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Off the Chart, Poems by Molly O'Dell

Off the Chart is a collection sparked by encounters with everyday patients in rural Virginia, where the James River cuts between the Appalachians and the Blue Ridge, just below Purgatory Mountain. Molly O'Dell's poems provide a glimpse of the practice of medicine before health systems reigned and document the foundation from which one ordinary girl learned, with her patients, the art of healing materializes when hearts converge, in a shared place and time, off the chart. These poems are a tribute to the places and people who transformed her along the way.

Sample Poems by Molly O'Dell

"This moving and heartbreakingly matter-of-fact debut collection by Molly O'Dell evokes the moral outrage of Wendell Berry and the imagistic finesse of William Carlos Williams, only in this sequence of narrative meditations our speaker is making house calls while in labor or returning to work to tend to the ailing and broken after recovering from her own serious illness. The sense of generosity in these poems that speak humbly but powerfully for America's forgotten and lost and wrecked and muted-a boy whose 'buckled / spine allows his head to rest on his hips'; a woman our speaker comforts by likening 'the pieces of glass in [her] face' to 'wildflowers in the still standing hay'; a prostitute in the ER with a 'slit across her beautiful brown face'-is nothing short of amazing. These poems restore our hope for both poetry and medicine. They restore our faith in humanity. They not only suggest that we can be straight-talking and articulate and attentive and good: by being strong and compassionate in the face of our collective human grief, they teach how us how. How lucky we all are to have this book!"-Adrian Blevins

"Physician alongside reluctant patient, poet in communion with the unruly world-these acknowledged complications, in her move from mind to heart, do not lead to any easy resolution. How could they? In these necessary poems, Molly O'Dell fully explores the bewilderment and beauty of powerlessness." -Steve Langan

"Molly O'Dell's language has the direct musicality of speech. It honors the people she writes about, who are often in a state of need and getting-by. This is a book of examinations - of the physical body, certainly, but also of how we care for each other and inhabit place. Church bells compete/with train whistles after dark - in that line, as in so many here, I can feel her interpreting the land back to us. There's a wealth of care in these poems, a wealth of truth. To the list of doctor poets, add one."-Bob Hicok

"The scholar Robert Heilman has said that one of the essential traits of Southern Renaissance writing, from Faulkner to Welty to Warren to O'Connor, is a profound sense of place, of specific geography. That's certainly true of Molly O'Dell's poems about her life as physician to patients in rural southwest Virginia. And, like in the works of those earlier Southern writers, the physical landscape and its occupants correspond to an inner reality -- tough and scarred, sometimes grotesque; lush and beautiful, always magnetic. In the era of 'Me' poetry, it's refreshing to read O'Dell's moving portraits of the people she tends and the country that sustains her."- William Trowbridge

"With her collection of poems in Off the Chart, Dr. Molly O'Dell presents us with a slice of life. Life as it is. Described, felt, but unfettered. Life in Southwest Virginia. Life of her patients. Her own life. This is the rural practice of a family doctor, which cannot easily be separated from the physician herself. As a fellow family physician reading these poems, I relived moments from my own practice, often feeling powerless, yet always believing that my involvement in my patients' lives had somehow made a difference. Molly makes a difference. Physician or not, anyone reading her verse will think so too." -Cynda Ann Johnson

ISBN: 978-1625491350, 48 pages, $16

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