“Whatever the discipline or craft, a close study of the work at hand is necessary. Neither practitioners of medicine nor poetry can afford to wing it “like to the lark at break of day.” As carefully arranged as a tray of surgical instruments, Clark-Sayles’ poems in One Breath lead us from youth to maturity in two practices: medicine and poetry. She writes of early awareness of threats to life: Anne Frank’s as well as the lives of school children in her elementary school practicing “duck and cover” in Colorado near the military air base where their fathers worked. Her poems are full of confidence and tact, even when describing medical school training: the cadaver’s truths, and a comprehension of facts as “the doctor’s art seeps in unseen.””
“Throughout, from its start in gross anatomy’s “scent of wintergreen” to its “last red bead of pomegranate,” Catharine Clark-Sayles’s One Breath immerses us in the sensuous world of her lived life. Whether from the vantage of the geriatrician she is or the patient she has been, of the observer or the observed, in poem after accomplished poem she makes her daily rounds, compassionate, lyrical, alert, practiced in the poet’s art—and we are fortunate to be by her side, our own breaths invigorated and enriched.”
—Dr. Roy Jacobstein
After a military-brat childhood, medical school, and 20 years as a geriatrics physician, Catharine Clark-Sayles recovered a childhood love of poetry as a way to find meaning in the stories presented by her patients. Over the last two decades she has worked to undo the habits of dry clinical reportage for a more lyrical narration while finding the beauty of medical language. She is published widely in medical journals and anthologies. One Breath is her debut collection.