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Book Review :: The Telling, The Listening by Catharine Clark-Sayles

Guest Post by Susan Kay Anderson

With a beautiful cover of a painting by Octavio Quintanilla (cats sleeping on the rooftops) of what could be a view from outside a hospital, these poems are reports to professionals, from professionals, and to oneself. Where does a voice, a person exist? Clark-Sayles answers, from “Falling”: little difference between flying and falling [. . . ] wheeze of air trembling just out of reach, slow reach and wiggle to find what moves and what won’t.

In “Night Call” Clark-Sayles tells the inside story of what it’s like to be a doctor: “I will love this midnight world,” and throughout The Telling, The Listening, she puts readers directly in this world of decisions and consequences. What becomes apparent is that a lot that happens is sheer luck, and we see that many times health professionals mainly practice being witnesses to life, with much sacrifice. From “Why I Seldom Sing”: “I’ve broken through walls to gain my calling and the breaking took my voice.”

Clark-Sayles gives us poems that sing out to the world to recover what was taken and broken. Poems that are the perfect embodiment of narrative medicine: a rigorous mixture of despair, celebration, and wonderment.

The Telling, The Listening by Catharine Clark-Sayles. St. Julian Press, October 2023.

Reviewer bio: Susan Kay Anderson lives in southwestern Oregon’s Umpqua River Basin. Her long poem “Man’s West Once” was selected for Barrow Street Journal’s “4 X 2 Project” and is included in Mezzanine (2019). Anderson also published Virginia Brautigan Aste’s memoir, Please Plant This Book Coast To Coast (2021).