with reading ‘Bone Flute’ by Doireann Ní Ghriofa (“a new sound sings”) as a hint of what the focus would be for this week’s assignment and of what the final session is going to be in two session’s time. In preparation for that last session, I actually started by employing the old fashioned teaching method of transcription, getting them to write out the poem on paper as I read it out. Then, using this idea of reciting with backs to each other in this article https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2018/01/03/how-spoken-poetry-is-transforming-english-classes.html we made a lot of noise and became even more familiar with the poem.

The focus of the week was objects, as in looking closer at them: fitting in by not-so-careful design with the organising principle of ‘looking’ in this module: looking inward in week 1 at reasons for studying medicine; looking again/around in week 2 at how the anatomy lab & the donor remains seem when not viewed practically & visited instead outside of dissection time; looking beyond in week 3 at paintings in the National Gallery at how when prompted we can step outside ourselves and imagine other worlds & other lives.

So looking closer involved taking three poems as examples: John Kelly’s ‘Clawhammer’ (‘a plane that would skin you’), Colette Bryce’s ‘A Library Book’ (‘ones that opened wide with creaks/like tomes that wizards possessed’) & Caitriona O’Reilly’s ‘Netsuke’ (‘resembles/water dripping over//a stone lip/in the stone garden’), and seeing how each poet scrutinised the objects that were preoccupying them, and thereby generated a vocabulary of description; and also used the objects for their thematic purposes; and even related them formally to their themes.

We then visited the old anatomy department and were treated to a slide show of some of the many objects being studied and catalogued there by Siobhan Ward. The students were then allowed to wander around and each choose an object (or more than one) to focus on for their writing assignment.

This week looking even closer will open at the microscope of Miroslav Holub: ‘Here too are dreaming landscapes,/lunar, derelict …’

“To be able to re-engage with the human side you need a catalyst,” says Dr. Crossman, who recounts that during his medical training—long before the book came out—he used to read poems himself. “I felt hugely energized by reading them,” he says.

Some young doctors say the poetry book is helping them. Lewis Hughes, age 23, graduated from medical school in 2017 and is currently in Dundee, Scotland, in a two-year rotation of clinical training. A poem he found very meaningful is Bernard O’Donoghue’s “Going Without Saying,” which affirms the value of simply telling someone how much we like them. He says it is heavily related to his work.


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