The Enemy

The Enemy

Book Pages: 112 Illustrations: Published: May 2007

Author: Rafael Campo

Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Poetry, Medicine and Health > Medical Humanities

In his fifth collection of poetry, the physician and award-winning writer Rafael Campo considers what it means to be the enemy in America today. Using the empathetic medium of a poetry grounded in the sentient physical body we all share, he writes of a country endlessly at war—not only against the presumed enemy abroad but also with its own troubled conscience. Yet whether he is addressing the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the battle against the AIDS pandemic, or the culture wars surrounding the issues of feminism and gay marriage, Campo’s compelling poems affirm the notion that hope arises from even the most bitter of conflicts. That hope—manifest here in the Cuban exile’s dream of returning to his homeland, in a dying IV drug user’s wish for humane medical treatment, in a downcast housewife’s desire to express herself meaningfully through art—is that somehow we can be better than ourselves. Through a kaleidoscopic lens of poetic forms, Campo soulfully reveals this greatest of human aspirations as the one sustaining us all.


The Enemy is a representative collection of fine, anxious poems that express the difficulty of living in fear and the hope implicit in the act of living today.” — American Poet

“[A]n enterprising, emotive journey visiting upon many wide-ranging, contemporary themes. . . . Campo's talent is on great display here, soft, smooth, flowing, and soothing enough to pamper even the most hardened of hearts.” — Jim Piechota, Bay Area Reporter

“A skilled craftsman, Campo works poetic forms to their best advantage. . . . ‘Art never gets it quite right,’ he declares--which may be true, but in Campo’s capable hands, it gets us most of the way there. Recommended for contemporary poetry collections.” — Library Journal

“Campo has been called a political poet because he writes about life’s inequalities of class, power, war, sexual freedom and the tyranny of illness. He does so with a musician’s ear and an artist’s brush and leads us to smile and cry humbly at our world.” — Ronald Ruskin, Canadian Medical Association Journal

“Campo's poems are always a surprise, shockingly honest and revelatory, words that are shaped and made rhythmic by form--bullets, if you will, explosives that arrive shiny and contained. In this collection, his poems reach new heights of maturity and insight, and they are, more than ever, searingly honest.” — Cortney Davis, Literature, Arts and Medicine Database

“For readers who are new to Campo's poetry, this collection is a good introduction. He writes of music and celebrates the erotic. He has awe for the mysterious and a familiarity with despair, and he catches frequent hints of God's presence. In this book, there are tiresome days in the clinic and patients who are near death but who will not die. There are poems in which our fragments all fall into place perfectly. . . . Campo's poems show how medicine can best be of service in the absence of cures or quick fixes, and how medical professionals can best be present, mindfully and emotionally, during moments of human suffering.” — Heather A. Burns, New England Journal of Medicine

“In his latest collection of poems, Rafael Campo proves that he is a thoughtful poet whose self-examination is as ambitions as it is engaging.” — Thomas March, Lambda Book Report

“In his latest collection, The Enemy, [Campo] slices into topics like gay marriage and the rush to the Iraq war, proving there are not just conservative veins running through the body of New Formalist work. . . . Campo's strength as a poet comes in recognizing that the political is very much the personal.” — Jaimee Hills, Independent Weekly

“My favorite book of 2007, the one I keep returning to again and again, is Rafael Campo’s The Enemy. Campo, the pinpoint lyricist, takes an unflinching look at the deceptions necessary for war, the weaknesses it reveals and disguises as glory. Battles within the body, clashes of landscape and culture, wars of mindset and madness—Campo unleashes truths within stanzas that are deftly and uncompromisingly structured. His revelations—ragged, miraculous, hard-won—spark the ache of recognition (’We have become the creature no deity would deign to call ‘child’’), but also turn the heart towards hope.” — Patricia Smith, Harriet: A Blog from the Poetry Foundation

“Reading . . . The Enemy makes me appreciate what intriguing religious poetry can come from someone outside of conventional religious practice. . . . Campo’s poetry has a light-heartedness at the same time as it embraces heavy issues like illness, war, death. So his religious language can be jesting without undercutting its genuine import.” — Peggy Rosenthal “Good Letters” the, Image blog

