Skip main navigation
We use cookies to give you a better experience, if that’s ok you can close this message and carry on browsing. For more info read our cookies policy.
We use cookies to give you a better experience. Carry on browsing if you're happy with this, or read our cookies policy for more information.

Skip to 0 minutes and 9 seconds'Takutsubo Cardiomyopathy' a poem by Dr Richard Berlin. 'I'm reviewing a left ventriculography from a man with chest pain, MI I ruled out, his wife dead for a post-crash hour. The scan shows his cardiac apex bulging with each beat, shaped like Takutsubo, an octopus trap, a Japanese cardiologist recalled from his childhood fishing village, the scan, just another broken heart's beaten down story of futility and resilience. And I will say, "I am sorry for your loss," explain the image, reassure him his heart muscle will recover in a week. All the time wishing I could hug him with eight strong arms instead of two.'

Skip to 0 minutes and 59 secondsWell Paula, it's quite extraordinary hearing from your interview with Dr Andrew Schuman that broken heart syndrome is a real medical condition, not just some kind of literary metaphor. I know we think of it as oh, you have a broken heart, you'll get over it. It was hugely interesting to me to discover there is such a syndrome, that it is a condition and it's caused by stress. So stress causes this heart attack, which is incredibly painful. But most people recover, as we know from Andrew Schuman's testimony.

Skip to 1 minute and 33 secondsHowever, in this poem the doctor who's writing it is comforting himself as much as anything else by the act of writing a poem about the awful condition and how he feels, that he wants to not just put two arms around his patient's suffering, but eight arms like an octopus. It's a wonderful image of wanting to have the eight arms around him. The humanity, I think, of the doctor really beautifully resonates. So actually the act of writing for the doctor is a form of stress management for himself. Of course, the more normal way, all through history really, in which poets have addressed broken hearts, love and loss, is by way of a range of metaphors.

Skip to 2 minutes and 23 secondsAnd you've been speaking to a young man, Jack Lankester, who was very affected by a series of poems by Sir Philip Sidney, a poet from the time of Shakespeare who wrote a sequence of poems about love and the loss of love. And I wonder if you'd just like to introduce that for us before we hear your interview with Jack. Yes, I mean, the idea was that he was suffering from a broken heart, but took enormous comfort from the fact that he wasn't alone. We come again and again to this idea that why do we read poetry? One reason is so we don't feel alone. But also that other people have experienced something that we feel is just peculiar to us.

Skip to 3 minutes and 9 secondsSo in Jack's case, as we'll hear later, he talks about the comfort derived from reading something that was written so long ago, but seemed to describe and give words to something that he felt was unique to his own suffering, his own sense of having a broken heart. He's also very interested in composition, composing poems as a form of catharsis, not just reading poems, as what we're doing here, but also writing poems. And I'm struck by this particular poem because it's a doctor, it's a medical man writing a poem, which is as much a comfort probably for him as it is for the readers reading it.

'Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy' by Richard Berlin

In the previous step, Dr Andrew Schuman talked to us about the physiology behind a condition known as ‘Broken Heart Syndrome’ or ‘Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy’.

Here, we look at a poem about the condition, written by poet and psychiatrist Richard Berlin. Together, we’ll be discussing how this poem encourages us to think about ‘Broken Heart Syndrome’ from a human, as well as from a medical perspective.

Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy

I’m reviewing a left ventriculography
from a man with chest pain, MI ruled out,
his wife dead for a post-crash hour.
The scan shows his cardiac apex
bulging with each beat, shaped
like a takotsubo, an octopus trap
a Japanese cardiologist recalled
from his childhood fishing village,
the scan just another broken heart’s
beaten down story of futility and resilience.
And I will say, “I am sorry for your loss,”
explain the image, reassure him
his heart muscle will recover in a week,
all the time wishing I could hug him
with eight strong arms instead of two.

Richard Berlin

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Literature and Mental Health: Reading for Wellbeing

The University of Warwick

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join:

Contact FutureLearn for Support