No other compilation of creative writing has ever touched my heart in quite the same way as this issue of The Healing Muse. I read page after page of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry all living up to the to the editor’s introductory note: “This issue [bears] witness to love and faith, to people dedicated to shepherding loved ones through procedures and side effects, through altered bodies and weary minds.” The journal, and certainly this particular issue, beautifully portrays the “ravages of cancer” as promised by the editor. The Healing Muse tells tales of life and death, hurting and healing.
Throughout the journal, readers will find fifty-one poems, eleven works of creative non-fiction, seven works of fiction, and twenty-eight visuals. Works from each genre manifest the human experience from a one-of-a-kind, disease-oriented point of view that readers would undoubtedly have a hard time finding elsewhere.
Elizabeth W. Carey’s non-fiction “Waiting Room” is perhaps my favorite piece of the bunch. Sensory details and vivid descriptions tell the story of waiting for her father’s death. In one of the best displays of writing The Healing Muse has to offer, Carey writes, “Thank god for the straight-shooting hospice nurse. . . . She put it to us, my mom and me, to be the ones to care for him; to help him go; to let him be; to push his ice flow into a cold, dark sea.” Carey’s piece, quite appropriately I might add, received The Healing Muse’s Dearing Writing Award (DWA) for Prose.
The poetry is exquisite. Receiving the DWA in the poetry division, Joan Cofrancesco writes, “Each time a surgeon cuts through my skin / I hope he is like Van Gogh with a Brush.” Unique relationships among the medical field, the humanities, and everyday happenings litter the pages with inspiration and a new respect for life—and death. Adding to this issue’s theme, the poet, Diane Halsted writes in “Off-Track Bet”:
no surgery but chemotherapy
with its misery of nausea
and loss of lovely silver hair.
We already know what quality
of living comes vomitous and bald.
Perhaps I’m a biased reader due to my own tragic encounters with cancer. However, my loss is not necessarily unique. A quick look on the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) website shows that in 2008 nearly twelve million living Americans had been diagnosed with cancer. Equally terrifying is NCI’s projection that says over forty percent of men and women worldwide will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. Many readers know these findings all too well. The Healing Muse heroically publishes works that not only face cancer and other diseases head-on, but also, as the editor says, encourages “a dialogue among all those engaged in healing: clinicians, patients, caregivers, and friends.”