Curing the vices of others and his own words

“The doctor saves lives, the poet saves lives,” writes Ovanesa Yunzi in the book’s foreword. Angels Lab, by Philip More. The cross-portraits of the three doctors allow the poems to better hear the shadows within them, just like their patients.

Published at 7:00 am.

The late Dominick

The late Dominick

Poet Saves Lives, Really? “What I’m saying is that poetry keeps us alive in something, it gives us a sense of being. To be a caregiver, to be a human being, to have this sense is one more plus,” poet and psychiatrist Ovanesa Yunzi says in a beautifully eloquent formula. “Everyone has this within themselves. They benefit from discovering emotion, and art is a medium for that. »

It is surprising that a doctor should have such a dual identity. Surprise is sometimes even mixed with derision. “The question I get asked the most is: ‘How do you write poetry as a doctor?’ Melanie Beliveau, a family doctor in Sherbrooke who published her first collection in August 2021, confirms this. In the belly of the windBut he was writing since childhood.

She is surprised by the lack of recognition this success has received in her community, although her collection has received rave reviews. “Maybe there’s a misunderstanding or a judgment about it: ‘Ah, well, she has time to write poetry while we take care of real business.’ »

Photo by Dominic Gravel, The Press

Poet and Psychiatrist Owanesa Yunzi

Ovanesa has also been writing with Younsi since childhood. If she returns to medicine, it must honor her good academic results and the faith of her immigrant father. Psychiatry challenges him because it is “a discipline of the gray zone, listening, language. Psychiatry really means a kind of listening beyond language. You have to listen to the shadows. Poetry does that too: it listens to the shadows in us.” Explains that (incl Mixed And We are not angelswith Louis Dupre) as well as an essay, Care, love (2016), are full of reflections on the productive tensions between the two poles of his existence.

Today, she borrows Miron’s words to describe the combination of mental health and poetry that makes the heart of her daily life beat like a “combatant reconciliation,” as medicine limits the time she can devote to writing.

Avoid categories

It soon became clear that it was impossible for Philip More to continue writing with his medical profession, not the other way around. “Maybe even illegal”, quips anyone whose collection Angels LabIt won him the Emily-Nelligan Prize in 2010 and was recently reissued in pocket format.

If he always wanted a separation between the doctor and the poet, his is only this generous set of intractable questions about the doctor’s role, so that he does not look for the lab coat and the disease anywhere in his verse. Its mission is to take the reader into the corridors of the hospital where he spends his days as an emergency physician.

“I’ve already been told that my poems are not very political,” he says, “and my answer is that one of the great problems of our time is this tendency to lock people into categories.”

Photo by Catherine Lefebvre, special collaboration

Poet and emergency physician Philip More

In my other books, to show that I can have an original point of view on other subjects that are not related to medicine, for me it is a political statement that shows that people cannot be put in boxes.

Philip More

Learn how to read

For our three poet doctors, this is undeniable: their literary training was enriched by their clinical practice, and vice versa. To those who once scolded him for wasting time That – This refers to the poem disparagingly – Philip More replied that he “would not have the energy to do so much work as a doctor if he had to control this part”. [lui] Who writes “. “Sometimes poetry makes me feel that there is nothing at all”, he sums up.

But beyond these benefits in terms of strictly personal development, the emergency physician at the Haut-Richelieu Hospital notes that poetry – both what he writes and what he reads – sharpens his relationship with language. At least 90% of the information that guides diagnosis, he underlines, is based on his reading of the story his patient opens up to him, not what his stethoscope reads. In short: A therapeutic relationship always begins with words.

He has been interested for many years in narrative medicine, described by the American educator Rita Saron, “a medicine with a clinical capacity that allows us to identify, absorb, interpret and move through the stories of illness.”.

Another characteristic that is very useful in clinical practice is the abundance of reading skills you develop when you put yourself in the shoes of another subject. If we are a good reader, we can pick up on the nuances of what the person is telling us.

Philip More

Photo by Dominic Gravel, The Press

Poet and Psychiatrist Owanesa Yunzi

“Poetry, for me, is an outlet for humility,” says Ovanesa Yunzi. Poetry keeps me in a place of the unknown, the unappreciable. The language knows more than I do. There are so many things I don’t know about myself and the world that I will discover through writing. That is mental illness. Accepting what the other person has to say is accepting without knowing. Literature helps me stay in this zone of uncertainty. »

There is a paradox to be derived from literature, real knowledge—“knowledge of subjectivity and emotion.” “I have a better idea of ​​borderline personality disorder from reading boundary line [roman de Marie-Sissi Labrèche] Only by consulting clinical criteria. »

Photo by Jean Roy, La Tribune

Melanie Beliveau, poet and family physician

And the opposite movement also occurs. All the stories embedded in Mélanie Béliveau shape the poet as she is. “What the patients are going through, what the patients are telling us, it’s so warm, so intense,” she observes. “We’re in a really special relationship. We take it all in, the haves and don’ts. And because I’m an emotional person, when I come back home, it makes me Inwardly prompting. I often had trouble leaving it on the doorstep and writing.”

Listen to others, listen to yourself

A rare moment of confluence between his two worlds, Angels Lab, a collection written entirely in the second person, would have allowed Philip More to name the ambiguity of the doctor-patient relationship. An ambiguity that poetry knows how to translate “better than other literary genres”.

In this relationship, “it’s a lot of “I’m with you in sickness, but I’m not completely with you, I’m on the side. I am involved in your care, but above all I am the organizer of care. I sympathize with you, but I am not in your shoes. The challenge in medicine is that in order to make a diagnosis, you have to put labels on symptoms and people, but at the same time, you must never forget the uniqueness of the situation. »

Photo by Catherine LeFevre, The Press

Philip More, poet and emergency physician

“My mentor always told me: ‘You have to find something you love to help the patient,'” recalls Onesa Yunzi. But for there to be another to love, there must first be a self. Poetry allows me to hear what is going on inside me, my weaknesses. Literature reminds me of this shared humanity, reminds me that I can be in the patient’s chair. »

Angels Lab

Angels Lab

Bush poets

64 pages

In the belly of the wind

In the belly of the wind

Letters of the Forges

68 pages

We are not angels

We are not angels

Inkwell memory

120 pages

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