Astonished Harvest, a poetry community at the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care & Bioethics, was founded by Richard Bronson, MD, Maria Basile, MD and Jack Coulehan, MD, three poet-physicians, at the beginning of the academic year 2009-2010. The name 'Astonished Harvest' is taken from a poem ('Transplant') by Dr. John Stone, both to honor his memory and as an expression of the aims of our program, designed to form a bridge between the community of health care professionals at Stony Brook University Medical Center and the community of health care 'receivers' (our patients). We have created a space to voice our thoughts, using the power of poetry, to explore the experience of illness and healing as a group and individually through bimonthly poetry workshops. The Astonished Harvest workshops also provide a forum to discuss through poetry current issues in bioethics. Our workshops have been attended by medical doctors, patient advocates, nurses, medical students, undergraduate students, ethicists and other members of the faculty of the Center. We have reached out to the broader community outside of the Medical Center, hosting readings at the Emma Clark Memorial Library and at the Walt Whitman Birthplace. The poets within our group have also played a role in creating awareness amongst medical students of the value of poetry in promoting the skills of observation, introspection & reflective practice, and communication that are critical to compassionate medical care, through interactive lectures and readings for 1st and 2nd year medical students and electives in poetry & medicine for 2nd and 4th year students. These electives have helped students discover a path to mindfulness and a way to deepen their own appreciation of the practice of medicine, as well as the experience of illness and patienthood, through writing poetry. Students may also explore the role of poetry in medicine in greater depth, as part of a program leading to an M.D. with distinction in the humanities.
A place to share your thoughts, to listen, to hone your skills. Are there things you’d like to say, feelings to express? We are a group composed of anyone – student, staff, faculty, or friend – interested in the interface of poetry and medicine, within or without the Health Sciences Center. Join us at 5:30 PM the fourth Monday of each month (or the second Monday when holidays interfere) at the Setauket Neighborhood House . Directions to the house can be found here.
We’d like to hear from you. Please email us at Richard.Bronson@stonybrook.edu, if you plan to be there. Give us your thoughts.
One of the aims of our Astonished Harvest program at Stony Brook University Medical Center has been to create an awareness amongst medical students of the value of poetry in promoting the skills of observation, introspection, and communication critical to compassionate medical care. It has also helped students discover a way to deepen their own appreciation of the practice of medicine, as well as the experience of illness through writing poetry. During an Astonished Harvest Colloquium, one of our 3rd year medical students, Regina DePietro, so clearly expressed these thoughts that we have placed an audio stream of her presentation on Soundcloud that you can listen to here: Regina Depietros reading and discussion for Astonished Harvest
Astonished Harvest Founders participate in "The Write Stuff," a program to help oncology in-patients through poetry. Details can be found here.
Stony Brook Medical Student and Astonished Harvest regular Becky MacDonell-Yilmaz received an honorable mention in the annual William Carlos Williams Poetry Competition for her "Ode to an Orange Dress."
“…and then the shock, the charmed expectant start,
the last astonished harvest of the heart.”
from Transplant, John Stone, 1998