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Medical students at Duke University, as part of training during rotation periods in the pulmonary intensive care unit take an in-ICU poetry course— recognizing the ability of poetry to interrogate grief, sadness, and guilt, common experiences in medicine. Crowd Surfing With God is medical in the sense that it’s interested in pain and healing, a recovery narrative of sorts.

However, Adrienne Novy’s book is not a recovery narrative in the sense that it gets from point A to point B by dealing in instructional wisdom. Instead, it is a recovery narrative still in progress, understanding that each person’s tunnel is of a different length and width and holds a different thing at its end. These poems are kind (let make this a game):

“you the sick kid, were so brave today,
swallowed the hospital library whole,

called it taking your medicine.”

This book is interested in growth, the tough conversations where we allow ourself permission to believe in something better of ourselves (if the honey bees die, then we will die with them):

“we will burst with light to greet the world again… a fresh & new &
brilliant hope.”

She writes for the punk rock survivalists who never managed to get clean after the party ended and the ones they left behind, steady in the pursuit of being (punk pop bible):

“& this was the first blessing to Helena that faded out like a song & the
prayers ended with so long and goodnight & god stayed alive for another
night & then another night & then another night & that meant the night
was good”

These poems are permission to live, permission to love the rough parts, permission to be comfortable in your skin. These poems are documentation, that if nothing else we were here, and we loved, and we loved so damn hard (if the honey bees die, then we will die with them):

“I call Carrie my Space Mom to make myself feel closer to the newest star
of grave soil.”

These poems are for the longwinded and frantic, whose own voices, they’ve been dying to hear for the first time.

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