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Reviews 2012 > The Enemy by Rafael Campo

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message 1: by Nina (new)

Nina | 1035 comments Although much of Rafael Campo’s writing is informed by his experience as a doctor, to call Campo a physician-poet is too simplistic and limiting. His poetry is far-ranging, covering topics such as his Cuban-American family, being a gay man, practicing medicine since the earliest days of the HIV epidemic, and the events of 9/11. Music soars throughout his poetry. His rhymes and use of form and meter are so subtle that a reader may not even realize she has just read a perfectly executed pantoum.
While the title poem does refer to 9/11, for Campo the enemy is also stigma, discrimination, the inability of medicine to cure HIV/AIDS. The book is divided into four sections. I especially enjoyed the second section, Eighteen Days in France, a series of vignettes and postcards.

I’m here, another country where I wish
there were no AIDS, and they are here with me,
my patients and my friends, their poetry
as yet unwritten, brows not feverish,
still here, with me, where I administer
just joy-pulses loudly beating, hearts stirred.
(Tachycardia At The Cathedral of Notre Dame)

And yet, I know it’s changed me, being here
on this old earth. They’re here, you know, my patients,
the ones who died on me too young
(Postcard Mailed From The Airport)

Campo commands our attention with details and rich images.

We stood beneath the maples and the oaks
as if in rooms laid waste by flood, wet leaves
in golds and oranges and speckled reds
like irreplaceable possessions lost
forever. Brownstones sorrowed quietly
across the street, their countenances old
and knowing, having watched for years
the park and its small tragedies.
(Equinoctial Downpour)

Although many of his poems are somber, there is often a touch of humor. In “Catastrophic Sestina,” Campo recalls a college relationship.

From the dorm’s window, I couldn’t see the street signs
while furiously I was doing my assignment

for Biochemistry. You were doing the assistant
from Thermodynamics lab, maker of volcanic eruptions

Read Campo’s poems out loud and let them sing and resonate.

The Enemy


message 2: by Caroline (new)

Caroline (CarolineDavies) | 285 comments Hello Nina

This is a well-nigh perfect review in that it made me want to rush out and buy the Enemy. Campo comes across as very warm and human in the extracts that you posted, which are as you say full of details and rich images. Anyone who can write with clarity about 9/11 deserves to be more widely read in my opinion.

This is the thing I enjoy about this group that it introduces me to poets I'd never have come across otherwise. It's not quite so good for my attempts to clear some bookshelves and have fewer books cluttering up the house!


message 3: by Nina (new)

Nina | 1035 comments Caroline, thank you so much. I have been introduced to so many wonderful poets through this group


message 4: by Donald (last edited Sep 12, 2012 05:29PM) (new)

Donald (DonF) | 183 comments Nina, Interesting review of a very fine poet. I've read one or two of his books and enjoyed them and would certainly read "The Enemy" if it came across my path. Of course, many of Campo's poems have medical topics, but I can't recall if any of them were critical of the profession he works in. If not, it would be interesting to read his 'take' on this profession's shortcomings. (Currently, in the US, the 3rd leading cause of death is Iatrogenic disease - Physician, Hospital and Pharmaceutical induced death. And with the FDA acting as the AMA's private police force, the chance of that turning around is almost nil.) How Campo handles the oddity of being a member of 2 often oppressed groups and also being in a profession that too often kills its patients, would make an interesting study indeed!


message 5: by S. (new)

S. (SarahJ) | 1481 comments Mod
Yes, he seems compassionate, and has a unique standpoint as a gay, Cuban doctor. I haven't read him, though I've heard his name. I especially love that excerpt from "Equinoctial Downpour." Thanks for reviewing - I'm going to look him up online.


message 6: by Nina (new)

Nina | 1035 comments Donald, you bring up several salient points, especially the iatrogenic one. Medicare is starting to deny payments for readmissions that should have been prevented. You may want to look at The Desire to Heal, Campo's memoir about being a writer and a physician.

The Poetry Of Healing: A Doctor's Education In Empathy, Identity, And Desire


message 7: by Donald (new)

Donald (DonF) | 183 comments Nina, I do believe that is one of his books that I did read. I just don't remember if he addressed any of those issues or not.


message 8: by S. (new)

S. (SarahJ) | 1481 comments Mod
That looks like an interesting memoir, Nina. Thanks very much for linking.


message 9: by Jen (new)

Jen (jppoetryreader) | 1568 comments Mod
I attended a talk by him at an AWP conference, something like "Poetry and the body," and was impressed by him and his poetry. However, I have never run across either any of his books or any of his poetry. So I was glad to see him reviewed favorably here.


message 10: by Caroline (new)

Caroline (CarolineDavies) | 285 comments My copy arrived in the post this morning having flapped its way across the Atlantic. I am completely smitten...


message 11: by Jen (new)

Jen (jppoetryreader) | 1568 comments Mod
Ha! A victory for Nina, Campo, and the book species you report trying to take over your home.


message 12: by Nina (new)

Nina | 1035 comments Jen, I am so envious-I would love to attend one of his talks.


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