What motivates people to write creatively about cancer? How do people write lyrical poetry about cancer, and how does the resulting creative artefact impact on them as poets and their audience? Cancer poetry addresses the challenging issues of disease, illness, death, dying and bereavement, as well as the conundrums of living with cancer, and surviving. Cancer is a disease with a persona of mystery, often referred to through the use of negative metaphors such as the alien, evil and the foreign, while its medical treatment and recovery phases are described with warfare metaphors such as battle, fight, and losing the war. For the individual diagnosed with cancer there is often a sense of loss, particularly of the ‘self’. This essay explores the meaning that poets who have cancer have found in creating literary poetry about their experience and discusses the motivations and outcomes the author experienced as a result of writing cancer poetry.


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