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‘Little Pharma’: Laura Kolbe’s negative capability

Laura Kolbe
Laura Kolbe

This week, Lauren talks with physician and writer Laura Kolbe, author of Little Pharma (University of Pittsburgh Press, Pitt Poetry Series), a book that uses poetry as the doctor’s tool into empathy, into the interior lives of patients and beyond the material relationships between bodies.

About Laura:

Laura Kolbe is a writer, as well as assistant professor of medicine and assistant clinical ethicist at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. She studied English and American literature at Harvard and at Jesus College, University of Cambridge, before studying medicine at the University of Virginia and completing her medical residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Her poetry collection Little Pharma won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize and is published by the University of Pittsburgh’s Pitt Poetry Series.

Her essay “Cannon Fodder” appears in A World Out of Reach: Dispatches from Life Under Lockdown (Yale University Press). Her poems, essays, and stories have appeared recently in Poetry, The New York Review of Books, American Poetry Review, Conjunctions, The Nation, The Washington Post, and The Yale Review. Her clinical work and views on patient care during COVID-19 were highlighted in The New Yorker’s “April 15, 2020: A Coronavirus Chronicle,” in coverage by the New York Times (“When am I Coming Home"?: A Tough Month Inside a Virus Recovery Unit”), and on the podcasts Thresholds with Jordan Kisner, The New Yorker Radio Hour (“A City At the Peak of Crisis”) and This Is Your Brain with Dr. Phil Stieg (“COVID’s Invisible Bullet”).

She is an assistant clinical ethicist in the Division of Medical Ethics at Weill Cornell Medicine. Her clinical and scholarly interests include health equity, addiction medicine, social medicine, transitions of care for vulnerable patient populations, and the intellectual history of medical ethics.

Laura Kolbe recommends:

Persona poems by Frank Bidart, Monica Youn, and Brenda Shaughnessy; and The Changing Light at Sandover by James Merrill (Knopf Doubleday)

about:blank by Tracy Fuad (University of Pittsburgh Press)

A History of Present Illness by Anna DeForest (Little Brown & Company, August 2022)

Lauren Korn recommends:

Memoirs of My Nervous Illness by Daniel Paul Schreber (New York Review of Books)

My New Job by Catherine Wagner (Fence Books)

Silent Anatomies by Monica Ong (Kore Press)

Deluge by Leila Chatti (Copper Canyon Press)

Four Reincarnations by Max Ritvo (Milkweed Editions)

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Lauren R. Korn holds an M.A. in poetry from the University of New Brunswick, where she was the recipient of the Tom Riesterer Memorial Prize and the Angela Ludan Levine Memorial Book Prize. A former bookseller and the former Director of the Montana Book Festival, she is now an Arts and Culture Producer at Montana Public Radio and the host of it’s literature-based radio program and podcast, ‘The Write Question.’
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