Professor Spotlight

In Audrey’s Corner, we like to spotlight the talent present in the amazing writers at Sacred Heart University. This week we wanted to show off the talent of Sacred Heart Professors in the English department.

Professor Marie Hulme on the success of her “Health Writing” course.

In teaching a course on creative writing within the health humanities field, I have witnessed extraordinary student understanding of how the writing process can be both a tool for healing and a means in which to share stories that enable deeper empathy of illness, trauma, and suffering. Across a wide range of genres, students read both fiction and nonfiction texts on mental illness, terminal disease, grief, disability, and chronic pain, as well as write creatively in response to those texts. As a final project, students focus on one area of interest which allows them to engage with both critical and creative texts on the topic and then to write about that topic in any genre of creative writing. It has been enormously rewarding to witness students tackle issues such as Alzheimer’s disease, eating disorders, anxiety, or alcoholism, among others, through a creative lens that not only encourages their own deeper understanding of the topic but provides a reader with deeper empathy about those who suffer from it. Students have written one-act plays, collections of poetry, lyrical essays, and imagined journals and letters – the range of creativity and interests makes this one of the most inspiring creative writing classes.

Scar Maps

By Dr. Richard Magee

The best one is on my right knee

I fell on slippery limestone

and almost dropped into the Pacific.

A jagged point snagged my flesh

and I hung there for a long second

before pulling myself up

to stare at flowing blood.

A chunk of skin stuck to the rock

a tiny hair on it waving in the ocean breeze.

The one on my thumb is complicated.

It is a palimpsest scar:

layers of accidents.

At the base of the stratigraphy lies

13-year-old me

showing off for girls.

My bike skidded

I read the pavement.

Atop that a more recent crash

adds its own white scribble.

I had an old-fashioned doctor

so I sport an old-fashioned appendectomy scar.

It’s a thin white line for half its length

until it widens to a squashed earthworm.

Brian Higginbotham punched me there

the day I returned to school

and the incision split open.

He said he thought I was faking.

Here’s one from when I pretended

the steel ruler was a sword.

This one’s from playing soccer on the street.

The one on the tip of my nose? Chicken pox.

The black dot in my palm

is the graphite tip of a pencil (light saber accident).

Knees and elbows:

so many bike crashes.

The bracelets of fortune hide that one

but the other pale hieroglyphs

emerged when the pain inside

needed to come out.

Balance, Blades, & Words on the Page

By Dr. Clare Kilgallen

Writing and ice skating have healed me since childhood; they continue to do so today, as I enter my forty-fourth year around the Sun.

At ten years old, I became ill and turned towards two places for refuge: the rink and the page. Having skated since the age of three, I found solace and glory while gliding on ice. Skating liberated me and allowed me to find freedom in flight. In between jumping and spinning, I would sit down and write reams of poetry.

Sixteen years later, as an aspiring author and academic, I had the privilege to compete at the United States Adult Figure Skating Championships in Dallas, Texas. During the years leading up to this event, I had experienced tremendous loss: my beloved grandmother passed from Cancer; a dear family friend died tragically in a boating accident; and my loving Godmother left this world after a long bout with Alzheimer’s. Stepping onto the ice, I felt frozen in time and performed the routine of a lifetime to win the Championship and honor those whom I had lost. It has taken me nearly two decades to write about the experience, and find solace in doing so.

Now, looking back nearly two decades later as an English professor and a writer, I am reminded of American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words of wisdom, “In skating over thin ice, the safety is in our speed.” The rink remains a refuge for me, as do language and words, even as life speeds along far too quickly.

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