Finding Just the Right Word

Slipping into someone else’s voice when writing a poem is one of my writerly challenges and delights. In my hospital-themed poetry collection for adults, Unity Hospital, the poems are in the voices of women who intersected with the hospital in some way: nurses, a doctor, a reporter, a candy striper, and more. (It’s out on submission now.)  I love immersing myself in a time period and the particulars of a profession, then trying to find just the right words to convey that time and place and person.

The word “handsy” is a word not used often these days, but I think it is both descriptive and belittling at the same time, and evocative of a certain time period and attitude.  Interviewing a retired nurse, the mother of a friend, gave me the spark for “Call the Doctor,” just published in an online journal from the medical community called Medmic. You can read it here.

In memory of Barbara Maniaci

Barbara, the mother of my dear friend Kathie, worked as a Labor and Delivery nurse for over 40 years. She passed away six months ago, and I’m so grateful I got to learn a little more about her nursing experiences, and about small acts of transgression in the nursing world of the past.

Happy Friday, poetry friends! Here’s to finding our voice, and to small acts of transgression!

On Fridays, I love taking part in Poetry Friday when I can, where writers share resources about children’s poetry. Check out the celebration of poetry on Jama Rattigan’s blog today!


  1. jama says:

    Enjoyed your poem — like that nurse’s attitude! Your collection sounds really interesting. You’re right about the word “handsy.” Good choice for the poem. 🙂

  2. Irene Latham says:

    “Handsy” is a fabulous word choice here! This collection sounds so great… go you, on submission…I look forward to reading it!

  3. lindabaie says:

    “That’ll teach him” – sounds like a strong woman taking care of her patients, Mary. I love the idea of your book, from your own family memories, and perhaps other stories. “Handsy” is not a word I’ve heard in many years. Wonder if some new young women would like it, or need it? Thanks & best wishes for your book!

  4. Your poem is impactful, Mary. It captures a moment and outlays attitudes within that moment. You have utilized voice to maximum effect. The very concept of your writing porject is a winner. I recall my aunts using the word, handsy in relation to a family ‘friend.’

  5. maryleehahn says:

    Power to the nurses! I love your poem, and am sending best wishes to the universe for your submission — sound fabulous!

  6. mbhmaine says:

    I am so intrigued by your new manuscript! (I’m pretty sure I already wrote that on another of your posts recently, but I really love the concept!) I thoroughly enjoyed your nurse poem and the way those women wielded what power they had. As MaryLee wrote, “Power to the nurses!”

  7. Denise Krebs says:

    Mary, your poem is a great one–belittling and descriptive both–true “handsy” is a great word for that situation. Hopefully it’s just part of the past!

  8. Karen Edmisten says:

    Nurses *rule*! I love them so much. Terrific poem, Mary, and I can picture both that annoying doctor and the nurse, queen that she is!

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