For this intratextual project I chose four medical texts spanning one
hundred years. From them, I chose passages of text relating to or about
the heart. Limiting my word choices to these passages, I constructed
four poems: “The Heart, 1899”, “The Heart, 1957”, “The Heart,
1974” and “The Heart, 2001.”
Some of the things I sought were the differences in language used to
describe the heart. At the beginning of the century it is described as
“a wonderful machine”, but nonetheless a tangible, human thing; the
prose is rich with imagery. By 1957, an era of booming industry in the
US, the language is mechanical, methodical. In 1974, it is clinical and
in 2001, it is a machine indeed, kept ticking by pharmaceutical
Another constraint I used was to limit my verses to four stanzas,
representing the four sections of the heart-left and right auricles,
left and right ventricles.
A bibliography of the texts:
Blaisdell, Dr. Albert F. How To Keep Well. Boston: Ginn &
Company Publishers, 1899.
American Red Cross. First Aid Textbook. New York: Doubleday &
Company, Inc., 1957.
Gray, Henry. Anatomy, Descriptive and Surgical. Philadelphia:
Running Press, 1974.
Physicians Desk Reference, Montvale: Medical Economics, 2001.