The anthology attempting to map our brains through poetry
Poetry is an unending mystery with untraceable edges. It is not a language we think about to communicate science. When we think about breaking down science we think of textbooks, lectures, Crash Course videos. But what about the messy, unknown corners of science? The intricate and deeply emotional experience of brain disease?
Loredana Podolska-Kint believes poetry is the perfect way to tackle this. A final year medical student currently completing her clinical rotations at Whangārei Hospital, her experiences in neurology have inspired The Poetical Lobe Project—an anthology of poetry from those inhabiting the tricky world of brain disease.
“It seemed like the natural thing to do, given that poetry and neurology are two of the things which fascinate me the most. I always want people to give poetry a try, because it has helped me unpack the world around me, and I want it to do that for other people. Asking people to write poetry about the brain can hopefully not only help to raise awareness for brain research in a unique way, but also be beneficial to the poets themselves.”
Podolska-Kint’s time on stroke rotation at Auckland Hospital showed her the need to raise awareness and funding for brain research: “I saw people’s lives being utterly changed by quite recent treatments such as stroke clot retrieval, which removes a clot to re-establish blood flow in the brain. It’s quite magical to revisit the same person and see how much they have regained after a procedure like that. My own grandparents suffered strokes before these treatments were developed, so I can’t help wondering what might have been if that research had been just a few years ahead of itself.”
“Attending research talks held by the Centre For Brain Research (CBR) showed me just how intricate, technological, and other-worldly some brain research can be. I couldn’t help wondering how many extra people might benefit from these discoveries if the research had more support, both financially and socially. That’s why I decided that all royalties from the anthology would go straight to the CBR to make a small contribution to the life-changing work they do.”
When not working and studying Loredana teaches kids about poetry, the human body, and the life of a doctor, so her passion lies in combining art and science into new forms of education: “I think the divide between poetry and science has been entrenched for too long, and it is an under-utilised means of science communication. Students often see poetry as “fiction” but there is nothing to say it has to be that way.”
Loredana hopes that anyone “with a story to share about the brain” can “make their experiences heard for others to better understand, and find satisfaction in knowing that royalties from the book will directly contribute to research at the CBR.”
The Poetical Lobe Project is currently open for submissions from New Zealanders with a connection to the world of neurology; such as patients with neurological conditions, their family members, medical students, doctors, healthcare professionals, researchers, and anyone else with a connection to neurological diseases.
Submissions to the project are open from now until 11:59pm, 31st October 2023, via the Google Form: https://forms.gle/sXrHhsopYmZiQCdX8
Our favourite patients are those who keep singing,
Who fight to keep walking, and talking, and dreaming,
We hold up the ones whose struggles are scored
In a symphony shared with the rest of the ward.
They sing, when their words and worlds are jumbled,
When prognoses make the stiffest humble,
The pathways of melody lead to lost words,
Tuning their thoughts in the medium of birds.
- from Reasons To Keep Singing
(A poem for stroke patients)
The Donation Box
(A poem about the Human Brain Bank)
A stranger raises a hand, straighter
Than ever was mine a larger lecture,
To ask another stranger
If she will dissect his brain later.
She hands him an info pack,
Promising to email back,
Grateful for his gift to science,
How could anyone deny it?
I wonder how it feels to hold
A numbered brain, see its myths unfold,
And wonder if this is the stranger
Who once wanted to make the ultimate donation.