Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 6, 2013
As a pathologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), Dr. Kenneth Lee is the doctor patients don’t usually see. His job is to microscopically examine patients’ tissue samples and arrive at a diagnosis, based on his thorough examination and clinical experience. It is this attention to detail that has enabled him to succeed as a both a pathologist and a poet. He became interested in poetry 25 years ago and enjoyed it so much he eventually began writing as well as reading it.
About seven years ago, Dr. Lee, who has worked as a pathologist since 1977 and at BWH since 1994, shifted to a part-time schedule so he could devote more time to writing poetry. The decision paid off. In June 2012, he published Sweet Spot, a book of 52 poems. The title, suggested by his editor, comes from his poem about playing baseball as a boy: “Once one came in fat and I connected, met it in the sweet spot, sent it a mile.”
Dr. Lee’s poems are drawn from his life and experiences. His book is organized more or less chronologically, beginning with childhood memories and continuing through his career as an Air Force pilot and medical student. The poems also explore his experiences about being a pathologist, a husband, a father of five kids and a grandfather. The book closes with poems about life in general, aging, and facing the prospect of dying.
“Although the poems are drawn from my own experiences, I think they are accessible and applicable to most people’s lives. Several people have told me that they found the book hard to put down and ended up reading it through one sitting,” he says.
But writing a good poem doesn’t come easily. “After you put thoughts on a page, there is the task of making them artistically pleasing and musical while maintaining interest in the images and ideas. Writing is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, harder than medical school or flying,” he says.
The poets Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Wordsworth, and John Keats ignited Dr. Lee’s initial interest in poetry. Later, he found inspiration in the work of T.S. Eliot, Rainer Rilke, Philip Larkin, Weldon Kees, and Louise Bogan.
We close today’s post with a sample of Dr. Lee’s poetry, hoping that his work will provide an inspirational spark for aspiring poets:
By Kenneth Lee
Because a butterfly in Bolivia fluttered its left wing,
I entered the revolving door a step behind you.
Because in Zanzibar a zebra stubbed its foot,
I dropped behind another step and caught my foot
As the spinning door brought forth its rearward wing
Jamming its momentum just as you
Attempted to emerge. Because I smiled at you
In a way you found disarming, you waiting at the escalator’s foot
To ask directions to the Monet wing.
Because I walked there with you,
Tonight the coast of France slides underneath our wing.
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