The Art of Healing
by Charles Entrekin and Gail Rudd Entrekin
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The Art of Healing documents in poetry the experience of Charles' bout with cancer. Poets Charles Entrekin and Gail Rudd Entrekin—husband and wife, survivor and caregiver, insider and witness—beautifully, vulnerably and sometimes heartbreakingly share their finely crafted poems in this brilliant volume. In this collection, both poets were moved to make sense of what was happening in their lives through the writing of poems. Unaware of each others content, they continued writing throughout the treatment. Later, upon reflection, they realized that they had been coming to grips with the same events through poems that seemed to complement each other.
These poems reflect those two journeys, from diagnosis to treatment to healing, and the coming to terms with what remains, what it means to be alive and part of a larger web of being. This is a book for anyone who has come to know the meaning of suffering and healing.
The Art of Healing is a fitting title for this volume that demonstrates that healing is, indeed, an art. It could also be called The Art of Loving because the love between Charles and Gail is palpable and inspring. And it could be called The Art of Living, for it contains wise examples of how to be alive to each moment. As in the poem, “Prognosis,” which begins with the wonderful line, So, you are not dying today, and goes on to make real the actuality of the day: the open mouths of trees…the fog, the fields, the sea birds…circling overhead. Or in the poem, “After Chemo,” which begins, It is what it is, and describes the green sheen of tree moss in winter rain, growing outside the window because it can. There is such tenderness in these poems. When they both shave their heads, they think about how their parents must have once held their bald infant heads and admired how like/heavy fruit we felt, and wondered who was waiting/inside these…elegant bony domes. Charles and Gail Rudd Entrekin allow us to look inside and see who is there. And in seeing them, we see ourselves.
Just a note of appreciation to you both for your revitalizing reading and workshop. At the reading the poem Forgiveness struck home for me and I made a mental note to reflect on it, as to what it may mean to me personally. Upon reading it later, I realized it went beyond the specific need to address guilt over becoming ill. The injunction to fix things, perhaps a socially inculcated voice specifically aimed at the male of the species, may have sponsored it. The poem successfully excises that pernicious seed. I can’t help hearing my mother’s voice, said with a smile at the opportunity, when people were citing the ills of the world: “Don’t blame me; it’s a man’s world!” The obverse of that of course is that men of good conscience feel overly responsible for things beyond their control. In any event the poem relieves one of such a burden, at least momentarily. One must continually write poems to keep phantoms away: they deplore the light.
The doe stepping delicately out of the dark and slipping away like a ghost conveyed the power of a visitation. That whole poem,Rearrangement of the Invisible, confirms I think Rilke’s comment that anything is worthy of poetry, even a garden we see everyday, is a well of sufficient depth to bring up ancient, life-giving water if the poet can descend into its depths and re-emerge to flick lightening from her tongue like holy water.
I was flabbergasted by the poem Before Making Love, not just by the honesty of expressing anger in such a circumstance, but by the patient courage to run through the entire range of emotions described in the poem.
I attend Iven Lourie’s workshop when possible and told them about your workshop and reading and shared what I remembered of your prompts. Something of those prompts, specifically the package of grief, came up in things I wrote, which I’ll attach. I even picked up a thumb / crumb rhyme from one of the women there. Her poem was great.
Once again, thank you both for your wonderful poems and workshop.
A very strong collection. The pairing of the poems works really well. Beautiful contrast happens between the two voices. Charles is expressing very directly what is happening to him, physically and emotionally, the paring away, and the return in the end, but changed.
Gail’s poems are full of love and staying present in the face of loss. She expresses intimacy eloquently. Her experience contrasts markedly from Charles’s, but both so clearly celebrate together the re- emergence
Poets Gail and Charles Entrekin have navigated Charles’ lymphocytic leukemia for years. Heeding Rumi’s counsel that love turns all pain to medicine, they’ve used their craft to transform fear into curiosity, confusion into inviting mystery, and discomfort into gratitude. Any patient or caregiver faced with a serious illness will benefit from Gail’s and Charles’ healing observations.
The Art of Healing takes a revelatory approach to a topic — cancer — we all thought we understood. Poets Charles and Gail Entrekin — husband and wife, survivor and caregiver, insider and witness — beautifully, vulnerably and sometimes heartbreakingly share their finely crafted poems in this brilliant volume. Patients and survivors will recognize themselves and find solace in these two unique, overlapping perspectives. Poetry lovers will come away enlightened and inspired.
But I did want to report to you how admiring I am of what you're up to. You and Gail together are putting together an account of a harrowing experience -- and the payoff of faith and tirelessness -- that is really inspiring. I've never seen, nor heard of, anything like it. It takes some bravery to get up and publicly say the poems but it takes much more ponderous bravery to write them in the first place. I guess it goes to show, nothing is wasted, even despair isn't wasted -- at least on people who know what to do with it.
This brief collection of accessible poems speaks to anyone who has ever loved, faced illness, or reflected on death. In other words, all of us.
The ART OF HEALING teaches by example. This husband and wife bravely bare their different perspectives as they journey through the hell of diagnosis, surgery, and cancer treatments -- and then eons later, the heaven of getting a clean scan.
In “Intermezzo,” Charles Entrekin laments that during chemo, he will “start a thought, lose the thread.” His life is in his head, which is being mushified by the treatments. Eventually, he pulls his way out of the treatment prison. He gives thanks.
Although cancer may attack one body at a time, it also grabs the body and soul of a loving partner. Gail Rudd Entrekin doesn’t choke in cancer’s grip. Instead, she speaks, poignantly, of rage, grief, and her struggle to gird herself and her husband for the fearful crusade. They march forward, together.
The cancer is conquered, at least for now, but other ailments tentacle their way in. Such it is for those of us who get to live into old age. Whereas the possibilities for each day may be compromised by Charles Entrekin’s post-cancer health problems, each day is in fact a day to be alive. As Gail Entrekin writes, “(we are) allowing ourselves to happen.”
These poems tell a story that celebrates the love between a man and a woman. This is inspiration.