The Hands of Strangers: Poems from the Nursing Home

Overview

As people live longer, we face the challenges that come with caring for, and living as, an aging population. This collection focuses on the sad, funny, mundane reality of life in a nursing home. In her own words, Janice N. Harrington worked her way through college as a nurses' aide and wrote The Hands of Strangers because she "cannot forget the 'girls' I worked with or the 'residents' under my care. I haven't forgotten what I saw, heard, felt, or learned."

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The Hands of Strangers: Poems from the Nursing Home

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Overview

As people live longer, we face the challenges that come with caring for, and living as, an aging population. This collection focuses on the sad, funny, mundane reality of life in a nursing home. In her own words, Janice N. Harrington worked her way through college as a nurses' aide and wrote The Hands of Strangers because she "cannot forget the 'girls' I worked with or the 'residents' under my care. I haven't forgotten what I saw, heard, felt, or learned."

Janic N. Harrington's debut Even the Hollow My Body Made is Gone earned teh 2007 Kate Tufts Discovery Award, the A. Poulin Jr. Poetry Prize, and an NEA fellowship for poetry.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Most of us do not think much of the frail elderly, the people who require constant care to get to the end of the day, near the end of their lives; still less do most of us think about their caregivers, the paraprofessionals and aides who perform, in nursing homes and outside them, an endless string of repetitive duties. Harrington’s arresting book-length sequence of short clear poems takes long looks at these scenes, and at the people in them. Some are sweet (“an old married couple, admitted together”) and some are monuments to goodness, in patients and in their attendants: “Never carefully enough, never slowly/ enough are old women lifted and lowered/ into their rolling chairs.” At least as often, though, we see the difficulties, and indeed the disgust: there is a rape (in a poem called “Gently”), and another poem about “Pressure Wounds,”—“pus pit, grave pinch,/ mattress canker.” Harrington (Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone) stands out with an elegy for the otherwise completely forgotten May Engles, who died in 1977; everything else she depicts, though, could take place today. Both attendants and patients emerge as human, as people with tough tasks and inner lives, in these pellucid, scary, morally resonant poems. (Oct.)
From the Publisher

"Most of us do not think much of the frail elderly, the people who require constant care to get to the end of the day, near the end of their lives; still less do most of us think about their caregivers, the paraprofessionals and aides who perform, in nursing homes and outside them, an endless string of repetitive duties. Harrington's arresting book-length sequence of short clear poems takes long looks at these scenes, and at the people in them." — Publishers Weekly

"Janice Harrington's work should be required reading for nurses, doctors and practitioners entering the ward." — The Washington Independent Review of Books

“Janice Harrington, an accomplished poet and author of children’s books, takes on a difficult, deep, yet rewarding topic in this collection of poems regarding life in a nursing home…You will not look at someone in scrubs who you know is not a doctor the same again when you see them in the grocery store at some odd hour, tired as all, buying something for dinner at midnight…The ability of poetry to bring difficult lives into view with empathy is something Harrington handles with the utmost of skill, and I do hope she will continue to apply for all of our profit.”—Coal Hill Review

“This book-length collection of poems vividly describes the daily routines and grapples with the philosophical concerns of long-term care, including the complexities of aging, the burdens and rewards of caregiving, and the inevitably of death,” says Mullaney. “…you don’t need to be a particular fan of poetry to appreciate Harrington’s work. Her language, while artful, is rarely esoteric, and many of the poems tell some sort of story or paint a portrait of a character.” - Mcknight's Long-term Care News

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781934414545
  • Publisher: BOA Editions, Ltd.
  • Publication date: 9/20/2011
  • Series: American Poets Continuum
  • Pages: 80
  • Sales rank: 815,477
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author


Janice N. Harrington: Janice N. Harrington writes poetry and children’s books. She grew up in Alabama and Nebraska, and both those settings figure largely in her writing. Her first book of poetry, Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone (2007), won the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize from BOA Editions and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. She is also the winner of a 2007 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship for Poetry and a 2009 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award for emerging women writers. The author as well of award-winning children’s books, Harrington now teaches creative writing at the University of Illinois.
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