“The unusual audience Campo has built comes at least as much from his deft handling of rhyme and meter, and those skills are on evidence here more than ever. Rhyming pentameters, sestinas, villanelles, pantouns, rhymed haiku and monorhyme apply the tools of premodern verse to the trials and joys of contemporary life.” — Publishers Weekly

“Rafael Campo is one of the most significant poets writing in America today. In exploring the complexities of his position—Cuban American, gay, Harvard grad, physician, scrupulous observer of himself, of others, and of the worlds we inhabit—he has produced a richly textured, layered body of work, distinguished for its mastery of, and wrestling with, poetic form, as well as for its courage, compassion, and clarity. Hybrid—a mix of memory and desire, trust and fear, anger and love—his work has always been death-haunted yet he speaks for what is alive and healing in American culture.” — Alicia Suskin Ostriker, author of No Heaven

“Rafael Campo writes tough, questioning, rueful, exquisite, true-hearted poems that resist nostalgia while testing the transformative power of beauty. In perfectly wrought poem after poem, he explores the ‘honor’ of sacrifice and the breadth of human fidelities. The Enemy is surely Campo’s best book yet.” — Elizabeth Alexander, Yale University

“Rafael Campo’s The Enemy moves with naturalness, speed, and balance between experiences of domestic love—a couple of gay men, celebrating rites of daily ordinariness—and scenes from a doctor’s life. We turn to Campo for frankness, freshness, and the tang of truth, and we are rewarded.” — Rosanna Warren, author of Departure


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Rafael Campo teaches and practices general internal medicine at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. He is the author of several books of poetry, including Landscape with Human Figure, winner of the gold medal in poetry from ForeWord Magazine; Diva, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Paterson Poetry Prize; and What the Body Told, winner of a Lambda Literary Award for Poetry; all also published by Duke University Press. He has written two books of essays, The Healing Art: A Doctor’s Black Bag of Poetry and The Poetry of Healing: A Doctor’s Education in Empathy, Identity, and Desire, winner of a Lambda Literary Award for memoir. His poetry and essays have appeared in periodicals including The New England Journal of Medicine, The New York Times Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The New Republic, Out, The Paris Review, and The Washington Post Book World.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments xi

I. The Enemy

Dialogue with Sun and Poet 3

Addressed to Her (Provincetown, June 2002) 4

"Elsa, Varadero, 1934" 5

Night Has Fallen 6

Personal Mythology 7

Piranhas 8

Brief Treatise on the New Millennial Poetics 10

El Viejo y la Mar 12

Ode to the Man Incidentally Caught in the Photograph of Us on My Desk 13

The Enemy 14

God, Gays, and Guns 15

Patriotic Poem 17

Post-9/11 Parable 18

Sestina Dolorosa 19

What Passes Now for Moral Discourse 21

from Libro de Preguntas 22

II. Eighteen Days in France

Eighteen Days in France 27

III. Toward a Theory of Memory

from Cien Sonetos de Amor 47

A Simple Cuban Meal 51

The Sailfish 52

Ganymede, to Zeus 53

After the Long Drive

For Jorge, after Twenty Years 57

Song in the Off-Season 60

Catastrophic Sestina 61

Toward a Theory of Memory 63

Patagonia 67

Defense of Marriage 68

The Story of Us 69

The Sodomite's Lament 71

Equinoctial Downpour 72

Pantoum for Our Imagined Break-Up 73

The Changing of the Seasons 74

Once, It Seemed Better 75

October, Last Sail 76

IV. Dawn, New Age

Dawn, New Age 79

Allegorical 80

Progress 81

The Crocuses 82

Crybaby Haiku 83

"Silence=Death" 87

Clinical Vignettes 88

You Bring Out the Doctor in Me 90

Composite of Three Poems from the Same Anthology by Williams, Rukeyser, and Sexton 92

Tuesday Morning 93

Arriving 95

Absolution 97

On Doctoring 98

Sick Day 99
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Co-Winner, New England Poetry Club Sheila Motton Award

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3960-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3862-8
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