Sentinel Literary Quarterly

Vol.2 No.3, April 2009. ISSN 1753-6499 (Online).

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Abayomi O. Zuma
Akinlabi Peter
Angela Nwosu
Ashley Capes
Benjamin Beresford
Gregory A Lawson
Lola Shoneyin
Matthew Coombe
Nnorom Azuonye
Nnorom Azuonye (2)
Simon Green
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January 2009
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In October 2008, Sentinel Poetry (Online) in publication since December 2002 was merged with Sentinel Literary Quarterly into a single ezine. You can find Sentinel Poetry (Online) archives at the locations below:
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Dec 2006 - Nov 2007
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Dec 2002 - Nov 2003



Editor's Note



Forget Medicine, Literature is the Thing


In June 2008, I took my family to visit a friend. We were not the only visitors in the house of our friend that day. The daughter of one of the visitors took my camera from me and began taking lots of photographs. She was 6 maybe 7 years old. When she returned the camera to me, I was astonished at how wonderful the photographs she had taken were. I did not hesitate to commend her for a job well done. The girl’s mother was very proud and said she had a very strong feeling her daughter would become a photographer. I was going to second that, but I kept my mouth firmly shut when the girl’s father – a Medical Doctor reprimanded his wife for mouthing such an abomination. He asked his wife if she felt their daughter was incapable of becoming a doctor or an accountant.


I was actually shocked by the attitude of that medical doctor in the year of our Lord 2008. Perhaps such notable photographers as Herb Ritts, Patrick Lichfield, , David la Chapelle, Anton Corbin, Martin Parr, Nick Knight and the Nigerian photographers from J A Green to Uche James Iroha have all been time wasters.


Unfortunately, the same dim view taken by my doctor friend about photographers is the same as was taken about writers of literature across the world in the past, and even today in Africa those attitudes persist. The interesting thing though is that many people who went all the way to study medicine are up to their necks in creative writing these days. Sometimes I wonder why many of the doctors even bothered to finish their medical training.


I chose to write about this because two of the authors whose stories appear in this issue of Sentinel Literary Quarterly are medical doctors namely Gregory Lawson and Abayomi Zuma. There were also at least three other medical doctors whose poems and short fiction did not make it into the publication this quarter alone. It got me thinking. We have of course Ike Anya who is a Consultant in Public Health very well known for his creative writing and ArtVentures in the literary world. Just to see for myself how far this things has spread, I zoomed into the web with the SLQ-Crawler to see if the only pandemic on our hands is not Swine Flu. Men, Swine Flu! It will be Pooch Flu next.


It turns out that doctors are encroaching wildly into our creative world like angry locusts. Believe it or not, Dr Daniel Becker, a General Medicine Practitioner has even gone a step further. Not only is he a published poet himself, he has actually set up an online publication to give doctors who want to write, a heavily medicated outlet to do so in the company of other medicine people. See Hospital Drive: A Journal of Reflective Practice in Word and Image at


I don’t think it is fair. That the medicine men now have a creative outlet of their own? No, hell no, not that. I will share something with you. This is from “Literature, Arts and Medical Blog”:


Here are seven special reasons (ranked from most important to least important) why doctors write:

1. Therapy - Physician heal thyself. Nothing promotes healing like writing a poem or short story or even a single glorious sentence. Writing helps a doctor get things off their chest in a much more productive way than yelling at a nurse, ranting at a patient, or being grouchy at home. Poems and stories written as a form of therapy are easy to spot. They have a confessional quality.

2. Exploration - Doctoring is hard. Creative writing is an opportunity for physicians to make sense of what they do. Stories written for the purpose of searching sometimes have themes that focus on medical ethics and boundary issues.
3. Sharing - Doctors can pass along knowledge and experience by writing in clever and vivid ways. Humor and compassion provoke memorable moments in literature. A perfect example is The House of God by Samuel Shem.
4. Joy - Writing is fun. Okay, maybe not always - rewrites, editing, and the evil “writers’ block.” At some level (the spark that begins the project or reading the finished manuscript), there is euphoria. Would you settle for glee?
5. Honor - Writing allows physicians an opportunity to memorialize patients and colleagues. These literary works feature a fictionalized version of a character or an amalgamation of a few people. Creative writing can immortalize someone. P.S.: Doctor-narrators also reap literary longevity.
6. Atonement - Doctors make mistakes. They sometimes behave badly. They have regrets. Stories and poems can be part of their penance. Think “Brute” by Richard Selzer.
7. Notoriety - Let’s not lie to ourselves. Who among us would not want to be a rich and famous author? I don’t know any doctors who would turn down a Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, or an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Good luck with that.


See what I am talking about? Does that not make you sick? I go see a doctor with an ailment. He turns around and converts me into a fictional character, merges me with another patient so that I don’t get easily recognisable, then if under his watch my feeding tube is placed in my lungs instead of my stomach and I die, he writes about this mistake as a kind of atonement, immortalising me, making a tidy sum from royalties, and then he darts off to buy himself a castle deep in Scotland where he can hole up and write more clever confessions.


But that is only the downside. The upside is that there are more people writing stories and poetry and filmscripts etc. That is very good. I am secretly proud that medical people are choosing creative writing rather than perhaps gambling or ten-pin bowling. What does it matter if they draw from the characters they treat or come in contact with? That’s what those of us in Creative Writing who are not in medicine do anyway. To be totally honest, I look forward to a Medical Doctor who would write great medical thrillers and spill the dirt on what really really goes on in hospitals - from the consulting room to the theatre.


Happy Reading.


Enjoy this issue and spread the word about the SLQ.


Nnorom Azuonye


London 30th April 2009 


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Sentinel Literary Quarterly

 Published by Sentinel Poetry Movement

Editor: Nnorom Azuonye

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