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February 22, 1971

Etched in Twilight

JAMA. 1971;215(8):1318. doi:10.1001/jama.1971.03180210062015

The "art of medicine" has been for long—perhaps too long—a rich source of "corn" for the gristmills of medical orations. Yet, it never has been clearly defined. Some dismiss it as bedside manner; others define it as a diagnostic or therapeutic process carried out intuitively, without explicit logical formulation; still others identify the art of medicine with sympathy, empathy, and the appreciation of the patient as a totality, a person rather than a composite of symptoms and signs.

Perhaps, the clearest definition should be sought in the poetry of physicians who draw their inspiration and material from experiences of their daily practice. William Carlos Williams, who viewed art and medicine as "two parts of a whole," has provided in his poetry many such glimpses into the intuitive perceptions of the physician.

Recently, Beernink1 has bequeathed to us a small book of poems (reviewed, JAMA210:909, 1969) which is