Narrative / Poetic Medicine Track

Our optional MFA track in Narrative / Poetic Medicine builds upon the early work of therapeutic “talking cures,” which afforded patients authority over their own story and allowed for the construction of a healing narrative. Our track broadens the scope of this concept to include creative writing in any genre, written by anyone interested in the illness story.


Drawing of student writing

Narrative / Poetic Medicine at Dominican

Our track expands the practice of Narrative Medicine as a teaching tool to include the art of creating narratives. The aim is to ground students in the art of story-telling and to support them as they take up the subject of the body and express through writing what happens when a physical or mental anguish disrupts a life. Students will read the works of Oliver Sacks, Richard Seltzer, and Rita Charon alongside poems by Denise Levertov, Audre Lorde, and Alicia Ostriker. Students will contemplate the differences between being cured and being healed of disease, and what roles science, arts, and humanities play in the process of healing.

Dominican’s unique MFA track in Narrative/Poetic Medicine grew out of two summer writers’ conferences--Writing the Medical Experience and The Healing Art of Writing--that sought to strengthen compassionate understanding between healthcare providers and those who seek a state of well-being beyond the reach of surgery or pharmacology. Together, the participants shared the belief that being cured of disease is not the same thing as being healed, and that a practice of expressive writing promotes both spiritual and physical healing. The writings presented at the 2012 conference, collected here in Tell Me Again, are a powerful testament to that belief. Within these pages you will hear words of truth, words that uplift, words that heal.

Narrative / Poetic Medicine Faculty and Guest Speakers

Joan Baranow - MFA Program Director
Marianne Rogoff - MFA Adjunct Professor

Guest Speakers:
Louise Aronson, Marilyn McEntyre, Elizabeth Rosner

Poetic Medicine Prize

The Poetic Medicine Prize honors a poet whose work illuminates the life-changing events of illness and recovery. The prize celebrates poems that push the imagination to unexpected places, that delight us with clear soundings of the human voice, and that ultimately usher us to a place of healing. For more information visit Wolf Ridge Press.

Selected Narrative / Poetic Medicine Works


Healing Art of Writing

The Healing Art of Writing
Joan Baranow
Brian Dolan
David Watts

"The Healing Art of Writing is a collection of essays, poems, and narratives that is - as a whole - an expansive, honest, sometimes quirky, never dull, page-turner."-- Bellevue Literary Review

Tell Me Again Cover

Tell Me Again
Joan Baranow
David Watts

"Anyone who wants to understand how to write in order to heal should read it. Anyone who wants affirmation for what they are feeling should read it. I highly recommend this sensitive volume." -- Joanne Clarkson

Ultrasound Book Cover

Elizabeth Percer

"In lucid language and haunting images, Elizabeth Percer travels a path from loss to fulfillment, revealing much more than a simple narrative of grief transformed to joy. These poems investigate the nature of perception, the experience of technology-assisted imagination peering into a mysterious inner landscape." -- Nan Cohen, author of Rope Bridge

History of Narrative Medicine

The term “Narrative Medicine” typically applies to the inclusion of literary study as an integral part of the education of caregivers. In these programs, medical students, doctors, and other caregivers practice the art of attentive listening through the close reading of creative literature. Close reading trains caregivers to follow clues to a patient’s illness that may not have a physical symptom, to listen for subtexts and hear significant metaphors within the patient’s narrative. Close reading also helps to nurture the qualities of empathy and compassion, qualities that have traditionally been nurtured by the arts and humanities.

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