The Talking Cure by Jack Coulehan contains collected selected poems from six previous books as well as new poems and spans thirty years of Coulehan’s work. The timeline may be extensive, but the poems are timeless. Beauty touches each subject, some lighthearted and gentle. Some, darker and haunting. Many themes encompass the medical world, but never are astringent. I am captivated by Coulehan's delicacy entwined with grotesque, exemplified in the poem, “The Man with Stars Inside Him” when “I listen to Antonio’s chest/ where stars crackle from the past,/ and hear the boom/ of blue giants, newly caught,/ and the snap of white dwarfs." In this stanza, I also appreciate the close relationship between the micro and macro Coulehan creates.
Coulehan also creates a form of healing through reflection and the act of writing poetry, itself. The first section, from The Knitted Glove, involves images of birds, of anatomy and bodies, of delicacy and intimacy. The next section from First Photographs Of Heaven, folds over the previous themes like an accordion, with decaying holed and malformed bodies. Within these poems among the medicinal work are global identities, shared from Afeica to arroyos in poems such as "Uganda" where “When sister speaks/ about the tragic fever/ that carries her country/ out of its senses, her body is/ Uganda.” There is a constant mix of nature and man-made medicines, the topics threaded range from pharmacology to ekphrasis, with a lifetime of lessons collected into this book.
While a majority of the medical themes in this collection are pharmacology-based, there is also inclusion of holistic medicine as well: “Here in the hospital, coyote is dead./ This small stone is of no account” (from “Medicine Stone”). The overarching connector is physical love. Love of the work, love of the nuances of each one of us, and a love of language itself. Most poems are free verse, but strewn around are fascinating feats of verse presented as sonnets and pantoums. There are also innumerable odes to literary figures including Whitman, William Carlos Williams (“All Souls’ Day”), Daude, Bishop, and Hemingway, just to name a few.
The thesis and anchor of the collection feels like the speaker's observation how “I’m bursting with danger and music/ I cannot control, O my soul" (“Bursting with Danger and Music”). There is danger in us, in medicine, in life--yet there is a soft music to it all, as well. In the space between is where healing can be found. If you are not familiar with Coulehan's work, this collection is the ideal introduction and dive into a compassionate investigation of sacred and secular.
Multiple higher education degrees in literature/creative writing/poetics. Current editor and poetry book reviewer for online literary press, Harbor Review. Enneagram Type Eight (The Challenger), able to promote and sway reader opinion with the proper use of high and low diction.