Pencil and Notebook

Transforming Medical Reports into Poetry

with Jenny Burkholder


“Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick,” Susan Sontag opens her book Illness as Metaphor.


And in the kingdom of illness, surgery, and disease, we encounter mysterious words such as electrocautery, compression deformity, and peak systolic strain. For those of us who are not medical professionals, these words may feel overly complicated and overwhelming.

So, what happens when we define these words? Explore their etymological roots? Demystify them? What happens when we listen to their musicality and rhythm? What happens when we begin to use a medical report’s terminology to craft a poem?


Transforming Medical Reports into Poetry is a 90-minute poetry workshop that will invite you to reclaim what may feel like the disembodied language of a medical report, embody it, and utilize that language in a poem.


Throughout our time, I will share examples of poems that incorporate medical language and provide writing prompts. You will dig into the language of your medical report and transform it into a poem (or two or three).

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Jenny Burkholder is a writer, teacher, and breast cancer advocate who lives and works in the Philadelphia area. Her poetry chapbook, Repaired, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2016. Her poems have been published in The Maine Review, New American Writing, The Spoon River Poetry Review, and Glimmer Train, among others. Her creative nonfiction and articles have been published in Epiphany, The Healing Muse, and So to Speak, among others. Her awards include an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, the Glimmer Train October Poetry Open award, and a finalist for The James Hearst Poetry Prize. She's an active volunteer for Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC) and an LBBC Hear My Voice Metastatic Breast Cancer Advocate. She teaches and practices yoga at Blue Banyan Yoga Studio & School in Philadelphia.