the healing muse

Founding Editor

Dr. Bonnie A. St. Andrews, founding editor of The Healing Muse and Distinguished Teaching Professor of Bioethics and Humanities at SUNY Upstate Medical University, died October 21, 2003 from a brain tumor. A brilliant scholar, incisive poet, and trusted colleague, she leaves a gaping, fathomless hole. We offer this page as a tribute to her visionary work in developing The Muse.

Dr. St. Andrews’ stance towards medicine was complicated. She treated clinicians with a sentiment verging on awe: an amalgam of reverence, respect, and fear. She learned about medicine’s tools—sonograms, chemotherapy, the scalpel—with a mixture of curiosity and skepticism. She described her work this way: “Entering a medical university, I was transported to a world of open-heart surgeries, DNRs, neonatal ICUs, and MRIs. I had found my strange way home to a place I’d never been before, leaving the illuminating questions of the liberal arts and entering the dubious certainties of medical science. Far from being separate, art and science, I discovered, are Siamese twins joined at the heart. They are two hands clapping.”

In the inaugural volume of The Healing Muse, Dr. St. Andrews made plain her intent that the journal “show how the arts and the sciences can balance and sustain one another for the good of both patient and practitioner.”

Dr. St. Andrews’ poems appeared in some of the world’s premier journals and magazines, including The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and JAMA. Of poetry’s place, Bonnie wrote, “Poetry is not enterprising, having no bottom line even in a couplet. It [has] no motive more profitable than articulating the systole and diastole of the heart.” Her poems capture and clarify our experience in the sparsest of language, giving voice to what most of us cannot articulate ourselves, but recognize as being true.

Bonnie’s poetry is saturated with images of beauty; beauty was a theme of her poetry and of her life. She basked in the beauty of witty word plays and in ideas. She found the Center—her colleagues, the tranquility, our space—so beautiful that she called her office “South Paradise.” Her poem “Green Orgasm,” an ode to spring at her brother’s maple sugar farm, captures Bonnie’s delight at the beauty that surrounds us. "Heal Thyself" enjoins all clinicians to care for themselves, as they care for others. "Oncologist Lost" casts light on the oncologist's suffering, while in "Sly Lullaby: SIDS," the dead child speaks from the grave. We offer these poems here as a testament to her belief—and our hope—that beauty is still, even in the midst of the most tenacious grief, evidence that grace does not die.

Selected Poems of B.A. St. Andrews:

Green Orgasm Sly Lullaby: SIDS The Gallery
Heal Thyself Burying the Cat On the Perfect Child
Oncologist Lost Opening the Summer House Oncological Cocktails
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Accepted annually September 1 through May 1.