The Art of Healing

THE BOOK: The Art of Healing


THE AUTHORS: Charles and Gail Entrekin.

THE EDITOR: John Peterson.

THE PUBLISHER: Poetic Matrix Press.

SUMMARY: From the publisher — Poetry. Collaboration. THE ART OF HEALING documents in poetry the experience of Charles’ bout with cancer. Poets Charles Entrekin and Gail Rudd Entrekin—husband and wife, survivor and caregiver, insider and witness—beautifully, vulnerably and sometimes heartbreakingly share their finely crafted poems in this brilliant volume. In this collection, both poets were moved to make sense of what was happening in their lives through the writing of poems. Unaware of each other’s content, they continued writing throughout the treatment. Later, upon reflection, they realized that they had been coming to grips with the same events through poems that seemed to complement each other.

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THE BACK STORY: This book documents a transformative and cathartic experience in my life, and it is a natural follow-up to my previous collection of poems, PORTRAIT OF A ROMANCE, a love story to my wife. THE ART OF HEALING also tells a story—a story of discovery and fear, healing, forgiveness, compassion and love. Gail and I had experienced what we called a shared reality for 35 years, but approached my diagnosis of cancer, of necessity, from separate points of view. It became obvious that we were going to have to go through this experience as separate people. We began looking into Buddhist philosophy and thought. As I began facing the possibility of not surviving this experience, I found myself trying come to grips with what my life story was all about. The more I delved into Buddhism, the more I began to appreciate a perspective that questioned my belief and attachment to the story of who I thought I was. After spending some time doing this, I tried to explain to my brother on the telephone one day what about Buddhism interested me and I failed to come up with a good answer. So I set about devising what I call “my elevator speech,” a way of explaining–in a limited amount of time–what attracted me to Buddhism. The short version is as follows: Buddhism gave me a way to let go of my attachment to the self I used to believe in.

This may seem strange to people who are about to undergo chemotherapy, but I found it necessary to “forgive myself” for having cancer. Cancer, for me, felt like I was abandoning my life and my family, even though I knew I had not chosen this path. All of this fed into my poetry because I had always written poetry to discover myself, who I was, what I thought and what were the emotional realities of my life. I had been doing this since early adulthood. Now I found myself writing poems daily that were informed by my own questioning of who I was and what I was doing.

Cancer felt like I was engaged in a war against un-opposable forces and the only path to some level of peace was to surrender to the experience and embrace what was happening to me, no matter where it led. These poems in the Art of Healing mark the progress of my thinking on a day-by-day basis, and I began to gain comfort and relief from suffering from the task of writing and from the philosophical understandings of Buddhism. The first poem begins with the diagnosis and the last poem is about forgiveness.

WHY THIS TITLE?: I have recently been thinking that it could also be called Zen and the Art of Healing because my poems have a very strong Zen influence, and it could also be called Zen and the Art of Loving because this book is about loving and caring and suffering and the relief from suffering. It is a book about confronting un-opposable forces, surviving, and growing.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? The Art of Healing is unique in that these poems narratively reflect two journeys, from diagnosis to treatment to healing, and the coming to terms with what remains, what it means to be alive and part of a larger web of being. This is a book for anyone who has come to know the meaning of suffering and healing.


“The Art of Healing is a fitting title for this volume that demonstrates that healing is, indeed, an art. It could also be called The Art of Loving because the love between Charles and Gail is palpable and inspiring. And it could be called The Art of Living, for it contains wise examples of how to be alive to each moment. As in the poem, “Prognosis,” which begins with the wonderful line, So, you are not dying today, and goes on to make real the actuality of the day: the open mouths of trees…the fog, the fields, the sea birds…circling overhead. Or in the poem, “After Chemo,” which begins, It is what it is, and describes the green sheen of tree moss in winter rain, growing outside the window because it can. There is such tenderness in these poems. When they both shave their heads, they think about how their parents must have once held their bald infant heads and admired how like/heavy fruit we felt, and wondered who was waiting/inside these…elegant bony domes. Charles and Gail Rudd Entrekin allow us to look inside and see who is there. And in seeing them, we see ourselves.” — Ellen Bass

