There's seemingly no end to the creative ways people can express their experiences with diabetes...
A highly literary D-Mom in Iowa has created the first-ever diabetes poetry chapbook -- a traditional pamphlet-style collection of her prose that "explore the historical and personal experience of type 1 diabetes in a series of carefully wrought and emotionally evocative poems."
The book is called Honey & Blood, Blood & Honey and is the work of Rachel Morgan, whose son Henry was diagnosed at the tender age of 3 in March 2014.
Others have waxed poetic on diabetes before, and even published D-poetry collections by various contributors. But this is the first time a professional has created a compilation of her own poems that, according to the Amazon review, "move between direct address to the scientists who first discovered insulin in 1921, to the lyrical reflections of a mother as she laments the burden of chronic disease that comes with her young son's type 1 diabetes."
We say "professional" because Rachel is in fact a language and literature professor at the University of Northern Iowa and also serves as poetry editor for the nation's oldest magazine, the North American Review, and her poetry has also been published elsewhere. She also writes at her personal blog, Semisweet, and has published some pieces over at The Mighty site during the past year.
She shares with us that she and her husband noticed Henry was wetting his night-diaper a lot, and although diabetes doesn't run in the family, Rachel knew the symptoms since her mother was a nurse. That led to her suspicions being confirmed in the hospital with a T1D diagnosis. Rachel says from the start, she had a keen appreciation of the history of diabetes and care, and the fact that her son was born in the modern age rather than back in the "dark ages" of diabetes.
Henry is 6 years old now and in kindergarten, and his mom says he's "a resilient kid, and handles having T1D well, so far."
Of her new 40-page Honey & Blood, Blood & Honey, the official book review also notes, "The language of science and parenthood infuse the poems, giving voice to the caregiver, where nothing is entirely gift or grief."
Whoa, sounds like quite the poetic experience, no?
The book contains 22 poems (coincidental, given insulin's birth in the early 20s?). Among them are the title-pieces Blood & Honey and Honey & Blood, along with others with compelling titles like Initial Speed, Water Tasters, and Case No. 935. Several that include "log" in the name like Daily BG Log entries. And several are dedicated to insulin co-discoverer Dr. Fredrick Banting, referring to him in ways ranging from "killer of dogs" based on his early research using canine pancreases to move adoring "lucid dream" and "love letter" style thoughts to Banting. We like how iachel includes a brief description of each poem and the theme behind it, as a sort of "Cliff Notes" for deciphering the flowery wording.
For the Thank You Letter and other pieces on Dr. Banting, Rachel says she read a number of biographies on him and was fascinated enough to include multiple references in her chapbook. It's amazing that we're now 100 years out from Dr. Elliot Joslin's 1917 first edition of The Treatment of Diabetes Mellitus: with Observations Upon the Disease Based Upon Thirteen Hundred Cases that outlined how insulin would be used.
"I was struck by the communication between patients and physicians, all the letters then penned between both parties," she tells us. "There is an intimacy in the letters, and a great dedication of time, two things that seem lost in the experience of modern medicine. I used the form of a letter in prose poems to address Frederick Banting, and some of Joslin's clever epigrams in the poems titled 'Case No."
Honey & Blood, Blood & Honey is available online at Amazon for $11.95 in paperback form. We're excited about sharing some excerpts here today at the 'Mine, as well as offering a giveaway from the publisher!
Blood & Honey Excerpts
First, a "live" reading of Rachel's poem Log: Lunch in video form:
Honey & Blood
A theriac arrives, carried close to the chest, a vial delivers an antidote to poison. After onset, then duration. What leaves, left. What returns was present.What never spoils is sweet. The epoch of bestiaries is past. Bees are the smallest of birds. Honey is the sweetest of liquids. Blood is the air and water of life.
Blood & Honey
Blood is the air and water of life. Honey is the sweetest of liquids. Bees are the smallest of birds. The epoch of bestiaries is past. What never spoils is sweet. What returns was present. What leaves, left. After onset, then duration. A theriac arrives, carried close to the chest, a vial delivers antidote to poison.
Water tasters siphoned small sips through teeth, sweet, and cast out the rest — ants and bees collected as limbs and flesh melted to urine. The blood, too, is honey, mellitus.
Intervention Letter to Fredrick BantIng, Heavy DrInker
Banting, your actions have hurt no one and someone in the following ways: of a rented room in Ontario (single bed, $1 patent for insulin, oral funeral parlor carpet), of the rest months in the lab (bloody apron, spectacles, heat wave); who’s counting how many more if it’s only the next one? A black book boils with ideas for experiments. A room full of comas for parents to mourn. When patient and doctor are equally starving, there’s one treatment option. Son of man, can these bones live? Son of man, these bones can live! Son of bone, these men, live. Son, whose bones my bones made live, can live.
A DMBooks Giveaway
1. Post your comment below and include the codeword "DMBooks" somewhere in the the text to let us know that you'd like to enter. Alternatively, you can email us at email@example.com with the subject header, "Honey&Blood."
2. You have until next Friday, April 21, 2017, at 5 p.m. PST to enter.
3. The winner will be chosen using Random.org.
4. The winner will be announced on Facebook and Twitter, so make sure you're following us! And please be sure to keep tabs on your email and/or Facebook messenger box, since that's how we contact the winner. (If winners don't respond within a week, we will select another winner.)
We'll update this post to let you all know who the lucky winner is.
Good luck, Diabetes Poetry Buffs!