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“We do not store experience as data, like a computer, we story it.”2
“It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.”3
Poetry and medicine have gone hand in hand since Apollo was the god of both. Literature is a vital element in medicine: biomedical science looks at a slice of experience; literature is as wide as life itself. We would like to invite you on a trip into the depth of life: through literature. Every issue of Medical Humanities will contain a section of original creative writing, offering a window onto the practice, experience, thought and feeling of colleagues, through their writing. Our own and others' stories of practice are our stores of experience, knowledge and skill—embedded in practice. Writing them makes the experience more available to the writers themselves. Reading them, in pages such as this, is a sharing of that wisdom.
Literature takes us out of our own milieu and into another: makes us aware of things we had not expected to see, or were not used to seeing, although they were there all the time, just as Virginia Woolf describes Orlando, who “opened his eyes, which had been wide open all the time”.4
And as Montgomery Hunter says:
“Literature constitutes a source of knowledge. For those to whom the experiences are familiar, narrative is confirming; for those reading about something new, the view of human possibility is enlarged …
“Physicians turn to professional journals for accounts of difficult or unusual cases and new developments that offer hope of altering the plots in old stories of disease. Likewise, in fiction, autobiography, and drama they can broaden their knowledge of human beings not only beyond the textbooks in human behaviour but beyond …
Gillie Bolton is Research Fellow in the Institute of General Practice, Sheffield University Community Sciences Centre, Northern General Hospital, Sheffield S5 7AU.