“A very strong collection. The pairing of the poems works really well. Beautiful contrast happens between the two voices. Charles is expressing very directly what is happening to him, physically and emotionally, the paring away, and the return in the end, but changed. Gail’s poems are full of love and staying present in the face of loss. She expresses intimacy eloquently. Her experience contrasts markedly from Charles’s, but both so clearly celebrate together the re-emergence.” — Grace Marie Grafton (Jester, 2013)

“Poets Gail and Charles Entrekin have navigated Charles’s lymphocytic leukemia for years. Heeding Rumi’s counsel that love turns all pain to medicine, they’ve used their craft to transform fear into curiosity, confusion into inviting mystery, and discomfort into gratitude. Any patient or caregiver faced with a serious illness will benefit from Gail’s and Charles’s healing observations.” —Jeff Kane MD Author, “The New Bedside Manner: How Doctors and Caregivers Can Help Heal Patients and the Healthcare System.” (Skyhorse Publishing, 2014)

“The Art of Healing takes a revelatory approach to a topic — cancer — we all thought we understood. Poets Charles and Gail Entrekin — husband and wife, survivor and caregiver, insider and witness — beautifully, vulnerably and sometimes heartbreakingly share their finely crafted poems in this brilliant volume. Patients and survivors will recognize themselves and find solace in these two unique, overlapping perspectives. Poetry lovers will come away enlightened and inspired.” – – Karin Miller ((Editor, The Cancer Project)

AUTHOR PROFILE: Charles Entrekin’s most recent works include The Art of Healing, a transformative poetic journey (with Gail Entrekin) (Poetic Matrix Press, 2016); Portrait of a Romance, a love story in poetry (Hip Pocket Press, 2014); The Berkeley Poets Cooperative: A History of the Times, a collection of essays and poetry (Hip Pocket Press, 2013); Listening: New and Selected Works (Poetic Matrix Press, 2010); and a novel, Red Mountain, Birmingham, Alabama, 1965 (El Leon Literary Arts, 2008). Charles was a founder and managing editor of The Berkeley Poets Cooperative and The Berkeley Poets Workshop & Press, founder of the Creative Writing program at John F. Kennedy University (Orinda campus), and a co-founder/advisory board member of Literature Alive!, a non-profit organization in Nevada County, California. He is editor of the e-zine Sisyphus, a magazine of literature, philosophy, and culture; author of the WordPress blog Rhymes and Ruminations; and managing editor of Hip Pocket Press. Charles is the father of five children and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, poet Gail Rudd Entrekin.

Gail Rudd Entrekin is Poetry Editor of Hip Pocket Press and Editor of the online environmental literary magazine, Canary ( She is Editor of the poetry anthology Yuba Flows (2007) and the poetry & short fiction anthology Sierra Songs & Descants: Poetry & Prose of the Sierra (2002). Her poems have been widely published in anthologies and literary magazines, including Cimarron Review, Nimrod, New Ohio Review, and Southern Poetry Review, were finalists for the Pablo Neruda Prize in Poetry from Nimrod International Journal in 2011, and won the Women’s National Book Association Award in 2016. She taught poetry and English literature at California colleges for 25 years. Her books of poetry include The Art of Healing (with Charles Entrekin) (Poetic Matrix Press 2016); Rearrangement of the Invisible, (Poetic Matrix Press, 2012); Change (Will Do You Good) (Poetic Matrix Press, 2005), which was nominated for a Northern California Book Award; You Notice the Body (Hip Pocket Press, 1998); and John Danced (Berkeley Poets Workshop & Press, 1983). She and her husband, poet and novelist Charles Entrekin, live in the hills of San Francisco’s East Bay.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: Having said all this, I return to my earlier point about how my wife and I had lived a shared experience of reality. With cancer, we had begun to diverge. I know that, in many ways, Gail’s experience of being caregiver to her beloved partner, watching him change and sink, must have been harder in some ways than my own experience of being sick. I know at moments she felt deserted, abandoned, and betrayed and her poems reflect her struggles. But they also portray an amazing capacity for love, devotion, and support as we weathered the worst of the battle, an experience which I characterize much like a desert war in Africa, where the Janjaweed (riders on horseback) killers were the un-opposable forces that one could only flee to save one’s life. Her poems show an understanding, an agreement to be with me in this desert warfare/struggle and to lie down with me during the worst of it and help me through the night.


LOCAL OUTLETS: WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Small Press Distribution.

PRICE: $16.50.


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Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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