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Physician-Poet Amit Majmudar on Poetry During the Pandemic

Prior to his appearance as the keynote speaker on the William Carlos William Poetry Competition Awards Ceremony, coming up (virtually) on Friday, April 23, Amit Majmudar, M.D. (’03), reflected on what he has been thinking about and writing. 

Dr. Majmudar’s poems and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Best of the Best American Poetry, and The Norton Introduction to Literature. His novels have been published to critical acclaim in the United States, the UK and India. A diagnostic nuclear radiologist, the Northeast Ohio Medical University alumnus lives in Westerville, Ohio, with his wife and three children.

What has poetry meant to you during the pandemic?

Pandemic year was very productive for me as a writer, though not all of what I wrote was poetry.

Staying at home, and (during lockdown) a lighter workload, made sure that I had plenty of time to read and write. I went on a book-buying spree early in the pandemic and filled four whole shelves with books I plan to get to. (I haven’t gotten to all that many yet, but I will!)

I focused a lot on very ancient work because it took me out of the social, political and epidemiological madness out there. So, I finally read The Mahabharata (and wrote a version of it too, in three novels). It was wonderful getting in touch, in depth, with an epic poem at the root of my ancestral [Indian] civilization.

My topics are what they have always been: everything under the sun, basically! I did write a sequence about the pandemic

But I haven’t been very aggressive about pursuing the pandemic as a subject for poetry or fiction, because I believe it is a situation still in evolution. Also, I think the most important writing about it is, inevitably, going to be fact-driven nonfiction at this point in time. And frankly, I’m not sure I want to write about it, or that people want to read about it yet; at least I know I’ve been turning to literature as an escape!

Did you read poetry to your own children?

Not really – my children haven’t shown much interest in poetry, though they do like to read nonfiction and novels.

Medical students from across the country entered NEOMED’s annual William Carlos Williams Poetry Competition, now in its 39th year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s  awards ceremony will be held virtually, via Zoom, Friday, April 23, from noon – 2 p.m. It will feature Dr. Majmudar as well as readings from the competition’s first, second and third-place winners. 

Register by April 21 to attend virtually. A Zoom link will be shared with registered attendees via email. Contact Rachel Bracken at with any questions.